§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Attlee
I beg to move, "That this House do now adjourn."
I rise to call attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely,the declared intention of His Majesty's Government to make to the Non-Intervention Committee to-morrow proposals which contemplate the granting of belligerent rights to General Franco, and which do not make effective provision for the complete cessation of foreign intervention in Spain.In reply to questions this afternoon the Foreign Secretary made an appeal to be allowed to get on with his work at the 1582 Non-Intervention Committee. If we considered that the line which he was going to take was one which was helpful we should certainly not have moved this Motion. In my view the proposals that are being put forward by the Government are unjust, ill conceived and dangerous. I do not think they will effect what is desired, I do not believe they will make non-intervention work, I do not believe they will make for peace. I believe that they will, if accepted, only give rise to another of those incidents which have occurred during the long history of non-intervention, in which, under the pretence of making non-intervention more effective, the forces of General Franco are given advantages against the Spanish Government.
The right hon. Gentleman undertook, as he says, a difficult task. He was asked to reconcile widely divergent views. I think that he was attempting to reconcile the irreconcilable, and in the result he has, in effect, surrendered to the demands 1583 of the Fascist Powers. The suggestions which were put forward by this country and by France—I do not say they went all the way, but I think they were effective in many respects—did make a proposal which might have begun to make the non-intervention system less harmful and less unfair than it has been previously. The proposals of Germany and Italy were crude obvious attempts to weight the scales against the Spanish Government. The fact is that the Fascist Governments only want non-intervention as a convenient screen behind which they can intervene. What non-intervention means is that certain Powers abstain from assisting the Spanish Government and in fact hinder it, and that while they are holding the hands of the Spanish Government the Fascist Powers are allowed to support Franco. All through their agreement to non-intervention has been based on the fact that they knew that they could break it, and they did break it.
We are, therefore, entitled, looking at the whole history of non-intervention, to view these proposals with very, very grave suspicion, to look closely at what is proposed as a final solution to the question of getting effective non-intervention, and also the steps which are to be taken to bring about some change in the system, because on every occasion when restrictions under non-intervention have been imposed they have always been rigorously enforced against the Spanish Government a long time before anything was done against General Franco. That has been the history throughout. We had the restrictions on munitions put on at once by this country and by France, and then, when the munitions had been piled in and piled in by Italy, the Italians having given all they wanted at that time, were cynically able to sign. They have taken full advantage of the time that was given in order to do all they could against the Spanish Government and for General Franco. Undeterred by that experience we had precisely the same thing with regard to volunteers. The ban was put on the volunteers first of all. We had the usual response from Signor Mussolini. Masses of troops were poured into Spain.
The British Government have always shown tenderness; they are always very 1584 tender when it comes to anything with regard to Franco. It was only by action in this House that we prevented this Government from blockading Bilbao for General Franco. There was a complete exposure of the fact that this Government, when it got the word of General Franco, did not look too closely into the facts. We had extremely garbled reports, and step by step Ministers were driven back. That was an ineffective blockade. We have had very much the same thing going on with regard to Santander. I doubt whether we have profited much by the change in the First Lord of the Admiralty. I do not think we get much more clarity, and, like all the other Ministers, he is always completely ill-informed on these matters.
§ Mr. Speaker
I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the words of his Motion include only the questions of granting belligerent rights and the making effective of the cessation of foreign intervention, and it does not appear to me that the question of Santander is directly concerned.
§ Mr. Attlee
With great respect I submit that this is a question of foreign intervention, a question of whether there is a blockade or not and of whether this country is not, in effect, intervening by acting on behalf of General Franco. But I will not pursue that subject further.
§ Mr. Attlee
Oh, yes, foreign intervention as regards Spain. We are foreigners in regard to Spain. We have had the same policy followed out. If you look at the outline of the proposals you will find, on page 4 of the White Paper, that the system of supervision on the land frontier will be restored at once—the land frontier which we have kept all the time against the Spanish Government. It is admitted that for a long time General Franco has had the stronger force at sea; in fact, opening the sea and closing the land has made all the time in favour of General Franco.
Therefore, while we have proposals set out here in regard to dealing with control by sea, which involves negotiations, commissions to be sent out and discussions with regard to volunteers in 1585 every port, there is one thing to be done at once, and that is to put a bridle on the Spanish Government. What it means is that while these conversations are going on it will be possible for them to be dragged out for a long time—we have seen over and over again how negotiations are dragged out in this matter—and we shall again have a system of one-sided non-intervention. Look at what is going to be done: the naval control system is to be discontinued and, instead, international officers are to be at Spanish ports. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether those officers in the Spanish ports are to be drawn from strictly neutral countries, or whether they are to include officers from countries taking an active part in intervention in Spain. Will they be mixed groups or merely individuals? If you have groups, they can only be in certain ports, and the rest of the coast will be open to the landing of arms and men. What action will be taken if an infringement is discovered in this system, in which you are merely to have certain officers at ports and on board ships? This is to happen after the frontier has been closed, and kept closed.
Now I come to the more important proposal to grant belligerent rights to General Franco. That proposal is to be made upon conditions which I will examine later. I should like to know the reason for this proposal, except a desire to please Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini. I do not want to weary the House to-night with a long history of the granting of belligerent rights. It is a long and tangled history, but beyond all doubt the granting of belligerent rights by this country has been extremely rare. The last occasion was the American Civil War. There was an occasion before that, some time back in 1854. There has been some dispute, but undoubtedly my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) was correct in regard to that. The granting of belligerent rights is very exceptional. You must have regard to the position in any country. In the American Civil War there had been the secession of a number of States and a separate Government set up; even then, belligerent rights were granted only as the result of a blockade and after a long period.
What is the position in Spain? On one side you have the Government of Spain, 1586 and on the other side a number of mutinous officers who have broken their oath. It is a very serious thing to break an oath of allegiance. I do not know whether it is regarded as serious by all Members of this House to-day, because the old standards have gone by the board. The fact is that they were mutinous soldiers who broke their oath to the Government. They are dependent upon foreign Powers for their support; not just for money and munitions, but for men, masses of men. That is a significant point. In the American Civil War it was never suggested that you should import masses of men to do the fighting, or that there was not a large native force in the field. I have no doubt that there were individual volunteers here and there, but, in the main, the armies were native forces. General Franco started with every advantage. He had most of the Army and all the officers. He had the arsenals. He had everything in his favour, and an abundant supply of munitions was sent to him. You would have thought he had every opportunity to raise a great Spanish army. He has had plenty of aeroplanes and plenty of munitions, but the fighting has, in fact, apart from a mere handful of enthusiastic Fascists, been done by the Moors and the Italians. When he is in trouble, he calls out for more Italians. He has not managed to get the man power of Spain. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members who doubt that can study the reports of any correspondent and any number of people who have been to Spain, and they will find that when a major battle has been fought foreign troops have done the fighting.
§ Mr. Attlee
I do not think any hon. Member on the other side will disagree with me when I say that General Franco has not managed to raise a great national army.
§ Mr. Attlee
Let us look at the other side. The Spanish Government have been deprived of their arms and of their arsenals. They had very scanty munitions and very few skilled instructors, but the fighting has been kept up for more than a year, and there are now very large armies —trained and organised armies. I take those facts not from one side or 1587 the other. They are very fine armies, up to the number of hundreds of thousands capable of taking the field. I claim that if General Franco had been able to raise enough Spanish forces to fight, he would not have wanted to be indebted to Germany and Italy for troops. The Spaniards would not like to have their battles fought by somebody else. Therefore the continued importations of foreign troops and the continued calls for more are pretty fair indications that General Franco has not the support of the people of Spain, even in the parts which are under his authority. It is obvious that without this foreign support General Franco would collapse.
This is the Government that our Government propose to recognise. I say that this Spanish war is an undisguised aggression by foreign Powers. I say there is no case for granting belligerent rights at all, and there is certainly no case for doing so while there are masses of foreigners fighting on that side. I want to see all foreigners withdrawn from Spain. I am certain that if that were done there would very soon be an end of the Spanish war. General Franco could not possibly continue. What we have now is a proposal to do just what the Fascist Powers want. We are to have the granting of belligerent rights. That will mean a blockade, the stopping of ships, incidents, the seizure of ships, and all that follows from that. There are Governments in the world who will not sit down under General Franco's blockade; there are Governments who will not take their orders from General Franco; there are Governments who will not humiliate their soldiers by asking them to sit by while their own nationals are being treated in a hostile manner. There are also nations that will not have groups of Conservative Members who will cheer when their ship is captured.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us when he comes to speak why the Committee had to pass a unanimous resolution in favour of the withdrawal from Spain of all persons whose evacuation is recommended, and why unanimity is left out with regard to the recognition of belligerent rights. Is the rule of unanimity to apply to the granting of belligerent rights? Can he tell us anything about the proposed basis for the withdrawal of volunteers? Is it to be equal numbers 1588 from each side or proportional numbers from each side? What is meant by "substantial progress"? Will the evacuation of a certain number of volunteers be counted as substantial progress? As long as any number of those troops remain, there is intervention. There ought to be no consideration of any proposals until there is complete withdrawal of volunteers.
I would ask the House to observe the extraordinary manner in which the vital matter of aircraft and air personnel is treated in this document. There is an elaborately set out programme, but when we come to air personnel we are told that they merely considered further the question of the employment of foreign aircraft. This is one of the main issues of the war. How can it be supposed that any Power is genuinely taking part in non-intervention if it continues to send aircraft and air personnel, whatever the Power is? Obviously, therefore, you will have continuing intervention, and the more you restrict other forms of intervention but leave untouched one form, the more those who want to intervene will concentrate upon this form. It is, therefore, futile to take up the position we take up to-day while we leave a vital matter like aircraft out of consideration.
It is about time that the Non-Intervention Committee faced realities. No non-intervention will be the least use unless there is honest intention on the part of the signatories to carry it out. I say there never has been an honest intention to carry this out. All the time, the Fascist dictators are laughing at the whole subject and laughing at this country. I do not believe for a moment that Signor Mussolini is specially interested in the success of General Franco as a victory for the Fascist ideal. I think he is out for something much more concrete; I think he is out to make the Mediterranean an Italian lake, and, so far as I can make out, he will do it to the cheers of hon. Members opposite. They cheered him in the Eastern Mediterranean, and when guns were posted opposite Gibraltar. That is the reason why it is quite useless to expect non-intervention without a real intention to carry it out.
There should be an attempt to make a reality of non-intervention. Let there be the withdrawal of all volunteers and foreign troops on both sides, as a test of 1589 honest intention. It would be a double test; a test of honest intention on the part of those governments not to intervene in the Spanish struggle, and a test of the reality of the claim of General Franco to have the approval of a large section of the people of Spain.
I would call the attention of the House to the danger of this situation—this continuing situation of what is really a sham. I believe that the Spanish people have shown a great deal of patience with the countries that have honestly supported non-intervention. I think they have realised the possibility of European complications. I remember a speech by Earl Baldwin, when he was in this House, in which he said that sooner or later the Spanish people would turn against the foreigners who were intervening, and that those who had not intervened would be recognised as their best friends. I think that that is happening already. I think that already the Spaniards, even on General Franco's side, are disgusted with foreigners. I think that more and more this war is ceasing to be a civil war, and more and more it is becoming a question of the Spanish nation against foreign adventurers, against that collection of foreigners who are so inaptly described by some of our newspapers as the Nationalist Forces.
I am convinced that all history leads one to believe that as the struggle proceeds it will more and more become one of Spaniards against foreigners; and, if this country continually puts itself in the position of helping General Franco, and by so doing prolonging the ordeal of the Spanish people, it will share in the resentment of the Spanish people. I believe that in this matter it is quite useless to think that, by giving way to every demand of the Fascist Powers, you can get them to join heartily in non-intervention. I think the whole history of the conflict has shown that that is a mistake, and that the only occasions when the Fascist Powers have sought to apply non-intervention was when they realised that the other Powers were in earnest over non-intervention. If you want to make non-intervention a success, you must make it just.
