HC Deb 01 March 1937 vol 321 cc6-11
9. Mr. Day

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has received sufficient information from the representative of His Majesty's Government in Spain to make an estimate of the numbers of men and nationalities of foreigners at present taking part in the Spanish civil war either on the side of the Government or General Franco; and whether he can give particulars as to the manner in which these nationalities and numbers are made up?

Mr. Eden

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my noble Friend on l0th February to a question asked by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) to which I have nothing to add.

Mr. Day

Has not the right hon. Gentleman any knowledge of the numbers at all, as the answer to which he refers says that the numbers were about equal?

Mr. Eden

If the hon. Member will refer to that answer, he will see that it says: such reports as can be obtained regarding the arrival of foreigners in Spain are already being received but…the material available is not sufficiently complete to enable His Majesty's Government to make any accurate estimates of the numbers of men involved."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, l0th February, 1937; col. 377, Vol. 320.]

11. Mr. Denville

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can give details of the arrangements which have been made to prevent the passing into Spain of volunteers across the Franco-Spanish frontier; and whether he will call for any report on this matter from British diplomatic representatives in the vicinity?

Mr. Eden

The French Government, in accordance with the agreement of the Governments concerned to extend their non-intervention undertakings to cover the despatch of volunteers to Spain, have put into force strict regulations designed to prevent the passage of volunteers over the Franco-Spanish frontier. The Non-Intervention Committee, as my hon. Friend is aware, have under active consideration a supervision scheme, which will, I understand, cover the Franco-Spanish frontier. I do not, therefore, consider it necessary to call for a special report from His Majesty's representatives on this question.

Mr. Denville

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that volunteers are being enlisted in Paris to-day for the Spanish Government?

Mr. Eden

I am not aware of anything of the kind, but I am aware that the French Government have issued very stringent regulations, and I deprecate any suggestions that they are not being carried out.

Sir Nairne Stewart Sandeman

May I ask whether Spaniards coming from Bilbao to Bayonne can be repatriated through Perpignan?

Mr. Eden

I should like notice of that question. I may tell the hon. Gentleman that our Consul-General at Marseilles who is, naturally, in close touch with these regulations, has already informed me that no British subject is allowed to enter Spain from France.

12. Captain Ramsay

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the unreliability of the Spanish news received from news agencies and journals, he will state what reliable sources of information the Foreign Office have on happenings in Spain; and whether he will place such information before the public from time to time by means of the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Press?

Mr. Eden

Such information as is available in the Foreign Office regarding events in Spain is derived from reports from His Majesty's diplomatic and consular officers in that country and from reports from His Majesty's ships stationed in Spanish waters. It is already the practice of the Foreign Office to make available to the Press and to the British Broadcasting Corporation such information derived from these sources as is suitable for publication.

Captain Ramsay

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the Press and the British Broadcasting Corporation have made full use of this information?

Mr. Eden

That is a matter for them, and not for me.

13. Captain Ramsay

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, as there are precedents for recognising the belligerency of both sides in a civil war while according diplomatic recognition to only one, and as General Franco is not yet regarded as a belligerent by this country, he will give this House some guidance as to the conditions under which His Majesty's Government would be prepared to recognise him as a belligerent?

Mr. Eden

I regret that I cannot undertake to enter into a discussion of hypothetical circumstances. In view, however, of the existence of the International Committee and the measures resulting from its activities, I would deprecate too close an analogy between the present dispute and other disputes of the kind which my hon. and gallant Friend has in mind.

14. Captain Ramsay

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in order to counteract the misleading impression which has been created not only in Spain but throughout Europe and America that this country favours the present Government in Valencia, he will take steps to make it clear that this country maintains its position of neutrality.

Mr. Eden

The full support which His Majesty's Government have given to the principle of non-intervention in Spain and the part which they have played in the activities of the Non Intervention Committee, together with the humanitarian activities which His Majesty's Government have undertaken in many parts of Spain on behalf of Spaniards irrespective of their political opinions, have already made it sufficiently clear that their attitude towards present events in Spain is one of strict impartiality.

Mr. Sorensen

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean by that that he, in fact, recognises the actual Government of Madrid to be the de facto and the de jure Government?

Mr. Eden

The Government's attitude towards that, I think, is already quite clear.

15. Mr. Kennedy

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is satisfied that the policy of non-intervention by European Powers in the Spanish war is now being effectively applied so far as it relates to the provision of men, material and financial support to the rebel forces?

