HC Deb 10 March 1937 vol 321 cc1122-9
4. Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the possibility of recalling all foreign troops and volunteers for Spain is under consideration by the Non-Intervention Committee?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

Is any delay that is occurring in this matter due to reluctance being shown by any member of the Non-Intervention Committee to recall volunteers?

Mr. Eden

No, Sir, not so far as I am aware.

8. Mr. Arthur Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has now received details of the note despatched by the Spanish insurgent authorities to the signatories of the treaties relating to Morocco, referring to the situation on the borders of Spanish Morocco?

Mr. Eden

A communication on this subject from the insurgent authorities was received in the Foreign Office yesterday. It is now under consideration, and I am not in a position to make a statement.

12. Mr. Brocklebank

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any specific regulations are contemplated regarding the issue of passports to British subjects intending to visit Spain?

Mr. Eden

With a view to giving practical effect to the obligations of His Majesty's Government under the recent extension of the Non-Intervention Agreement to cover the despatch of volunteers to Spain, British passports will cease to be regarded until further notice as valid for Spain or the Spanish zone of Morocco unless they have been specifically endorsed for travelling to either of these destinations on a date subsequent to Saturday, 10th February, 1937. These special endorsements are being granted on a temporary basis, and are issued only to persons who are able to satisfy the Passport Authorities or His Majesty's Consular officers abroad that they are travelling for urgent business reasons or for other special and approved purposes. I am informed that the passports of British subjects proceeding to Spain via French territory require in addition to be counter-endorsed by a French Prefect.

Captain Heilgers

Would it not be a good thing to suspend temporarily the issue of week-end passports to the Continent?

13. Mr. W. Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been drawn to a declaration by General Franco that all foreigners found in cities which are delivered will be placed against a wall and shot; and whether he will make representations to the authorities at Salamanca to ensure the protection of British subjects in Spain?

Mr. Eden

I have seen notices in the Press in which it is alleged that, according to a statement issued by the Spanish insurgents, foreigners captured with arms will be shot. I have no information on this subject beyond what has appeared in the Press.

Mr. Roberts

Will the right hon. Gentleman make inquiries as to whether the leaflets which are being dropped on Spanish towns do not include noncombatants as well as combatants?

Mr. Eden

I have no information except what I have seen in the Press.

Sir Percy Harris

Is it in accordance with international practice to shoot men who are foreigners in a country merely because they have arms?

Mr. Eden

No, Sir; I never suggested for a moment that shooting in any circumstances was something to be approved of; but I think the House must appreciate the fact that many warnings have been issued, and the difficulty in which I am placed in trying to help at all.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that these warnings justify General Franco in shooting foreigners with arms; and is it not a fact that the Government of Madrid have given most stringent orders against any shooting of prisoners—[Interruption.]— and that less than a fortnight ago the "Times" reported the shooting of two officers?

Mr. Speaker rose

Mr. Eden

I should like to be allowed, if I may, to answer that question, because I should not wish my words to bear any such interpretation as the hon. Gentleman puts upon them. I want to make it quite clear that that was not my intention.

14. Mr. W. Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the plan now under consideration for the control of the entry of volunteers and munitions of war into Spain will include the control of the importation of munitions into Spain by ships belonging to the Spanish Government or the rebels?

Mr. Eden

I understand that this point is not covered by the international scheme of observation which has been recently adopted.

Mr. Roberts

Do I understand that under the non-intervention control agreement it will be possible for foreign Powers to seal a ship and its load of arms, and that the controlling authorities will have no right to prevent that ship from going through?

Mr. Eden

I do not think that that is the question on the Paper; if the hon. Member wishes for an answer to it, perhaps he will put it down.

Mr. Roberts

Does not my question really fully cover that possible situation, and am I not entitled to an answer?

Mr. Eden

The hon. Member asked me about Spanish ships, and I have given him the answer.

Mr. Mander

If a ship is sold by another country to Spain, is it not Spanish property?

21. Mr. Noel-Baker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the British agent in control of the application of the non-intervention agreement in Portugal will receive the necessary facilities from the Portuguese authorities to enable him to supervise the movement of arms and munitions in Portuguese ports and railway stations and to control their transport to and from armament factories, arsenals, and other stores?

Mr. Eden

Under the arrangements made with His Majesty's Government, the Portuguese Government have agreed to grant full facilities to the British observers in carrying out their duties, and will afford free access to, and examination of, all relevant localities, documents and facts. The duties of these officers will be to observe the nature of goods and the number and nationality of travellers crossing the Portuguese frontier into Spain and to report to His Majesty's Ambassador at Lisbon such facts as may come to their notice. They will, therefore, be stationed, not at the ports, but at the Spanish-Portuguese frontier. The observers, as Attaches to His Majesty's Embassy, will enjoy all usual diplomatic privileges. They will be at liberty to ask for information from the local authorities, including statements of clearances or passage of cargo and passengers. The observers will further be permitted to request the competent Portuguese authorities to take such steps as may be possible to verify or disprove fears that breaches of the Non-Intervention Agreement were being or about to be committed. The observers will also be at liberty to communicate freely among themselves and with His Majesty's Ambassador. As I have stated, observation will be carried out on the Portuguese-Spanish frontier, and it is considered that the officers, who will be stationed at frontier crossings, in particular at railway stations and on major and secondary roads, will be in a position to establish all facts necessary for the proper observation of the application of the Non-Intervention Agreement.