Finally, I should like to say that in these proposals there is a falling away from all the standards of international law. We see year by year all the old 1590 landmarks of international law going by the board. The question of belligerent rights is just another instance. The Foreign Secretary said in his last speech that Europe would always be at the mercy of an international incident until there was a general acceptance of the rule of law. I want this country to stand by the rule of law, and not on every occasion, because there is a threat of war, to accept the orders of the Fascist States. I recognise quite clearly that there will always be dangers, but you can never get rid of them by letting it be known that, whatever others wish you to do, you will do it. I am afraid that that is a habit which has gradually grown up in this Government in the last few years. In the name of peace and quietness they have broken up international law, and have actually made, not for peace, but for war.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
When I read in my newspaper this morning that it was the intention of the party opposite to seek to debate to-day the proposals we are submitting to the International Committee, before the nations who have called for them have had a chance to examine or pronounce upon them, I deeply regretted that decision, which, I think, is quite without precedent in our Parliamentary procedure. I am convinced that by taking that attitude hon. Members have done a disservice, not only to their own cause in the country—which perhaps does not matter very much—but, what matters far more, they have done a disservice to the cause of peace. When I listened to the right hon. Gentleman's speech, I wondered why he had asked for this debate at all. He had virtually nothing to say in detailed criticism of these proposals, and I began to wonder, as he spoke, whether he had even read them at all. The points he picked out were small points. Was there anything, he asked, in the fact that, whereas we asked for unanimity in one place, we did not ask for it in another? I can answer that question. All the Committee's decisions are taken by unanimous votes, so there is nothing in that point. Not once did the right hon. Gentleman strive to show that the general balance of these proposals was unjust, or that, in attempting to carry out this unenviable task, we have failed to produce proposals 1591 which were at least calculated, so far as a Government placed as we are can calculate them, to try and secure agreement.
I submit that the Opposition's attitude to-night is in flagrant contradiction of their own doctrines as preached heretofore. They have always advocated international collaboration. What are we engaged upon now, at this very moment, but such a task, entrusted to us at a critical juncture of European history by every nation in Europe? What are hon. Gentlemen opposite doing to-night except trying to make the execution of that task as difficult as possible? The right hon. Gentleman told us that these proposals would not effect what is desired. Perhaps he has sources of information which are not open to me, but up to the present there is nothing in the messages which I have received from abroad that justifies that verdict. But this I can say, that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends have done all that lies in their power to see that these proposals do not come to a successful issue. if that is what hon. Gentlemen opposite desire, I congratulate them on their performance. I do not believe that it is the desire of this country as a whole that this effort of our Government should fail. You cannot pursue a policy of international collaboration by only collaborating when others agree with you. You cannot hope to secure agreement between contending theses by merely imposing your own.
What have we been asked to do in this matter? May I remind the House of the origin of the proposals which are now before it, and to which the right hon. Gentleman scarcely referred? Some weeks ago a gap was created in the naval patrol scheme which was an essential part, in our view, of non-intervention. Jointly with the French Government, we submitted proposals for closing that gap. Those proposals were rejected by the German and Italian Governments. They submitted counter-proposals of their own, which we rejected. The result was that, when the Non-Intervention Committee met last Friday, the deadlock was complete. That is true. But there was one matter, and I would invite the attention of the House to this point, on which the Non-Intervention Committee was unanimous. There was not a single nation on 1592 that Committee who wanted this policy of non-intervention to break down—not one. The attitude of hon. Gentlemen opposite is not endorsed by one single Government in Europe. They differ, and they differ, I think, for reasons which are quite intelligible. The Governments of Europe bear responsibilities of which His Majesty's Opposition are not conscious. They know, and every Member of the House knows, that, if non-intervention breaks down, the risks of a European conflict are thereby inevitably increased. It may be that we shall be unable to avoid reaching that point, but it is hardly surprising that every nation in Europe is reluctant to approach that abyss if it can be avoided. The Leader of the Opposition was himself, once upon a time, very conscious of this risk. He said:There were those whose impulse was to say: 'We must rush to help our Spanish comrades,' but on these matters they must consult their heads as well as their hearts.To-night all that is forgotten. To-night, so far as the Opposition are concerned, hearts are trumps. On Friday all the nations, every single one of the Committee, expressed the desire to go on with the policy of non-intervention.
§ Mr. Eden
Yes, and Stalin, too. Nobody raised a voice against it, and all the nations unanimously asked the Government of this country to attempt to reconcile these two divergent points of view. What is our task? Some hon. Members opposite, who have been frequent in attendance at Geneva in years gone by, know very well what is the task of a rapporteur—an individual who is nominated by the other nations to attempt to work out an agreement which they all desire and which they cannot produce for themselves. That is precisely the task which has been entrusted to us in this instance. Is it argued—and this is the question I want to ask whoever is going to speak for the Opposition later—is it argued that we ought to have refused to undertake this task? Is it argued that we ought to have said to the nations of Europe, "Twenty-six of you ask Great Britain to undertake this task, and we will not accept the responsibility"? Does anybody in this House suggest that? If it is agreed that we should have undertaken the task, all that remains to be decided is whether we 1593 have resolved it rightly or not. I will come to that proposition later, but I would remark in passing that, however little confidence the Leader of the Opposition may have in the impartiality of this Government, it argues that Europe has confidence, or Europe would not have asked us to undertake it. Hon. Members opposite would have rendered a greater service to the pacification of Europe had they followed the line taken by an Opposition Liberal newspaper this morning, in which a very well known correspondent writes these words:It is not in the nature of compromises to arouse enthusiasm.We all endorse that. He goes on:But it was recognised that the present effort stood a better chance of acceptance than any other that could be devised.I ask for nothing more than that in judgment of what we have tried to do. That is the "News Chronicle." I should like to put another question to hon. Members opposite. Is it their view that, even if our judgment is right, and the judgment of the writer of that is right, and these proposals represent the best chance that there is of securing agreement, and if agreement is secured, are they still going to persist in their opposition? If that is not their attitude, would it not have been very much wiser to wait to see how the nations of Europe would pronounce before taking an early opportunity to make it as difficult as possible for agreement to be reached?
I want to examine the criticisms of these proposals. It is frequently said—I think it was the argument of the right hon. Gentleman to-night—that General Franco is nothing but a rebel. To contend that his supporters are confined to a few rebel officers and priests is nonsense. The argument is that General Franco is a rebel against a constitutionally elected Spanish Government, and that it is contrary to international law that he should be put on an equal footing with the Spanish Government.
§ Mr. Attlee
The right hon. Gentleman has entirely misunderstood the argument. The specific point that I put was that, as he was supported by and dependent on foreign troops, he had clearly shown that he was not supported by a substantial portion of the Spanish people.
§ Mr. Eden
That was on the question of the withdrawal of volunteers. I want 1594 to deal first with the point that the right hon. Gentleman did raise, the question of the recognition of belligerent rights. If it is said that you must never put a legitimate Government and insurgents on the same footing, that must mean that you will never accord belligerent rights where an insurgent is fighting a Government. That, obviously, is an untenable proposition because, if you were to say that, you could never recognise any insurgent as a belligerent, and, of course, we have frequently done that before in our history. I submit that the objection of hon. Members opposite is not the grant of belligerent rights to insurgents as such. It is the grant of belligerent rights to insurgents of whose cause they do not approve. The granting of belligerent rights does not carry with it any measure of approval at all. If we grant belligerent rights to the Government and to General Franco, that is no more expressing approval of General Franco than it will be if the German Government gives belligerent rights to Valencia and to Franco. That does not mean that they are approving the cause of Valencia. There is no approval in granting belligerent rights at all.
This grant of belligerent rights is conditioned by certain limitations to which the Leader of the Opposition never even referred, but they are of the essence of the matter. I want to draw the attention of the House to them. Contraband lists are, under our proposals, to be limited, to be identical with the Non-Intervention Committee's lists, and ships carrying observers are not to be liable to visit and search on the ground of the carriage of contraband. Any such limitation of belligerent rights is not only unusual but unprecedented, and the practical effect of this proposal is this—I invite the attention of the House to it, because I really think there is on this point a measure of misunderstanding—that the two parties will be free to deal as they can with ships attempting to enter Spain without complying with the procedure laid down under our non-intervention scheme. If a ship is trying to go to Spain without carrying an observer, the two parties in Spain are entitled to try to deal with it. In the same way, if ships are carrying troops between one Spanish port and another, and if they are engaged 1595 in the transmission of intelligence, either party in Spain has a right to interfere, and that is perfectly correct if we want a non-intervention policy carried out.
On the other hand, bona fide ships which carry out the proper procedure will, by arrangement with the two parties, be free from interference altogether. That is a very considerable limitation of the exercise of belligerent rights, since it means that the two parties, in the absence of a regular and effective blockade of a particular port, will be expected to allow ships to sail to ports of the enemy with any cargoes that are not prohibited under the Non-Intervention Agreement. That is clearly a very limited form of belligerent rights and it would not certainly have been justified in any circumstances except that arrangements had been made by the States themselves to take steps to prevent the carriage of munitions, and it is therefore reasonable, we think, to ask both parties that the grant of belligerent rights should be limited to a corresponding degree.
Now I want to say something about the withdrawal of volunteers from Spain. I ask the House first of all to notice this, that in the two rival sets of proposals upon which a deadlock was reached on Friday the withdrawal of volunteers did not figure at all. It might, therefore, have been argued that, in carrying out the task entrusted to us by the Committee, we were not called upon to deal with that subject. But we have all along attached the greatest importance—there I agree with the right hon. Gentleman—to this question of the presence of foreigners in Spain. That is why we thought it essential that account should be taken of that problem and steps taken to resolve it. I do not think that there would be a doubt in any hon. Member's mind that if there were no foreign nationals in Spain, then the case for belligerent rights would be overwhelming. It might be argued that we could have dealt with this question by getting a guarantee of withdrawal before we granted belligerent rights. Well, we have had some experience in this non-intervention business. We did not leave it there. We have gone much further. We propose not only that the Committee should express itself unanimously in 1596 favour but also that a Commission should be sent out to both sides to supervise the withdrawal. We have not only asked the Governments to undertake to co-operate in this work, but we have put in the further safeguard that in our plan belligerent rights will not become effective until the Committee have placed on record their opinion—and I quote the words—that the arrangements for the withdrawal of foreign nationals are working satisfactorily, and that this withdrawal has in fact made substantial progress.Therefore, not only must the principle be accepted, but machinery must be in definite operation, and must have produced substantial results. But there is another safeguard beyond that. The Committee itself—and the Committee works unanimously—has to pronounce its judgment upon the outcome of this withdrawal before the decision about belligerent rights is taken. What does this mean? The right hon. Gentleman made great play of the fact that he thought every foreigner ought to have gone before belligerent rights began, and if I understood what he said at the end of Question Time, that was his real divergence from our proposals, and in what he had to say, he added nothing else to it, I think, to-night.
I put this consideration to the House. If these proposals are to have any result at all, it will only be because the nations, upon reflection, are willing to work them rather than to face the dread alternative. I believe that every nation dreads the alternative. If they are prepared to work them to the extent of setting up machinery for the withdrawal of volunteers and of getting that machinery to work in substantial measure, that means that there is a spirit of co-operation different from that which has existed up to now. So the alternatives, as I see them, are these: Either that these proposals will fail altogether, or that belligerent rights will be granted and foreigners will be withdrawn. I do not believe that the middle alternative which the right hon. Gentleman professes to fear is in the least likely of realisation. In introducing this scheme we have tried to produce one which seemed to us fair and reasonable, and could be so recommended to the nations. The right hon. Gentleman thinks us partial. Well, with respect, I do not think that on this subject he is a very good judge of impartiality. He gave one instance—the situation at Bilbao. I 1597 do not want to pursue it except to say this. Does the House realise that no single foreign ship entered Bilbao after General Franco sought to impose his blockade except British ships under the protection of the British Navy up to the three-mile limit. How in the world does that show that we were partisan? Not a single French ship or any other foreign ship entered Bilbao except our own.