Mr. Eden

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware of the measures which, as a result of agreement in the International Committee, have recently been taken with this aim in view. I am convinced that since the ban imposed on 20th February on the despatch of volunteers and the acceptance by the Powers of the Control Scheme shortly to come into force, a great advance has been made towards the complete cessation of intervention in Spain. The question of financial aid to the two parties in Spain is not at present covered by the non-intervention undertakings of the various Powers concerned, but is the subject of examination by the committee.

17. Commander Locker-Lampson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been drawn to the explosion of a floating mine near Gibraltar involving injury to a Union-Castle liner; whether he can say who laid the mine; and what steps he intends to take to prevent the possibility of a recurrence?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir; such information as I have at present leads me to suppose that the mine in question was a moored mine laid by the insurgent authorities in Spanish territorial waters in the vicinity of Cape Creus. The investigation into the circumstances is not yet complete, and I am not at present in a position to say what action will be taken. A warning has, however, been broadcast to British ships that mining in Spanish territorial waters has been intensified and that they enter such waters at considerable risk.

Mr. Thurtle

Is it the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to make strong representations to the insurgents against this danger to British shipping?

Mr. Eden

I should like a complete report, but I would point out that this is in Spanish territorial waters.

Colonel Wedgwood

Are these Spanish territorial waters controlled by the rebels or by the Government?

20. Mr. Leach

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether His Majesty's Government will take steps, through the League of Nations Council, to obtain a discussion as to the best means of ending the Spanish war, with due regard to the people's right of self-determination and to the independence of the country?

Mr. Eden

I would remind the hon. Member that the Council of the League of Nations examined the Spanish situation last December under Article 11 of the Covenant. After considering the possibility of action such as is indicated in the hon. Member's question, the Council then affirmed that every State was under an obligation to refrain from intervening in the internal affairs of another State, referred to the activities of the Non-Intervention Committee and recommended League Members to spare no pains to render the non-intervention undertakings as stringent as possible. The hon. Member will be aware that, as the result of the Committee's labours, a scheme for the control of the Spanish frontiers by sea and land has recently been adopted and will shortly be put into operation. Every effort will be made, so far as His Majesty's Government are concerned, to render it as effective as possible. I can assure the hon. Member that His Majesty's Government have the aspect of the situation, to which he refers, constantly in mind.

Mr. Leach

Is it not true that the present state of war in Spain constitutes al right on the part of the League to intervene, on the ground that a general European conflagration may arise from it; and had not the matter better be reexamined?

Mr. Eden

Fortunately, the dangers of a general European conflict have been considerably reduced in part owing to the action of His Majesty's Government.

23. Mr. Grenfell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the question of recalling the foreign nationals already serving in the fighting forces in Spain has been considered by the Non-Intervention Committee; and whether steps are being taken in this direction?

Mr. Eden

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which my noble Friend gave to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cambridge (Lieut.-Commander Tufnell) on 22nd February, to which I have at present nothing to add.

59. Sir W. Davison

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been drawn to the enlistment during many months past of unemployed and other workers in Great Britain in the forces of the Spanish Government by Communist agents, who inter alia have displayed recruiting posters in the neighbourhood of Employment Exchanges; whether he is aware that many of such recruits are being despatched to Madrid on week-end tickets to Paris; and what steps are being taken in this matter?

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)

Information has been received from time to time to the effect suggested in the first part of the question, but I have no knowledge of the display of recruiting posters. Any information that is received as to the soliciting of individuals is followed up, but the question what further action can be taken necessarily depends on whether evidence is forthcoming of the commission of an offence.

Sir W. Davison

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Members of Parliament are receiving quite a number of letters from the relatives of these unfortunate men who are in the fighting lines in Spain alleging that they were enlisted under false pretences on promises of £6 a week behind the lines?

Mr. Lloyd

Any information which any hon. Member cares to forward will certainly be considered.

Captain Heilgers

Will the hon. Gentleman inform me whether passports are necessary for these week-end tickets, and if they are not, will he consider advising his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to reintroduce them?

5. Mr. Petherick

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the conditions and terms of recruitment of the British controllers or observers in Portugal who will assist in carrying out the Nonintervention Agreement?

Mr. Eden

These terms and conditions are now under consideration and have not yet been settled.