Mr. Noel-Baker

If the number of persons is not sufficient in practice, will it be possible to increase them?

Mr. Eden

I should like notice of that question, but I think the House will agree that this is a very satisfactory arrangement.

Sir P. Harris

How soon will this scheme come into effective operation?

Mr. Eden

Perhaps the hon. Baronet will put a question on the Paper.

22. Mr. Dobbie

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs by which of the delegates objections have been raised on the Non-Intervention Committee to the proposed allocation of cost and on what basis; and whether these objections have been responsible for the postponement of the date by which the land and naval control scheme can be put into action?

Mr. Eden

I understand that no objection has been raised in any quarter to the principle upon which the allocation of costs has been based. The answer to the second part of the question is No, Sir.

23. Mr. Dobbie

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on what date the agreement to stop volunteers from proceeding to Spain came into force; and whether the agreement is being observed by all the naitons concerned or, if not, by whom it has been violated?

Mr. Eden

The agreement came into force at midnight on 20th-21st February; His Majesty's Government have received no evidence that it has been violated.

24. Mr. Dobbie

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs by what date it is proposed to bring into operation the land and sea control scheme for Spain; and what are the reasons for postponement?

Mr. Eden

I have every reason to believe that the scheme will be brought into force within the next few days. The Naval Powers which have agreed to undertake the duty of naval observation have notified the International Committee that they will be in a position to begin the duties which they have agreed to undertake on Saturday, 13th March.

Mr. T. Williams

Did all the observers fail to observe the 15,000 Italians who landed after the agreement?

Mr. Eden

The agreement came into force at midnight on 21st February. We have no information that it has been violated.

Mr. Williams

Has no information been received in the Department of the 15,000 Italians who are alleged to have gone there?

Mr. Eden

My answer is quite clear.

28. Mr. Hepworth

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Powers interested in non-intervention in Spain have issued any warning to their respective subjects now assisting on one side or the other in Spain, as to the possible loss of civil rights in the country of their birth?

Mr. Eden

Not so far as I am aware.

29. Mr. Mander

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, under the new system for the control of the Spanish coasts, there will be any, and, if so, what, British naval vessels in or near ports under the control of the Spanish Government?

Mr. Eden

His Majesty's ships are responsible under the control scheme for the supervision of the northern coast of Spain from the French frontier to Cape Busto and for the southern coast from the Portuguese frontier to Cape de Gata. The supervision of the above zones will constitute a very considerable additional commitment for His Majesty's ships in Spanish waters. I regret that I cannot indicate at the present stage what forces it will be possible to maintain in or near ports under the control of the Spanish Government. In spite of these additional demands, however, I understand that His Majesty's naval authorities will take steps, as heretofore, to maintain touch with His Majesty's diplomatic and consular representatives at Valencia, Barcelona and Palma.

Mr. Mander

Are we to understand that there will be British vessels in the three ports mentioned under the new scheme?

Mr. Eden

I cannot give a definite pledge about that, but we shall do our best to keep in touch with our representatives.

Mr. A. V. Alexander

Does it mean that British subjects will not patrol that part of the coast which is under the control of the Spanish Government?

31. Mr. Mander

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any statement to make with reference to the ships from Spain loaded with iron ore for Great Britain which have recently been stopped by the rebels, the crews changed, and the ships sent on to Germany, some of them coaling in an English port; and, in view of the fact that the ore had been paid for by British firms and is urgently needed here, what action has been taken in the matter?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir. I understand that two Spanish vessels, the "Mar Baltico" and the "Fernando L. de Ybarra," carrying British owned cargoes of iron ore for British ports were in the course of February intercepted by Spanish insurgent warships and taken either to Pasajes or Ferrol. I have no information as to what has since happened to these ships. His Majesty's Ambassador in Hendaye has been instructed to protest to the Salamanca authorities against this interference with British property on the high seas, to ask for the release of these cargoes and to state that His Majesty's Government reserve the right, if necessary, to claim damages.

Mr. A. Henderson

Do not these acts constitute, under international law, acts of piracy; and is this country merely to content itself with making protests?

Mr. Eden

I would not like the hon. Gentleman to think that, but he will observe that these cargoes have been carried in Spanish ships which does not add to the complexities.

37. Mr. Hicks

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty why a British destroyer was placed at the disposal of the British Consul at Bilbao in order to enable him to persuade the Honourable Jessica Lucy Freeman Mitford to return home from Spain, at considerable public expense, for personal affairs, when it might be engaged in more essential duties?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (Lord Stanley)

There is no foundation whatever for this assumption. A destroyer proceeds between St. Jean de Luz and Bermeo for communication with Bilbao, whenever the weather allows, as part of its normal routine duties which include the conveyance of His Majesty's Consul when necessary. On the occasion to which the hon. Member refers the destroyer went to Bermeo in order to repatriate Spanish subjects and returned with a number of refugees, and the Consul took passage on board on the outward journey. I am informed that his return to Bilbao had no connection with the presence there of Miss Freeman Mitford.

Mr. Hicks

Do I understand that Miss Jessica Lucy Freeman Mitford was not one of the ladies brought by this destroyer from Bilbao?

Lord Stanley

I have answered the question fully. The destroyer did not make any special journey in connection with this case.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

May I ask my Noble Friend whether he thinks the questioner would consider it more an essential duty rescuing Sir Peter Chalmers Mitchell for the third time from the hands of the Royalists?