For one moment I will put the situation the other way round. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that General Franco had been beleaguered in the city by Government forces and the insurgents were being starved and were going to surrender for lack of food, do hon. Gentlemen opposite ask us to believe that they would have shown the same enthusiasm and the same earnest desire in the protection of the British Mercantile Marine in order that these food ships should go into the beleaguered Franco city? You must not ask us to be so credulous.
§ Mr. David Grenfell
On a matter of common knowledge, does the right hon. Gentleman not remember that occasions are reported here of British warships taking away refugees and no protests were made on this side of the House? We have never complained about it.
§ Mr. Eden
That is quite a different case from that which I have just quoted. If the hon. Gentleman objects to it, let me put it in this way. It may be said—and I have heard it said—that the two cases are not on all fours because one is the legitimate Government of Spain and the others are insurgents. There is a definite answer to that. It is impossible in international law to recognise a blockade unless you grant belligerency to both sides, and suppose circumstances had been exactly the opposite at Bilbao we could not have permitted the blockade of the Government without at the same time granting General Franco belligerent rights.
§ Mr. Eden
Yes, Sir, I am. In this problem of the air control we are perfectly conscious of the fact that we are up against the most difficult feature of the whole of these many problems created by the Spanish Civil war. If the House will reflect for a moment and cast their minds 1598 back over the history of this dispute they will realise how many of the difficulties have been due to the air arm, for instance, the "Deutschland" incident and such things, and it is—and I do not disguise it from the House—a matter of the greatest difficulty to find a way of dealing with this problem. The International Committee tried, and their experts tried, and the experts of all the nations tried, but they failed, and, so far as I am aware, and as far as we have been able to discover, there are two ways of doing it. Either you must put observers on virtually all the aerodromes of Europe, clearly an impossible task—either that, or you must seek the agreement of both sides to put observers on the aerodromes of Spain. We have suggested the latter course, which, so far as we have been able to determine, is the best method possible, and the only method, probably, of trying to check these arrivals of foreign airmen.
If these proposals are accepted by the nations who are represented on the Non-Intervention Committee, they can, in our view, prove the means of making non-intervention effective, of limiting the risks of this conflict spreading, and of confining, as we wish to confine, the Spanish war to Spaniards. If they fail, and if as a consequence non-intervention breaks down, then Europe will enter—let us make no mistake about this—upon a new and more perilous phase. You will have unchecked exports of munitions to both sides. You will have rumours, impossible to check, of the arrival of large numbers of volunteers. You will go back into an era of grave peril—an era in which incidents such as have already occurred, and must inevitably mark civil war of this kind, will have a much deeper significance. The Government are convinced that Europe does not want this. That is why Europe has charged us with this task. We have sought to discharge it equitably. Even the right hon. Gentleman opposite would admit that we have discharged it rapidly. To-morrow it will be for Europe to decide. To-night, I ask this House to approve these proposals as a contribution to the preservation of peace.
War settles nothing. Whether war results in victory or defeat, bitterness remains. I do not accept the doctrine of the inevitability of war. One sometimes 1599 hears it argued that it is not worth discussing whether this or that step before 1914 would have averted war, because the clash was inevitable. I do not accept that statement. A war postponed may be a war averted. It is in that light that I ask this House to judge our policy in respect of the Spanish conflict during the past year. I ask the House to endorse these proposals, not because they like individual items in them—there are items I do not like myself—not because they like this or that item, but because they are, we believe, a contribution to European collaboration and, therefore, a contribution to peace.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Sir Archibald Sinclair
We have listened to a speech from the Secretary of State which must have strengthened the belief, which I hold, and which I believe is widely held on this side of the House, in the sincerity with which he is pursuing a policy of peace and impartiality in Spain. Nevertheless, I do not think that he has given quite adequate expression to what, as I think he must understand, is the sincerity with which many of us on this side criticise the results of the non-intervention policy in so far as they have been revealed. It is, unfortunately, true that at every stage in the development of the civil war, or, rather, at three successive stages, large reinforcements have come for General Franco's side, in spite of non-intervention, while at every stage non-intervention has operated to prevent the Spanish Government from obtaining, except with great difficulty, countervailing support to help them against General Franco and his Italian and German auxiliaries. Therefore, I do not think it is surprising that we on this side of the House look with some caution at the plan which the right hon. Gentleman circulated to us this morning.
For my own part I have been a patient and consistent supporter of non-intervention, but I have been compelled to say from time to time that I thought the Government ought to take a stronger line and ought to indicate clearly to those Powers which were not carrying out non-intervention the consequences of continuing to violate the agreement. We had a Debate on these lines about a fortnight ago, and it was followed by a meet- 1600 ing of the Non-Intervention Committee, at which, as the right hon. Gentleman has reminded us, there was a deadlock. The Secretary of State now says that there was not one nation on that committee that did not wish non-intervention to continue; but, unfortunately, there were some nations on that committee which have never observed the agreement which they had signed. When the deadlock was reached the Netherlands Minister proposed that His Majesty's Government should undertake the task of finding a way out of the deadlock, and he was supported by all the nations present. The right hon. Gentleman claimed that that showed what confidence they had in His Majesty's Government. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that they were meeting in London, the capital of this country. [Interruption.] If hon. Members opposite interrupt that statement I will say that I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has a right to claim that the mere fact that these nations asked His Majesty's Government to undertake this task is a measure of their confidence in it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Because it is quite obvious that when an International Committee is meeting in the capital of one country, with a Minister of that country in the chair, it is only natural that they should ask that Government to act.
§ Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft
Would the right hon. Gentleman say that that would be so if the Conference had been in Berlin or Rome?
§ Sir A. Sinclair
I do not know what International Conference the hon. and gallant Member has in mind, and I hope he will not interrupt me. I was merely taking up a small point that was made by the Secretary of State. I think he pushed his case, if I may say so with respect, a little too far.
So this request was made to His Majesty's Government, whatever may have been the motives of those who made it, and it was not a pleasant task to be asked to undertake. It was a very heavy responsibility on the Government and on the Secretary of State, and I think that we in this House ought to give credit to the Secretary of State for his willingness to undertake so heavy and embarrassing a task. The Secretary of State has said that there are in the proposals some 1601 points which he would prefer were not there. I certainly do not like all the proposals, but I do want the war in Spain to stop. I do want peace. I do want the volunteers withdrawn from both sides and nobody that I am aware of in this House —I shall be interested to know if there is anybody—can suggest a quicker way of achieving those objects than the way which the right hon. Gentleman proposes. If you are engaged in an international controversy, there are, broadly, only three ways of settling it—arbitration, conciliation or force. This is an effort at conciliation, and I prefer it to force. Therefore, I think it ought to be given its trial.
I do not think that the Opposition Motion gives a fair description of the proposals:The declared intention of His Majesty's Government to make to the Non-Intervention Committee to-morrow proposals which contemplate the granting of belligerent rights to General Franco and which do not make effective provision for the complete cessation of foreign intervention in Spain.As a matter of fact, these proposals for granting belligerent rights to General Franco cannot come into operation until the Non-Intervention Committee by a unanimous vote, including not only our own Government and the French Government and the Scandinavians Governments and all the other neutral Governments, but also those who have been most active and fervent in their support of the Spanish cause like the Russian Government, has recorded its opinion that the withdrawal of foreign volunteers is proceeding satisfactorily. Not until then is it contemplated, to use the words of the Motion, that belligerent rights shall be given to General Franco. It may be that these proposals may not work. The Government have said so at the beginning of the White Paper. But again I say, who has a better plan? In the meantime let us give this plan a chance.
After all, there is nothing wrong in itself in granting belligerent rights to an insurgent party in a foreign country. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) in a very cogent letter he wrote to the "Times" on the subject quoted Mr. Hall as perhaps the best and most authoritative of British writers on the subject. Mr. Hall deals with three possible cases in which this issue might arise, one, the case of insurgent communities in an inland State, and he says: 1602As long as a Government is struggling with insurgents isolated in the midst of little provinces and consequently removed from contact with foreign States, the interests of the latter are very rarely if ever touched in such a way as can be served by recognition.He goes on to say:When a State is contiguous with a revolting province it may he different.The third case he quotes is that of a maritime war, and he says:There the presumption of propriety lies in the opposite direction. No circumstances can be assumed as probable in which the interests of a foreign State possessing a mercantile marine will not be affected, and it may recognise insurgents as belligerents without giving just cause for suspicion of bad faith as soon as a reasonable expectation of maritime hostilities exists.Therefore, on such high authority, and one to which the hon. Member for Derby paid a tribute, I think we may justly reach the conclusion that the grant of belligerent rights to insurgents is not in itself a wrong thing to do, but, on the contrary, where a maritime war is at issue there is a presumption in favour of granting them. But while that is true I should strongly object, and I understand the Government would strongly object, to the granting of rights to an insurgent party which was not really a party of Spanish insurgents at all or in only a small degree a party of Spanish insurgents but a party which depends in large measure on the support of alien forces from outside. If that is the case, and in so far as it is the case, I should strongly resist the granting of belligerent rights.
I support the proposal in the White Paper only because it is made clear that there can be no question of recognising belligerent rights until the Non-Intervention Committee is satisfied that the measures for the withdrawal of volunteers are working satisfactorily. So I say, why should we torpedo this scheme before it is ever discussed on the Non-Intervention Committee? The responsibility is not ours, it rests upon the right hon. Gentleman, and it is altogether an unenviable responsibility. I agree with the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), who a fortnight ago said that the right hon. Gentleman is discharging the responsibility of seeking peace with credit to himself and to the Government. He does not ask us to accept the responsibility for these proposals, and I say do not let us hamper him at this stage.
1603 I should like to make one or two criticisms and to utter a few warnings on these proposals. The first is this: Do not let other people drive a wedge between ourselves and France. When we were discussing the broader aspects of this matter in the House a fortnight ago I said—and the House showed its approval—that the firm and loyal friendship between ourselves and France is the firmest ground for peace in Europe at the present time. There are some people who are not unwilling to disturb this friendship. I observe for example that in "The Observer" of last Sunday there was a reported statement by Dr. Hafeldt voicing the views of the Foreign Office in Berlin. It said:This firm attitude of Germany and Italy towards the Anglo-French proposals last week has broken the London-Paris united front. On Friday for the first time we saw England and France marching in opposite directions.I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be very careful to avoid anything of that kind happening. There must be no compromise on the question of refusing to grant belligerent rights until volunteers are withdrawn. That comes home direct to the French; they feel it more than we do. If we are to have firm and loyal relations with France there can be no compromise on that point.
Now I come to the White Paper itself. I ask how this new system of observation in the ports is going to work. How is smuggling into the small ports to be prevented? This is an important point. You can carry arms and munitions in ships of small size, of a few hundred tons. How is this smuggling into the smaller ports around the coasts to be prevented? What are the Government plans for dealing with it? Then I would also ask, how is withdrawal to be carried out? In the last speech I made I put the point, is it to be by an equal number on both sides or roughly in proportion to the number of troops on either side? I have not seen any authoritative estimate of the number of foreign troops on the Government side, which puts the figure at more than 20,000. I think that is far more than the actual numbers. I have seen no authoritative estimate which puts the figure of Germans and Italians at less than 80,000, and many people say that it is over 100,000. Is there to be some sort of rough proportion? I know 1604 that the right hon. Gentleman cannot lay down an exact proportion, and say that it shall be four to one or five to one, but will he assure us that there is to be some kind of rough justice meted out as between the two sides, and that there will not be an effort to make each side withdraw an equal number of volunteers at the same time? When the White Paper states that the Non-Intervention Committee has to be satisfiedthat the arrangements for the withdrawal of foreign nationals are working satisfactorily,does that mean that it will at any rate be made clear that all foreign nationals will have been withdrawn from the firing line? I do not say that they can have been got out of the country, but at any rate they ought to have been withdrawn from the firing line and no; to be fighting in the war. With regard to the observers in the ports, what are they to do if they see a cargo coming in? What will be the next procedure for them to follow? Will the Non-Intervention Committee have to be satisfied, not merely that the volunteers are being withdrawn, but also that the non-intervention agreement about munitions is being observed? For example, if we are told that the volunteers are being withdrawn, but the observers in various ports say that munitions are still coming in, surely we will not then grant belligerent rights to General Franco? I ask for an assurance to that effect from the Government.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
Certainly it would apply to the other side. Another question I wish to ask is whether belligerent rights can be withdrawn? Suppose that after belligerent rights had been granted, these agreements were again violated, what check would there be then? The Government may say, "Is it not rather unfair to ask what is going to happen if the whole thing breaks down?" I do not think so, because recently we have had some rather sad experiences of agreements which have been signed and not kept. I think it is a fair question to ask the Government what will happen if this agreement, having been signed, is not kept. Can we then withdraw belligerent rights? I rather think that the authorities are against it. Mr. Hall says:Recognition of belligerency when once accorded is irrevocable, except by agreement, 1605 so long as the circumstances exist under which it was granted.Is that a saving clause? If belligerency is granted on certain conditions, and if those conditions are no longer being fulfilled, will it then be possible to withdraw the grant of belligerency? As to aeroplanes, I did not think that the Secretary of State dealt quite adequately with the criticism that has been made. The White Paper says:The Committee to consider further the question of the employment by the two parties of foreign aircraft which enter Spain under their own power, and to examine in particular the possibility of requesting the two parties to accept foreign observers in specified aerodromes in Spain.Surely that is very weak. The Foreign Secretary has more than once admitted that this is a serious gap in the Non-Intervention Agreement. I urge that a stronger line should be taken about the means of preventing aeroplanes from entering Spain.
The Government have warned us that this plan may not work. At any rate, the plan cannot make the position of the Spanish Government worse than it is now. The recognition of belligerency depends upon the withdrawal of volunteers. The re-establishment of control depends upon—but here I would not like to be dogmatic. I ask the Noble Lord, who I understand is to reply, to deal with this point. The Leader of the Opposition made a criticism which I think was not quite met by the Secretary of State. The Leader of the Opposition said that we were going to re-establish control in a form which would be injurious to the Spanish Government at the present time. He said that the first step will be to clamp on the land control straight away. That, of course, would be injurious to the Spanish Government. Am I right in saying that that will not happen, and that the re-establishment of control depends upon the acceptance of the whole scheme? It is the first step in the scheme, but that control will not be re-established until the whole scheme is accepted, including the agreement for the withdrawal of volunteers. I would like to know definitely that that is so.
If this plan is to be rejected, let us know who is responsible. Do not let it be this House which rejects this possibility of peace. If indeed there are Governments abroad which are not sincere in their pursuit of peace, let us know which 1606 they are. Let the responsibility be placed upon other shoulders than ours. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the danger of continuing a sham. I agree that there is a danger in continuing a sham. I hope the Government will make it clear that they have an alternative policy if other nations refuse to take this up and work it sincerely. But I believe that here is a possible path to peace. I believe it would be wrong to reject it. I hope we may be able in this way to obtain genuine co-operation, which we have never had since the beginning of the Spanish trouble, between the European Powers.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), in one of the previous Debates on this subject, made an immense impression not only in this House but also in the country by an appeal which he made, based, as he said, on a day-dream of his own. Using the psychologist's definition of worry—a spasm of the imagination—he applied it to the psychological state of the Governments of Europe at the present time, and he said that if only we could find some new policy, a theme, which would enable this spasm to be relaxed, not only might we find our way out of the difficulties in Spain, not only might we restore peace to that distracted land, but we might go on from that to restore and firmy establish real peace in Europe. It is because I feel that there is some chance here of pursuing that line of thought, it is because nobody else to whom I have listened has suggested any better or more hopeful way, that—although I realise the weakness of this plan, the difficulties, and the possibilities that it may break down or that it may not be accepted by the other Powers concerned—I hope this House will not take upon its shoulders the responsibility of rejecting it.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill
I was glad to find myself coming more and more into agreement with the right hon. Gentleman as his speech proceeded. It is a matter of value and importance, extending far outside this House, that the party which he leads, and which plays such a very large part in moulding opinion in the country, should definitely range itself upon this issue at the side of His Majesty's Government. But I must confess that what has weighed with me a good deal in 1607 these last few weeks was what the right hon. Gentleman a little tried to discount. I have felt it to be a most remarkable thing that when, on the London Committee, there was a definite difference, a distinct divergence, between the great Powers, and when the whole committee was summoned together, it was asserted broadly, and I believe truly, that no fewer than 23 out of those 27 Powers, if matters had been forced to a division, which happily they were not, would have followed the lead of the two great Western democracies, Great Britain and France. I think that is a tremendous event, and, believe me, it adds to our safety.
Then we have seen a second event which is, in a way, even more remarkable. When there was a deadlock last week the committee, including those with whom we had sharp differences, and whose sympathies are violently engaged upon one side or the other, came together and unanimously asked the British Government to try to find a way out. What greater tribute could there be to our having played fair and steered a straight course? It is a real tribute. It is not a tribute of words, but a proof of trust, and a recognition of the fact that we have tried our best to make things better, and not to make them worse from the beginning of this Spanish quarrel. I do not remember anything for years quite like this.
I think it is of the greatest importance and value that Governments from Moscow to Berlin, from Rome to Prague, from Lisbon to Oslo should have done this, not as a mere compliment to the chairman of the committee—although let me say that, reading only in the newspapers, it seemed to me that Lord Plymouth in his conduct of this committee has rendered remarkable services, and has created for himself a very solid reputation. But it was certainly not a mere spirit of compliment to hosts which led all those different countries, with their divergent points of view, finding themselves in a deadlock, to appeal to the British Government to try to carry the matter forward and find a way out. It seems to me that this is a matter of great importance to us all. Nothing is more agreeable at the present time than to see the growing understanding of British policy which is spreading throughout the United States, and what could 1608 be more a determining factor in the opinion of the United States than the spectacle of all those Powers inviting the British Government to lead the movement of events?
I would have thought that if any Motion was submitted to the House on this occasion it would have been one to congratulate His Majesty's Government upon the steady course they have steered throughout a year of baffling difficulties and of so many dangerous situations. Instead of that, what has happened? We have the Adjournment moved. We have a Motion, which, if it were carried, would be a most decisive Vote of Censure. While all Europe pays its tribute, the Leader of the Opposition passes his censure, and, of course, if this Motion were agreed to, it would be far more than a mere Parliamentary and political event. It would bring the position of Great Britain in international affairs down to the ground in futility and ridicule. Fancy the effect that would be produced upon our slowly gathering prestige in Europe. It would at one fell stroke render us impotent in the future stages of this Spanish difficulty and, perhaps for many years to come, we should not be able to play an effectual part in Europe. But that is the question upon which we are to vote, because it was not necessary to raise this matter as a mere vehicle of debate, as a convenient moment for ventilating the topic. The whole matter could have been discussed most freely on Monday next. This has been a quite definite challenge which, if it were successful, would, in my humble opinion, strike a blow at the idea of the Concert of Europe, of collective security, of the working together collectively of many Powers, a blow from which the whole process of European appeasement would not recover.
§ Mr. Churchill
As to this plan which has been put forward, I was very glad to hear the lucid defence of certain intricate points put forward by the right hon. Gentleman. Of course it is a compromise. It is a compromise between not only divergent but vehemently antagonistic views and interests. You cannot expect to find an attractive, symmetrical, clear-cut proposal such as would spring in its integrity from one man's mind, 1609 when you have to cater for no fewer than 27 different nations. I have not the slightest doubt there are points in this plan which are extremely repugnant to Germany and Italy, but then, I imagine, there are also points in it which are repugnant to Soviet Russia, and there are some points which, perhaps, are not entirely in accord with the views of France. But if we are to keep the whole of these Powers together round the table, it is absolutely necessary for everybody to put up with a certain amount which they do not like, for the sake of producing a scheme upon which all may be able, possibly, to agree.
I go as far as this. I conceive that our safety is enormously dependent upon the maintenance of the Concert of Europe and the united treatment of this topic, and even if this plan were worse, even if it were less equipped with hopeful feeling, I still would say that it would be necessary to find even a formula, which would keep these Powers together round the table. I have no hesitation in saying—I am sure it is true—that the fact that the Powers should remain together is of greater consequence to the peace of Europe than the actual merits of any agreement which keeps them together. I am not at all convinced—and I was very glad to hear the argument of the right hon. Gentleman upon this point—that it is a bad and a vicious plan making it necessary for the Opposition immediately to challenge an Adjournment Motion. As far as I can see, the worst you can say about it is that it is probably too good to be true. We should be very glad indeed if we could to-night congratulate the Foreign Secretary on having netted all the fish that are in this White Paper. Indeed that is a stage which lies ahead. But if this plan were adopted, does anybody doubt that the control may actually be less inefficient than it has been in the past.
Certainly, the control of arms going into Spain, if you regard that as a matter of high consequence—personally, I think there is a certain amount of illogicality in supposing that preventing arms going to belligerents shortens the war; I think it would probably have the opposite effect—but certainly the object has been to prevent arms from going in, and if this scheme were to come into operation, can anyone doubt that the control would 1610 be far greater than could be exerted supposing that all went by the board and you had a vast, chaotic intrusion of arms from all quarters to both sides? What could be a greater advance—and here we are all agreed—than to procure the withdrawal of the so-called volunteers—I say "so-called" advisedly—from both sides in Spain? There we are all at one. What could be better than to strip from this Spanish quarrel this odious infusion of foreign malevolence and of people who care nothing for the future of the Spaniards, but who are there simply as the champions of grisly abstractions which are equally detestable to all parties and classes in this island?
Lastly, there is this question of according belligerent rights. It has been explained, and it is the essence of the story, that belligerent rights are not to be accorded unless this great advantage of the withdrawal of the foreign intruders has been rendered very largely effective, and on that I understand that we ourselves will be the judges, judges with others, but unanimity is required, and therefore we have an absolute judgment upon the matter. Does anyone doubt, does even the right hon. Gentleman who is going to reply doubt, that if you could get the foreign volunteers from each side to withdraw, it would be well worth while according the very limited and guarded form of belligerent rights recognition which is proposed here? But I must say this, that the refusal to accord any measure, even the most restricted, of belligerent rights to a combatant Power which disposes of armies numbered by several hundred thousands. [Interruption.] That is the information which I have from many direct quarters—which is in possession of the greater part of the Spanish Peninsular, judged both by territory and by population, which has a constituted Government, which has upon the whole the command of the seas, behind whose frontiers there is, as we get by testimonies from almost every quarter, a remarkable measure of order and even of normal life—to refuse even to consider this question of the recognition of belligerency, I say that is in itself a highly questionable proposition and one which does not accord with the majority of precedents which have guided us in the past.
1611 We need not waste our time prophesying what the end of the Spanish war will be—all these matters are veiled in the uncertainty of the future—but we must recognise this fact, that whoever wins in Spain, we shall have to try to live with them in more or less neighbourly fashion —whoever wins—as we have done with all sorts of Governments, as we are doing now, living as well as we can with all sorts of Governments, some of them very powerful Governments, which I shall certainly not attempt to particularise. It seems to me that we should not be prudent or right in trying to draw some absolute line against the recognition of belligerency to either side or to both sides in Spain, and certainly we should not do so if, at the price of this comparatively small concession on our part, we were able to achieve the great, solid advance of a substantial withdrawal of the volunteers.
There is one more reason why I venture to suggest that we should not allow ourselves to become too much the partisans of either side. We ought also to try to gain influence with both sides in Spain. I must say, when people talk of the horrors of war, that there are worse things than the horrors of war, and those are the cruel executions and blottings out of whole political classes on both sides which have stained the Spanish struggle. I am very glad indeed to notice that the capture of Bilbao has not been attended by anything like those scenes which took place in the earlier days of the struggle, but obviously and certainly it will be of the very greatest importance to us, if we have got influence with both sides in Spain, and especially with the side which is going to win in Spain, because then alone may we be able to intervene and procure mercy for the vanquished.
I have not tried to exacerbate this Debate, because I know how strongly, ardently, and passionately hon. Members opposite feel, and that there are equally strong opinions on the other side. But, in view of the challenge of this Motion, in view of the calamitous consequences which would follow its adoption, it is surely the duty of those who support His Majesty's Government to give the fullest expression to their feelings of confidence, and I will say of gratitude, to Ministers who have brought us through this year 1612 of Spanish turmoil without involving our country in the cauldron, without rupturing the general peace, and without losing—nay they have enhanced it to an unprecedented point—the respect which is extended to us from so many nations.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Maxton
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) on his intervention, which followed the lines of previous speeches he has made on this subject, but I am afraid I must differ from him profoundly on the conception that it is wrong for the Opposition in this House to raise its voice on important matters of foreign policy at the time when these important matters of public policy are still open for decision. He tells us to wait until Monday, when the crucial meeting in this matter is tomorrow. That would not have been his conception of the Opposition's duty if he had been sitting on the opposite side, and I, for one, wish to support the official Opposition and to congratulate them on having seized this opportunity to debate in this democratic Assembly important issues that are fraught with serious results for this country and for the whole of Europe.
Admittedly, we are in a dangerous situation, and no one wants to make that situation more dangerous. Nobody in this House wants to make the situation more dangerous, I know. I want to say here very definitely that in my view—and in the Minister's view, if I read his tone and bearing in the last few weeks aright—the situation is more dangerous to-day than it was 12 months ago, when this policy of non-intervention was embarked upon. I see in these proposals to-day—I may be wrong and shall be prepared to admit it—an increasing blatancy and impertinence on the part of the Fascist Powers in Europe, and an increased tendency on the part of the British Government to try to conciliate them. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping talks about people who are in Spain in pursuit of grizzly abstractions. Does he believe that Herr Hitler's intervention in Spain is in pursuit of abstractions? Does he believe that?
§ Mr. Maxton
Does he believe that it is a grizzly abstraction which led to the mounting of German guns to dominate 1613 Gibraltar? These 12 months have seen the situation become more menacing. We adopted this policy and I must admit that although I opposed it I felt the force of the argument, which was "Let us limit the area of the conflict; let us, by so doing, reduce the duration of the conflict; let us create a situation which will prevent dangerous incidents which might easily spill into a general war." It has not limited the duration of the conflict. It is obvious to everybody here that if the view propounded from the Opposition Benches from the beginning, honest recognition of the Spanish Government—not intervention, but the giving to the Spanish Government of the same rights as have been given to every other legitimate Government in the past—this conflict could have ceased. But this House and the Foreign Secretary, pursuing the theory that it was good policy to be friends of both sides, because one of them might win, have gone on encouraging the insurgents in every possible way, and as Britain has shown this non-partisan spirit more and more the more advances Italy and Germany have made and the more demands they have made of the other Powers concerned.
§ Mr. C. S. Taylor
Will not the hon. Gentleman agree that even if it has not limited the duration of the conflict it has limited the size of the conflict?
§ Mr. Maxton
The Foreign Secretary warns us to-night that we must accept these compromise proposals, making substantial concessions to General Franco. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Page Croft) need not say, "No. no," because the granting of belligerent rights to General Franco has been a matter of constant propaganda on the part of him and his friends. That has not been shouted for as some academic abstraction, but because they believe what is true, that the granting of belligerent rights raises the status of General Franco. It makes him, instead of being an insurgent, the head of a properly constituted Government over part of Spain and represents him as having at his back a substantial proportion of the people. All the facts contradict that. But to-night you are in process of making him a person of standing in international affairs, and in doing so you are raising the status of those European nations who have nailed 1614 their colours to the Fascist mast from the beginning. We are deliberately raising the whole status of the Fascist Powers in Europe.
This tenderness towards Franco is not in the interests of Great Britain. From the outset of this conflict I have seen in this House a class prejudice operating to an extent which in the most extreme cases puts the interests of Britain out of account altogether as against the interests of class. As I hear some of these hon. Members, they would rather Franco wins and Hitler and Mussolini dominate Spain and have Britain down, than see the Spanish Government win and Britain on top. Prejudice is carried to extremes that I have never seen in this House before. A great deal has been made of the point that we ought all to be sitting full of wonder and gratitude that the nations of Europe have chosen Great Britain and our Foreign Secretary to be Chairman of this Committee to deal with this situation. That apparently raises our status to a point which it has not reached for years. What awful rubbish; what utter rubbish. I have often been appointed chairman of committees of one kind and another. I have not always been foolish enough to believe that it was because of a high appreciation of my qualities, but because a whole lot of elements thought that they could rush me better than they could rush somebody else.
Some four or five years ago I asked how many international conferences there had been since the War, and I was told that the number was 37. Since then many more international conferences have been held and the total must be near the century, and over a large proportion of these Britishers have presided. But I cannot remember this enthusiasm on previous occasions. For instance, when Mr. Arthur Henderson was Chairman of the Disarmament Conference I cannot remember Members throwing their hats in the air and saying that this was a great victory for Britain. I cannot remember the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth or the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Sir N. Stewart Sandeman) claiming that a great victory for British prestige had been achieved when the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. J. R. MacDonald) was presiding at the World Economic Conference. But to-night, because the right hon. 1615 Gentleman the Foreign Secretary has taken on another dirty job, we are supposed to be enthusiastic. On his own showing it does not seem to offer any greater prospects of success than the World Economic Conference. I would be willing, if I were a betting man, to say that while the World Economic Conference had a very short run, this one of his would even beat it with the celerity with which it will meet and disband without having achieved anything of concrete value for the peace of Europe. This is not a change of policy; it is merely a development and a carrying forward of the policy which has been carried on for almost 12 months, a policy which has produced no concrete results and has brought us on his own showing nearer the danger of war than we were 12 months ago. For these reasons I support the Opposition's Motion.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down has introduced the first note of serious controversy into this Debate to-night. The hon. Member says that the Government in the last few months, and still more in the White Paper issued yesterday, have been helping the cause of General Franco. The proposals of His Majesty's Government which will come before the Non-Intervention Committee to-morrow are based first and foremost on the withdrawal of foreign volunteers. That is the necessary pre-requisite for the granting of belligerent rights. It is the opinion of the hon. Gentleman and those who think with him that General Franco is dependent almost entirely on foreign volunteers in order to continue his war. How then can they seriously argue that proposals which involve inevitably the withdrawal of what they regard as his only source of strength will help his cause?
§ Mr. Maxton
For once the hon. Gentleman makes a legitimate point. We assume when we make our points against him that General Franco will treat any agreement he makes on this matter in the same way as he has treated previous agreements.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but I have a number of other points to make, and if his replies 1616 to them are of equal value to the one he has just made, I hope that he will allow me to continue. It is common knowledge that some members in this House hope for the success of General Franco and that others hope for the success of the Government of Valencia; but to-day we are not engaged in a controversy of this kind. We are agreed that we want to localise the Spanish war and accelerate its conclusion. Because of that desire which is common to all decent people, we welcome the proposals of the Government and congratulate my right hon. Friend on months of laborious work which we hope are going to reach a triumphant conclusion. I think it is fair to say that we on both sides are anxious that when this unhappy war is over a solution will be found in Spain that comes neither from the east nor from the west, but shall be exclusively Spanish. I think we recognise that we are most likely to achieve that desire if on both sides of this unhappy controversy, in so far as it is a controversy in England, we do try and appreciate what are really the motives underlying our particular championship of one side or the other. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, in his opening speech, said that he saw some demerit in that part of these proposals which said that there should be an immediate restoration of land control. He spoke as if land control merely meant the control between France and Spain. He forgot that land control means also the restoration of rigorous control, if it has ever ceased, on the frontier between Portugal and Spain as well. The right hon. Gentleman does no good to his cause by suggesting that the Spanish frontier merely runs along the Pyrenees.
The two problems with which we are concerned are those of belligerency and foreign volunteers. It is deeply regrettable, when all sorts of people like myself, equally ill-qualified, are anxious to take part in foreign debates, if we do not try to master some of the legal problems with which we are obliged to deal. On the question of belligerency there has been a great deal of muddled thinking in the course of the last few months. It has grown in the eyes of hon. Members opposite to be a sort of favour that the Government of the day either grants or withholds according to its political prejudices. It is not a favour, but recognition of a 1617 state of fact. I do not want to weary the House with elaborate quotations from authorities, either rival or agreeable to those already quoted, but it will be generally recognised that when a rebellion has assumed such proportions that it may without abuse of language be called a war, then belligerent rights should be granted not as a favour but as a recognition of a state of fact. No one will dispute that this rebellion has assumed such a size that it may without abuse of language be called a war. In the course of the next few weeks, if these admirable proposals receive assent abroad—as first Press reports seem to show they will—and we recognise the flag of General Franco flying on his various ships at sea, and the flag also of the Valencia Government, in so far as they have any ships—if they had been a little more discriminating in the slaughter of their officers they might have had a more efficient fleet—
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I could supply chapter and verse for it, but it would break my argument, which was probably the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's purpose, and I will not do it now. If we recognise these flags they will not be regarded as emanations or symbols of sovereignty, but as proceeding from an organised body of persons who, so far as waging war goes, are able to act as a sovereign State carrying on the Government of their own particular district and of those who are fighting for them. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal party rightly said that for a maritime nation like ours to refuse the grant of belligerent rights in a war which is a maritime war might well land us in great difficulty. That is why I am glad we are taking this step.
When the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition says that if we grant belligerent rights there might well be a collision at sea, I would reply that if we did not grant belligerent rights, there will inevitably be a collision at sea. Hon. Members opposite say that we have not granted belligerent rights before and therefore we ought not to grant them now. In 1825 we gave belligerent rights to the Greek Provincial Government when 1618 it was trying to overthrow the rule of Turkey. In reply to a question asked at the time as to whether we were not helping a rebellious state, the Secretary of State of the day replied that the character of the belligerent was not a principle, but a fact. It was added that the only alternative for granting belligerent rights was to treat both sides as pirates. I cannot believe that any Members on the other side of the House, faced with the consequences of treating the ships of either side as pirates on the high seas, would shrink from granting belligerent rights.
With regard to the second contention I would like to advance about volunteers, I believe that His Majesty's Government, who have such a happy record in this regard, can be trusted to see that the removal of volunteers from Spain is conducted courageously and expeditiously. Their record in regard to stopping the entry of volunteers into Spain in the last few months has been a commendable one. My right hon. Friend rightly warned Members a few weeks ago against the dangers involved in taking seriously as gospel truth chance or propagandist reports in the newspapers of the world. On 21st June he denied that Italians had entered Malaga. A few days later my Noble Friend, the Under-Secretary, in a written reply denied that there had been any breach of the contraband clauses in regard to cargoes going over the land frontier which were subject to search on the seas. On 6th July my right hon. Friend again said that he saw no reason to believe that the Portuguese frontier would be abused. Even more important, in reply to a Parliamentary question at the beginning of this month, he said:I understand the Non-Intervention Committee have no evidence of foreign nationals having arrived in Spain from any quarter since the ban was agreed upon.That was the statement made by my right hon. Friend, who is in a position to know all the facts. I would take his judgment, even if he were in opposition, rather than the judgment of any people opposite. I believe, with most Members of this House, that though the withdrawal of volunteers would not mike any very great difference, probably, to the length of time during which this war would continue, none the less it would enormously reduce the prospects of this war leading to a world war. I believe also, in contradiction to what has been 1619 advanced from the other side of the House, that the forces which I call the Nationalist forces have a very substantial measure of support in Spain. I should be out of Order, I imagine, if I developed that theme overmuch, but it has already been touched upon by the Leader of the Opposition in his opening speech, and I take it that I am entitled to say that two-thirds of Spain is now ruled by General Franco and that peace and quiet obtain there. There are 14,000,000 people on his side living in peace and without opposition in territories controlled by him. General Mola captured Pamplona with 500 men and General Quiepo de Llano captured Seville with 183, which is hardly likely to have been the case if the populations of those towns were against him. In addition, and in conclusion on this point, it was not until the international brigade and the Russian tanks got really into action that there was a sudden stoppage in his onward march. Further, I think that it ought to be recognised that there is no mutual massacre among his supporters, such as now blackens the records of some of those on the other side.
Being as I am in entire agreement with the policy put forward by my right hon. Friend and wishing him God-speed in the really grave decisions which the world will reach in the next few days, I would ask him to bear seriously in mind this point that some people who have gone as volunteers into Spain may have become Spanish subjects by the issue of Spanish passports to them when they crossed the French frontier or went in otherwise. That fact should be borne in mind, because I am one of those who think that those who are fighting on General Franco's side are unlikely to be ready to drop their nationality when they enter Spain, and may desire to remain nationals of their State, though that may not operate in the case of those fighting on the other side.
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison
The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) has this to his credit, that he has made no secret of the fact that he is a fairly definite supporter of General Franco.
§ Mr. Morrison
For his frankness in that respect we pay him tribute and we respect him. It is, perhaps, of some significance in this way, that he is at the same time a definite supporter of the cause of General Franco and an admirer of the foreign policy of the Foreign Secretary, and a warm supporter of the proposals in the White Paper which are to go before the Non-Intervention Committee to-morrow. Frankly, I think the hon. Gentleman is right in supporting this White Paper. From his point of view it is good business. I leave it to the Foreign Secretary and the Noble Lord who will follow to reconcile the alleged impartiality of His Majesty's Government with the fact that one of their prominent supporters, one of a number in the ranks of the Conservative party who are definitely the supporters of rebellion and insurgency in Spain, should believe in these proposals which the Government are submitting to the Non-Intervention Committee.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Was the right hon. Gentleman one of those Labour leaders who sent messages of good will to those in Spain in 1934 who were trying to overthrow an equally constitutional Government?
§ Mr. Morrison
The Foreign Secretary made some sort of complaint that this Debate should have taken place at all. He complained that the Opposition had intervened by moving the Adjournment with a view to expressing its dissent from his proposals. That is an extraordinary complaint for a Minister to make. Our duty in this House is to say what we think, and if the Government advances proposals which were announced last night and are to be intimated to the Non-Intervention Committee to-morrow, and if the Opposition disagree with those proposals, it is not only reasonable that the Opposition should express its disagreement but it is the duty of the Opposition to seize the earliest opportunity of challenging and criticising that policy. It therefore seems to me to be childish to complain that the Opposition should take advantage of any opportunity within the rules 1621 of Order to express its opinions and its dissent from the Government's policy. Supposing that we had waited until Monday with our criticisms. Would it not have been said by the Treasury Bench that the Opposition had then no right to complain? It would have been said that this document was published and in the Vote Office on Wednesday night, that the Opposition knew that it was to be put before the Non-Intervention Committee on Friday, and why did not the Opposition raise the point beforehand? If this is an example of the way in which the right hon. Gentleman conducts business in the affairs of Europe I do not wonder that he gets into muddles.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was reminded that in the earlier stages of this business he had advised his supporters at a Labour Party Conference to use their heads as well as their hearts. That is always good advice, from whatever quarter it may come. I personally took the view all along, right from the beginning, that the whole of this non-intervention business was bad and was bound to prove humbug. The majority of my hon. Friends and Members of the Labour party with whom I am associated quite understandably and equally sincerely took the view that if non-intervention could be made genuine, if it was equally and strongly applied all round, it would be a good thing. That was their view, but all of them, including the Leader of the Opposition, were insistent that if neutrality was to be a fair proposition it must be applied equally to every country concerned and must be rigorously enforced. When it became clear that it was not being enforced we took the view that we could not support it—not I, I am speaking of my friends, because I never did support it. The party to which I belong took the view that it could not consistently with the declarations it had made at the beginning continue to support a non-intervention that had ceased to be non-intervention, and had become a proven instrument for intervention on the part of Fascist Powers.
Therefore, it ill-becomes the right hon. Gentleman to chide my right hon. Friend with the allegation that he has changed his opinion. The real truth is not that he has changed his opinion, but that His Majesty's Government did nothing serious to enforce and to secure that non-intervention and that neutrality to which they 1622 pledged themselves at the beginning of this affair. It is the Government which has run away from its original declaration. It is the Government which has tolerated intervention by particular States, and it is quite logical for my right hon. Friend, having seen that non-intervention does not work and that neutrality has become a farce, to say, "Very well, the proviso we made not having been observed we give it up, and we do not support any longer this which has become a farce."
The truth is that the longer the development of the machinery of non-intervention and neutrality is extended, the more it becomes true that the policy of refusing to supply arms to the constitutional Government of Spain and of placing an embargo against that Government —really imposing sanctions against the constitutional Government of Spain—which was undertaken with a great deal of public good will, has not avoided international complications and risks to the peace of the world, especially in the way it has been administered, and the more it is apparent that it has not made Europe more secure for peace or minimised the risks of war. The very elaborate machinery of non-intervention has increased the complications of the diplomatic situation and has increased the risks of war. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It has been so, and it is so far so that the right hon. Gentleman has now brought forward proposals which he knows will not secure proper non-intervention. He is now afraid of bringing forward proper proposals because of the diplomatic situation which his own policy has created over many months, in dealing with other Governments in Europe. The policy of neutrality and non-intervention has not furthered the cause of peace, has not safeguarded the peace of Europe and has not eased the diplomatic situation, but has made it more complicated than it was.
It is my own belief, firmly held, that the simplicity of the European situation and the lessening of the risks of war would have been far better served, if, right at the beginning of this conflict, the British Government, the French Government and the Soviet Government had said: "Here is a rebellion against constitutional authority which is not a Fascist government, and not a dictatorship government either of Fascism or Communism." I say quite 1623 seriously that there is a sacred right of rebellion against any dictator of any character. A moral right of rebellion exists when a country is denied freedom of institutions. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Certainly, Spain was a democracy. [Laughter.] The hon. Member who is in such a state on the other side may think that he is the incarnation of Democracy, but he can take it from me that he does not look like it.
§ Mr. Morrison
As the hon. Gentleman admittedly is rather scornful of Democracy, let him not pose here as a champion of Democracy. Spain had a Liberal government. [An HON. MEMBER: "Minority government."] Who are the Tory party to talk about minority government? They have had governments upon minority votes before now. A Liberal government and not a Socialist government was in office. It was not a Communist government. Heaven knows why the people were so careful to return the Popular Front, and then put the Liberals in office, but they were. It was a Liberal government, and these traitors—[Interruption.] Yes, just as much traitors, if hon. Members can imagine it, as though a political friend of the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Gallacher) who was a General and Field Marshal in the British Army, proceeded to organise and to lead a Communist rebellion against this Government. Would he receive recognition?
§ Mr. Morrison
Would he be a traitor? that is my question. He would be at once denounced by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite as a traitor to his country and a breaker of his sacred oath to constitutional authority, and they would be right. I would not support such a man, whatever his politics might be. I believe in the upholding of Parliamentary democracy, even though it produces a curious government of the sort that we have to-day in this country. Spain was a constitutional democracy. Reduced to its elements, this is a rebellion by treacherous generals, traitors, blood-thirsty traitors, who have deliberately and of malice aforethought, after having conspired with foreign countries, organised the overthrow 1624 of the lawful Government of their country and acted unconstitutionally. That is the issue, and I say that, Spain being a friendly country, it was the duty of other friendly Governments to assist that Government at the beginning by a supply of arms, in order that it might quell the rebellion. If that had been done, the position in Europe would have been much better served than it has been by the policy of His Majesty's Government.
Let us look at this precious document which His Majesty's Government have published. On page 3, the White Paper says that the Committee charge His Majesty's Government with the task of drawing up proposals aimed at closing the present gap in the control scheme. It does not close the gap. The Foreign Secretary admitted that, at any rate, on the side of the air, this scheme does not close the gap. The White Paper goes on to say that His Majesty's Government were asked to bring forward proposals which would enable the policy of non-intervention to be continued. That presumably means that as long as they continue something like the present policy that is called non-intervention, that will be judged satisfactory. It is not an instruction to make non-intervention effective or a decision to make non-intervention watertight, but to make it continue. Let us look at how non-intervention has worked for many months past. At the beginning of our disputations His Majesty's Government denied, or would not accept until it was proved, that there had been breaches of the non-intervention agreement by the Fascist Powers. During recent weeks they have admitted that there had been serious breaches of the non-intervention agreement.
Let us look at what has been happening and the kind of thing which, in some sort of way, it is evidently contemplated shall be continued. I was interested, and a little sad, to find the Liberal party supporting the Government in this policy. It is really rather pathetic. I thought the Liberal party had shed their reactionary elements, who had become Ministers or hoped to be Ministers, and that they were now a progressive party. The Liberal Opposition are taking an exceedingly unsatisfactory attitude. Their leader—[Interruption.] I do not blame hon. Gentlemen opposite because I think they did very well with the speech. The right hon. Gentleman was giving support to the 1625 general proposals of the Government on the ground that they were a genuine attempt to implement non-intervention. We do not agree that this is a genuine attempt to implement non-intervention. What is the case against the Fascist Powers upon whom the observance of this non-intervention agreement has to depend—let us look at their past record before the civil war broke out. Documents that have been found have proved that Germans in Spain were actively conniving with the reactionary and rebellious forces to promote the rebellion itself.
It has been denied even to-night, by the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, that the Italians have broken the non-intervention agreement as regards volunteers since it was made. Let me give to the hon. Gentleman some evidence which appeared in the "Temps" of Paris, reprinted from matter in the "Popolo d'Italia." The "Temps" of 14th July, a reputable French newspaper of Conservative tendencies, says that the "Popolo d'Italia" publishes each day actual photographs of Italian volunteers who have fallen in battle in Spain, and that in particular it has published recently a photograph of Sergeant-Major Vasco Zannoni, who, the Italian paper itself points out, left Italy on 14th April, 1937. There can be no dispute that both Italy and Germany have, on an extensive scale, thoroughly broken their agreements both in regard to the sending of arms to Spain and the sending of men. The only possible defence that I can find for the Italian denial that volunteers have gone is that, if it be true that volunteers have not gone, it has been conscripts, organised and equipped soldiers, who have gone. This denial was made by Signor Grandi in his speech at the Non-Intervention Committee last week. He, an official Ambassador of the Kingdom of Italy, specifically denied that any volunteers had gone to Spain from Italy since the agreement was signed by Italy, I think in February of the present year; and at the same time these photographs of fallen Italian volunteers are published in the Italian papers, and in the case of one of them the actual date of his departure is given as 14th April, 1937. But Italy was in the business, apparently, right at the beginning of the civil war, on a basis which made it appear that Italy was probably in the business before 1626 the civil war ever broke out. The "Corriere della Sera," one of the leading Italian papers, in an article dealing with the Air Force—I am again quoting from a translation in the "Temps" of this month—says that:In July, 1936, right at the beginning of the civil war, General Franco was not in a position to transport his troops from Morocco to Spain, although these reinforcements were indispensable to resist the Red pressure.That confirms my right hon. Friend's point that General Franco could never have got where he is had it not been for organised intervention in a military sense on behalf of Germany and Italy. The Italian newspaper goes on to say that General Franco resolved to fight the Fleet with aeroplanes, but only possessed six, of which two were out of date. He ordered three tri-motor bombers and chasers from foreign factories. He received at Morocco, at the end of July, 1936, just after the beginning of the civil war—[Interruption.] What I am arguing at this moment is that Italy was, right at the beginning, and probably before the beginning, conspiring with the rebels against constitutional authority.
Duchess of Atholl
May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the evidence before the French Committee of Inquiry into the question of the three Italian aeroplanes which came down in French territory in July showed that they were received by General Franco on 15th July, 1936, before the insurrection broke out?
§ Mr. Morrison
I am obliged to the Noble Lady. The evidence is really conclusive. The Italian newspaper says that:General Franco received at Morocco, at the end of July, 1936, a part of this material. The flying personnel were Italians, and it was this first bombing group which made possible the transport of 4,000 Moroccans on 6th August, and on the 20th August, 1936, there was constituted the first squadron of Italian chasers. This squadron was incorporated on 5th December in the Spanish Air Force.The 5th December was after the agreement as to the export of material to Spain and the supply of military equipment, but it was on 5th December that these Italian aeroplanes and their personnel were incorporated in the Spanish rebel air force. We are asked to believe that this agreement, which is very imperfectly drawn, is likely to be successful when it is admitted by the right hon. Gentleman, and is stated in the White Paper itself, 1627 that its success is dependent on genuine co-operation, good faith and willingness to implement it all round. The German and Italian Fascist Governments never meant to implement non-intervention. Breach of faith, breach of their pledged word, breach of what they promise to do, is a cardinal principle of Fascist politics. [Interruption.] It is true. I know it is offensive to the hon. Gentleman's Franco outlook, but I am going to say it. It is true. We have got into this muddle. We have got into a situation in which the Government are wobbling into war. They have got into that state first because they want to believe what the Fascist Governments tell them, and secondly because, if any Fascist politician frowns at them, they shiver and crumple up and run away. It is precisely because of the cowardice of the Government, coupled possibly with their simplicity, that Europe is in the serious situation it is.
Let us have a look at some more evidence of Italian and German neutrality, because we are told to-night that all Europe, 27 nations, are such admirers of the Foreign Secretary, they have such confidence in him, including Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini. [HON. MEMBERS: "Stalin."] If you want to throw in Stalin as a supporter of the right hon. Gentleman it may comfort you to know that he is not a supporter of mine. It is assumed by the Government and by hon. Members opposite that these Fascist Powers really want neutrality and none-intervention and that they are anxious for the right hon. Gentleman to find a watertight scheme, but let us go to the heads of these two Fascist States themselves and ask them what they think about it. An article in the "Popola d'Italia," supposed to be by Mussolini himself—that is the general report of the British Press—at the end of June says:In this great fight which has brought face to face two types of civilisation Fascist Italy has not been neutral but has fought, and victory will be hers.These are the neutral friends of the right hon. Gentleman. I pass to another neutral friend of the Foreign Secretary, Herr Hitler, Chancellor of the German Reich. Herr Hitler did not cover it up in an unsigned newspaper article. In his speech, reported in the British Press, on 28th June he said: 1628Germany needs to import ore. That is why we want a Nationalist Government in Spain, to be able to buy Spanish ore.So we are re-arming, everyone knows, primarily because of fear of Germany and Italy, and the great Tory party, the patriots, the Imperialists, are pursuing a policy which is assisting what they know or assume to be a potential enemy of their own country to get access to raw material for war purposes. It is not only that the Tory party are the foes of democracy and the friends of tyranny. They are the enemies of their own country as well. At both ends of the Mediterranean they have done and are doing their best to imperil British sea communications with the British Commonwealth of Nations, and it is therefore a degenerate type of Toryism which exists at present and which is governing this country.
It is the case that the German and Italian Governments have supplied men and arms to the rebels. They supplied them before they agreed not to do so and they supplied them after they agreed not to do so, and they will continue as long as they want to. What is the result?
The Dean of Canterbury said at a public meeting—[Interruption.] Hon. Members not only receive with hilarity the holding up of a British ship but they are scorning the Church of England. May I say that the Church of England would be a much greater institution than it is if it had more men like the Dean of Canterbury? He sent to Spain, and he saw German aeroplanes with German airmen. [Laughter.] It is really nothing to laugh at. [An HON. MEMBER: "He must have seen Russians!"] He saw German aeroplanes with German airmen, German bombs and German machine-guns, deliberately shooting by machine-gun old men, women and children who were refugees retiring from a town which had been seriously bombed, and evidence came to him that these men were instructed to kill every living thing within sight, man, woman, child or animal. That is what is taking place when these countries have signed solemn agreements not to send men arid material. This is the kind of thing I see smiles about. Such is the Tory party that it can smile and be hilarious about that kind of thing. For myself, I cannot.
1629 At the same time that these Basque people were the victims of German aircraft, German airmen and German ammunition, they themselves were prevented from importing by sea new equipment, munitions or volunteers because of the control of the Navies which were preventing that from being done. Indeed the British Navy has warned food ships off. Is it not the elemental truth that, in fact, non-intervention so-called has become the instrument for intervention by the Fascist Powers against the constitutional authority in Spain? [Interruption.] I have had plenty of interruptions which have lost time and I am not giving way. Let us look at these proposals and I will try to tell the House what I think will happen. At the end of the proposals on page 6, there is a section headed:Immediate Action by His Majesty's Government to be Authorised by the Committee.This is the first thing that has to happen. I agree that, if it is to be implemented at all, it must be the first thing that must happen:His Majesty's Government to be authorised by the Committee to enter immediately into discussions with the two parties in Spainon the various points. Before anything further can be done these discussions with the two parties in Spain must be completed. Before men can be withdrawn that must be done. Before the additional controls, for what they are worth, are put on, these discussions must proceed. Before anything even as effective as is proposed in this White Paper can be done, these discussions must proceed with both sides and must be completed. Does the Foreign Secretary remember the discussions with Germany about munitions and men? Did not they hang about just as long as they liked with those discussions and came to a conclusion when it suited them to do so? That is what General Franco will do, in all probability. If in his view there is the possibility of military success, with the great forces he has got from Germany and Italy, and with the additional forces that will probably come in during the whole of these discussions, and he thinks that by hanging up agreement with His Majesty's beautiful Government, which has been entrusted with the task because of their impartiality, and he thinks he has something to gain by delay, he will be able to delay just as long as he wants to delay, 1630 just as Germany and Italy and Portugal did before. Therefore, in the concluding section of this document there are all the possibilities of delay and evasion that we experienced in arriving at agreement with Germany, Italy and Portugal about munitions and men. I do not need to go any further. That is a complete condemnation of the practicability of this document as a real instrument of neutrality and non-intervention.
But I will go further and deal with some other points. On page 3, it is stated:It is admittedly a compromise between varying points of view; it can only be successful if it is accepted by the Governments concerned in a spirit of compromise.That is the trouble with this whole situation and with the whole of this document. The right hon. Gentleman got up to defend non-intervention and neutrality on the basis that he was going to secure it by this document. If he was not going to secure it he ought to have told us: "I am not going to get non-intervention and neutrality, but some miserable compromise." The assumption is that His Majesty's Government think that they are going to get non-intervention and neutrality. What is the case? Because the French and the British had put up one proposal about closing the gap in the naval patrol and the Germans and Italians put up another scheme, His Majesty's Government were asked to put up other proposals. The interpretation by His Majesty's Government is that they have to produce something between the French and British proposal and the German and Italian proposal. That is a totally wrong conception. The duty of His Majesty's Government is to produce a really effective scheme of non-intervention and neutrality in this dispute.
There are to be placed in various Spanish ports officers of various countries. The right hon. Gentleman did not answer my right hon. Friend's question as to the nationality of these officers in Republican ports. Are they to be German and Italian officers, as was the case in the naval patrol? Is it right that Germans and Italians, who may well be spies, and experience shows that they would be, should be planted in Spanish ports? May I put an analogy which hon. Members opposite may be able to understand? Let us suppose that Soviet Russia had an army in occupation of part of Great 1631 Britain and that there was a proposal as to neutrality and it was urged that there should be planted in London, where the Soviet armies were not in occupation, Soviet nationals in order to see that the United States, for example, did not send us materials for military purposes. Would any of us be happy that Russian people, sent by the Russian Government, with a Russian army in occupation of part of our country, should be placed in our cities? That is precisely what is being urged in these proposals. [Interruption.] Well, the right hon. Gentleman did not answer my right hon. Friend's question on the point. If there is a misunderstanding it is not our fault. The right hon. Gentleman did not do his job and answer the question as we expected it would be. We have had no answer about the small ports, and it is admitted by the right hon. Gentleman himself that control over the importation of new aeroplanes will be very imperfect. The intervention of new units of bombing and other air machines is a very vital element in a civil war. They largely accounted for Bilbao. Munitions and men can be carried, and it is vitally important that the air element shall be dealt with.
Finally, it is proposed, subject to certain conditions, to grant belligerent rights to General Franco. We say with the utmost definiteness that His Majesty's Government have no moral right whatever to grant belligerent rights to a rebel against elected and constitutional authority, and that it is a disgrace to the British Government that it should ever be contemplated. Even so, they sell the pass and provide that belligerent rights are to be granted whenever the Non-Intervention Committee decides that the withdrawal arrangements are working satisfactorily. Nobody says what it means. We have had no answer. This scheme in our judgment is utterly ineffective and will only lead to a repetition of the farcical situation which has gone on before. Finally, can we trust this Government to be impartial? We cannot.
§ Mr. Morrison
I am speaking for myself. It is the case that this Government imposed an embargo on arms against the Spanish Government weeks before the Fascist Powers agreed to do 1632 so. They did exactly the same so far as men were concerned, and in this document they propose immediately to close the Pyrenees.
§ Mr. Morrison
I know, but it is the case that the French have far more honourably observed their bargain than the Portuguese. On these three occasions they have acted to the disadvantage of the Spanish constitutional Government. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has said, let us be impartial between the two sides. Quite recently the right hon. Member declared in a speech in his own constituency that if he had been an Italian he would have been on Mussolini's side 15 years ago when he rescued the country from the horrible fate of sinking into violent Communism. That means that the right hon. Gentleman would have been a Fascist and would have assisted Mussolini in destroying the liberties of the Italian people. He was also on the side of intervention in Russia immediately after the War. We do not accept the impartiality of His Majesty's Government We do not believe they are impartial. We believe they are foes of Governments of the Left, foes of democracy, and that their foreign policy is animated by class considerations and for considerations of national interest. Therefore, we oppose this White Paper. We say it is another betrayal of a people who are bravely and rightly struggling to be free, and we entirely dissociate ourselves from this and other aspects of His Majesty's Government policy in this matter.
§ 10.36 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Viscount Cranborne)
His Majesty's Opposition pressed for a Debate this evening, as a matter of urgent public importance, on the Government's plan for closing the gap in the control scheme so as to enable non-intervention to be carried on. I suppose that the first deduction that most hon. Members might have drawn from the Opposition's attitude was that they really wished to obtain information on the scheme and to clear up some obscure and difficult points. No doubt if that had been their intention, the Debate might have served a very useful purpose, but it appears from the 1633 speeches that we have heard, especially the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), that that was not their main object. Their main object was to damn the scheme and to show the world, if they could, that England was not united behind the Government. But in their definite opposition to this scheme, they stand alone. We heard a speech from the Leader of the Liberal Opposition, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair).
§ Viscount Cranborne
On the contrary, the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly frank about what he regarded as the shortcomings of non-intervention. He said how anxious he was about certain aspects of this scheme, but he did, I must honestly say, show a genuine and most generous understanding of the difficulties of the situation, and on behalf of the Government I would like to thank him for his contribution. Nor do other countries share the views of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Of course, it is too soon to get any very definite opinions—hon. and right hon. Gentlement opposite have not waited for that—but there have been certain preliminary indications, and from whatever quarter they come, they all say that the scheme is at any rate worthy of very serious consideration. Hon. Members opposite alone have determined to do their very utmost to wreck the scheme from the first. I ask the House, Could anybody be more irresponsible than that? His Majesty's Government had been asked to undertake this task in circumstances of exceptional danger and difficulty. Every nation in the Non-Intervention Committee had expressed the view that it wished non-intervention to go on if it could, and recognised the dangers of a breakdown. I quite recognise that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney does not take that view. He thinks that non-intervention is a mistake, and he is welcome to his view, but it is not shared by the Government of any of the principal nations of Europe. In those circumstances, what conceivable object could there be in trying to prejudice these discussions on the day before they are 1634 to take place except a spirit of sheer malice, mischief and irresponsibility?
I was asked certain questions by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness to which I would like to reply before going any further. He expressed the hope that there was no question of driving a wedge between ourselves and the French Government. I think I can fully reassure him on that point. While, of course, we have not consulted the French Government or any other Government on this plan, for which His Majesty's Government take full responsibility, there is no question of action on our part which would tend to weaken the friendship between France and Great Britain, the value of which to the peace of Europe we recognise as fully as the right hon. Gentleman does. Then I was asked a question about ships going to small ports, a question which was re-echoed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hackney That is a very material point for the Committee but obviously one of the disadvantages of the Opposition having raised this matter before the scheme has even been submitted to the Committee is that these questions are inevitably more difficult to answer. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Obviously, this scheme has to be beaten into shape by the combined wisdom of the Committee. I would remind hon. Members, that if there are observers on these ships the position is just as it is at present. If there are no observers, then, in those circumstances, the ships would be liable to capture by either belligerent.
On the actual details of the scheme, as I say, these must inevitably be worked out by the Committee when the scheme comes before them. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness also asked how withdrawal was to be carried out and whether it would be in proportionate numbers on both sides. That, also, is of course a question that must be dealt with by the Committee. [Laughter.] It is all very well for hon. Members to laugh, but it only shows an utter lack of understanding of the position. I would only say that His Majesty's Government would be, in principle, in favour of this being done proportionately. There is, however, a first stage. A Commission is to go out to both sides in Spain and find out accurate figures of the 1635 foreign combatants. It is only when that has been done that recommendations can be made to the main Committee on the nature of the scheme.
Then I was asked whether the re-establishment of land control was dependent on the acceptance of the whole scheme. Of course it is. The scheme is a coherent whole and all its provisions stand together. I was also asked whether, if observers at the ports saw breaches occur, what action they would take. They report to the Board, but it would be quite wrong to assume that that is ineffective, because experience has shown that where there have been observers on ships these breaches have not occurred. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hackney asked what were to be the nationality of the observers. I say once more that all these matters must be hammered out in the Committee; but I would point out to hon. Members that this Committee has on it representatives of all conceivable points of view on this subject, and may be depended upon to choose neutral observers. There can be no question, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, that the observers chosen by the Committee as a whole would be biased in one direction or another.
As to the criticisms, they were very few. There was a certain amount of general accusation and the sort of thing that we have very often heard in this House—completely unsubstantiated statements proving that the Spanish Government has never had help from anybody and that General Franco has had help from everybody. Then there were points arising out of the question of belligerent rights, and I rather gathered that hon. Members opposite have given up the argument which they used earlier that there was no precedent for giving belligerent rights to insurgents. This evening the Leader of the Opposition said that it was rare, but that it had been done. I hope, therefore, that that idea is dead and buried once and for all. But there was another criticism of a more limited kind made by the right hon. Gentleman. He said that General Franco had not established his claim to belligerent rights. He said, I think, that General Franco represented a few insubordinate officers.
§ Mr. Attlee
I said that this was a rebellion by a number of officers; in fact, 1636 I said it was the majority of officers. [Interruption.]
§ Viscount Cranborne
There is a certain inconsistency there. First the right hon. Gentleman says that the whole Army was with General Franco, and afterwards that he had nothing but foreign troops. They cannot both be true. At the same time, I think there is really no difference of opinion between us. The right hon. Gentleman did say that General Franco had not established the right to belligerent rights.
§ Viscount Cranborne
I will say that the right hon. Gentleman said he had not established the conditions for the recognition of belligerent rights. What are these conditions? The first is that the revolt is a serious one which is not likely to be rapidly suppressed, so that what may be regarded as a real war is in existence; secondly, that the insurgents are in possession of a considerable portion of the territory of the State concerned; thirdly, that they have set up a Government; and, fourthly, that they carry on hostilities in a regular manner. I do not quite know what that means, but I should say that probably, according to our lights, neither party has carried on hostilities in a perfectly regular manner. At the same time, there is nothing to choose between them. It seems to me that those conditions are undoubtedly satisfied by General Franco's administration to-day. The revolt is a serious one, the insurgent forces are in possession of a considerable portion of territory, they have set up a Government, and they are carrying on hostilities apparently in a regular manner—well, as much as the other people are.
There is only one qualification which was made by the right hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee), and I think we should all agree with him there. It is more a political qualification than a legal one. There is a doubt how far this situation has been brought about by the support which General Franco receives from his own countrymen and how far by support received from outside. There is a doubt on that point. His Majesty's Government have repeatedly said, like other sections of opinion in this country, that the destiny of Spain is a matter for the Spaniards, and they consider it important that conditions should be created under 1637 which the Spaniards can decide their own destiny. It is indeed for that very reason that they propose in the scheme that the granting of belligerent rights, which is proposed, should only take effect when the withdrawal of foreign combatants has made substantial progress. Until then there is no question of the grant of these belligerent rights, and that is obviously reasonable. I know that it is not enough for hon. Members opposite. What they say is, why should belligerent rights be granted under the scheme before every volunteer on both sides is withdrawn?
That is the main point of difference between us. The reason is perfectly simple and practicable. It is that it would be virtually impossible to say when every single foreign combatant has left Spain. You would merely be putting off the operation of the scheme for ever. What is possible to say is, that enough have gone to ensure that the destiny of Spain shall in fact be decided by Spaniards, and that is the idea behind this scheme. The Opposition say that the word "substantial" is too vague. Well, it is vague, and it is intentionally so. It is the view of His Majesty's Government that it is not for them to decide when substantial withdrawal may be achieved. That is a matter for the Committee to discuss as a whole. These proposals are not in their final form, and no Government has made any comment on them. I have no doubt that, as a result of various discussions which will take place, these provisions will acquire a far more definite form; but at the same time His Majesty's Government thought it right, and I should have thought the House would agree, to lay down a general principle on this subject; and surely, I would appeal to hon. Members opposite, there can be no objection to that. I think that the proposals are generally recognised by the great majority of the Members of this House as a sincere attempt to produce an impartial scheme. I think that it is an impartial and well-balanced scheme, and that that is the reason hon. Gentlemen opposite do not like it. They are not impartial—they are quite frank about it.
§ Viscount Cranborne
The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) 1638 said: "I have done what I can to provide arms for the people of Spain. I have never been neutral. We have done a great deal. We have done a great deal more than we dare say in public." He said that at Oxford at the end of May, and, although they are not quite as frank, that is the attitude of most hon. Members opposite. Where they are not so frank is as to their reason for wishing Valencia to win. They constantly tell us that the Valencia Government is the legitimate Government, but do they say that that is the only reason why they want Valencia to win? The legitimate Government of Italy is a Facist Government.
§ Viscount Cranborne
Suppose there was a social democratic revolt against the Italian Government and the rebels captured a large amount of territory and set up a government. Do hon. Members opposite expect us to believe that they would be strongly in favour of supplying arms only to Signor Mussolini? Of course, they would not.
§ Viscount Cranborne
There would be a tremendous outcry about the forces of progress and liberty. I can hear the hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) and the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) making their speeches.
§ Viscount Cranborne
The reason they are in favour of the Valencia Government is not because it is the legitimate government but because it is the anti-Fascist Government. They wish to involve us in an ideological conflict.
§ Viscount Cranborne
I know that there are some people in this country—most of them are on the opposite benches — who think that it would be right to enter into such a conflict, but that is not the view of the country as has been proved at the recent bye-elections. Nor is it consistent with the fundamental principles of the League. After all, the League is a world-wide institution which consists of nations representing all races, languages, and political 1639 creeds. If one political creed is going to try to exterminate the other political creed, that means that the League is dead. The League must be tolerant. The action of the Opposition to-night in moving the Adjournment is utterly inconsistent with the principles of the League, which they say they support, and with the real wish of the country
I would like to say, in conclusion, that it has been the view of the Government that the Spanish conflict is a matter entirely for the people of Spain. It is essentially a civil war and the Spanish people should control their own destinies. There is only one factor which differentiates this from the ordinary civil war. It is the extent of the intervention. There has always been intervention in every civil war from Lord Byron onwards, but this has been intervention of a different kind. It is organised intervention, and that is the main reason for the doubt whether the Spanish people are going to be allowed to work out their own destiny. The main object of the scheme which the Government have put forward is to create conditions which will enable them to do that. It is the view of the Government, and it is their intention, that such a scheme should be sincere, well-balanced and practical. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, for all their talk, have not produced any alternative this evening. They made one suggestion for a mild alternative, but it was an alternative of degree. It was that, instead of a substantial number of volunteers being withdrawn, all volunteers should be withdrawn. That is only a question of degree. They have not produced any real alternative. It is our belief that this scheme will be a real contribution to the solution of the present difficulties, and, in spite of what hon. Members opposite have said, we still ask the support of Members in all parts of the House for the scheme which has been put forward.
§ 10.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Cocks
The Noble Lord, with that air of genteel superiority and cheerful casuistry which marks most of the members of his family and endears him to many of us, has rebuked the Opposition, as his chief did, for bringing forward this Motion. Indeed, the Foreign Secretary said that it was without precedent. Unfortunately, the Government themselves have given us a precedent in this White 1640 Paper. They produced in the past another White Paper, very much like it, describing the Hoare-Laval proposals. Now they are proposing to raise Cain by the present proposals. The reason we have raised this matter to-night is that we do not want again to have our British honour laid in the dust. In these two documents we have the embodiment of the true mind of the Foreign Office. It is a very simple mind, but a crafty mind. It is a pro-Fascist mind also. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) said the proposals were a compromise between the powers of darkness and of light. When you have a compromise between light and darkness you get twilight. Perhaps this White Paper is, therefore, a reflection of the twilight which seems to be descending over Europe—the twilight of the gods. The proposals which were put forward by the Government a year or so ago ended in the betrayal of Abyssinia to Italy. The result of these proposals will be the betrayal of Spain to Italy. That is why we have raised this matter, and although the Government have the support of 24 nations in putting forward the proposals, I am not sure that they will have their support to-morrow morning. I hear that in Rome and Berlin the proposals are regarded as acceptable. Of course they are, because they give something, and very nearly all what those two countries want. I doubt whether they are acceptable to the Spanish Government or the French Government, and I hope that the French Government themselves will save us from the proposals.
§ It being Eleven of the Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment lapsed, without Question put.