§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Dr. Burgin)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
2112 The Government ask to-day that the House of Commons shall give legislative effect to a piece of machinery necessary to carry out an international agreement made on 8th March, to which this country is a party. The House will understand that Spain, by far the larger part of the Iberian Peninsula, has a frontier of some 300 miles to France by land and a frontier to Portugal of some 400 miles by land, while its sea coast is roughly 1,600 miles in length. If I add the one further geographical fact that the Straits of Gibraltar are approximately eight miles across, the House will see that the problem of dealing with any trouble which may begin in Spain is largely one of marine patrol. The policy of the Government with regard to the disturbances in Spain is one of non-intervention. Nonintervention carries with it two further ideas—the refusal to allow to go to Spain as far as this country is concerned ammunition or volunteers. It is now, and always was, illegal for a British subject to take part in the war in Spain. By the Carriage of Munitions to Spain Act, of December last year, it was made illegal for a British ship to carry a cargo of munitions of war to a Spanish destination.
An international scheme involving the shutting off from Spain of munitions and volunteers from different nations must, if it results in anything, represent the greatest measure of common agreement that can be procured at any one time. I shall call attention in a moment to the terms of the international scheme, which are set out fully in the White Paper, Command Paper 5399. That scheme, agreed to on 8th March, places upon the countries that are contracting parties an obligation to impose certain requirements upon their mercantile marine. Hon. Members will find that throughout the White Paper. I will quote at random. On page 9, paragraph To (d) it is provided that:The participating Governments will issue any instructions which may be necessary to require any owners and masters"—to do certain things. This country, having given its assent to the international scheme on 8th March, is now called upon to implement the obligations under that scheme falling upon this country by promoting legislation in Parliament to confer the necessary powers and impose the necessary obligations.
2113 What are the main proposals of the international scheme? It is a scheme assented to by 27 different countries. The particulars are set out in Command Paper 5399. In addition to having made it illegal to carry munitions of war to Spain, and in addition to having made it illegal to enlist for service in the armies on either side in Spain, a system of control is to be set up, a system of supervision. Not only will it be the law that a vessel shall not go to a Spanish destination with a certain cargo, not only will it be the law that certain people may not embark as passengers on these ships, but it will be the law that vessels going to a Spanish destination shall submit to a form of supervision and control.
The plan adopted is something like this. A British vessel—we are a British Parliament legislating for the British Mercantile Marine—shall not leave for a Spanish destination without being under the obligation to call at a specified port of call where, on her arrival, she will be assigned observation officers. These observation officers are embarked on board the British ship and are given powers to interrogate the master and passengers, and to inspect the cargoes and packages on board. They will also have the duty of seeing whether the vessel is carrying any volunteers who ought not to be going to Spain. Obviously, you cannot compel vessels of the Mercantile Marine engaged in their lawful business of carrying cargoes to Spanish destinations which are not prohibited by law, to deviate from their course and put into some port, obey the orders of some administrator, or to take on board certain observation officers not of their own choice or nationality. You cannot compel them to give these observation officers all kinds of powers on board ship, expect the ship to victual them, to carry them throughout their short journey, and after having discharged their cargo at their destination take back these observation officers to some port and disembark them. You cannot impose obligations of that kind by voluntary agreement; you have to make an alteration in your Merchant Shipping Law and the Bill which is now before the House, a short Bill of four Clauses, is destined to give power to the Board of Trade to implement the obligations which the country accepted when it signed the international scheme.
2114 The House will see at once the sort of problem which arises. The scheme involves not merely that the ships of the Mercantile Marine are to be obliged to call at these intermediate ports and take up these observation officers, to submit to questions and examination, but certain powers of naval control are also conferred on ships of war of certain countries in another part of the Bill. Before I go into detail on the Bill I think the House should understand the broad problem confronting the Board of Trade which is charged with the administration of a Measure of this kind. Deviation, expenses, delays, the possibility that a cargo may be unpacked in order to detect whether or not an offence has been committed and, if at the end there is found to be no offence, then the cargo has to be re-packed, are all matters which touch shipowners, charterers, merchants, buyers and sellers of commodities in many parts of the world, and the business of the Board of Trade in presenting this legislation for approval is to see that so far as it is possible in a measure of this kind the necessary safeguards are taken so that the interference with legitimate trade is reduced to a minimum, so that the defence which lawyers now enter under the name of "Restraint of Princes" may not be wider or greater than the occasion demands. That is the framework of the Bill which is submitted to the House for approval. Before hon. Member's plunge into the details there is one further statement which should be made, a statement to which great importance is attached. It will be observed that in Clause 4 (5), the Bill is to come into force:on such date as the Board of Trade may by order appoint, and different dates may be appointed in relation to different ships and different provisions of this Act.It is in the contemplation of His Majesty's Government that in the event of the Bill becoming law it will not be brought into force until the principal maritime countries trading with Spain have adopted similar legislation. I want the House to understand that we are imposing on our nationals handicaps, obligations and expenses, all kinds of duties, but it is not the intention that they should be unilateral. It is our intention to implement the promise we have given by signing the international scheme, but it is our intention, when the Bill is passed, that it shall only be brought into 2115 effective operation simultaneously with the adoption of like measures by the principal maritime countries which have business with Spain. I think I can assume that hon. Members are familiar with the broad outlines of the scheme, but I want to call their attention to the fact that there has been a change since the White Paper was printed. In the annex to the resolution it is provided that the system of observation is to be administered on behalf of the participating governments by a Board to be known as the International Board for Non-Intervention in Spain, and this Board is to consist of a chairman and five members nominated by the representatives of the five Governments which are set out in the annex. Since the White Paper was printed there has been a change in the constitution of the International Board, and it is now intended to consist of a chairman and eight members. Three new countries are to have the right of appointing representatives, Greece, Norway and Poland.
The scheme of observation will necessarily involve zones and catering for the different kinds of traffic coming from different parts of the world. There is the traffic coming through the Straits of Gibraltar, the traffic coming from the North Sea and the English Channel, the traffic coming in from the West, from South Africa and from South America. These different types of traffic approach some port on the 1,600 miles of Spanish coast line from different points of the compass, and are provided for by elaborate arrangements in the scheme itself. Hon. Members will find on page 10 of the White Paper the different ports which are assigned as the ports at which administrators are to have their being, their offices, to which vessels are to apply for observation officers to be assigned to them. The House will find that the maritime geography has been well worked out and that, broadly speaking, these are ports which are self-indicated; they are the ports indicated on these different routes as the normal places to which vessels would put even if they did not have to submit to such a scheme as this. The chief administrator will be either in the Downs or at Dover, and arrangements may be made whereby British vessels will be able, if proceeding from home waters, to have their principal con- 2116 tact with the chief administrative officer in the Downs.
The House will understand that the traffic proceeding to a maritime country like Spain may be of more than one kind. There are a number of lines regularly engaged in traffic with Spain. Obviously vessels which are engaged on outward and homeward journeys to regular ports in Spain are in a different category from British vessels loaded expressly for a Spanish destination. It will be possible for shipowners who come within the category of regular vessels proceeding to Spanish ports to make what may be called a long-term arrangement, and, if necessary, to have an observation officer permanently on board their vessel. Again the Board of Trade is trying to reduce to a minimum the amount of inconvenience which is to be caused to the Mercantile Marine in performing these international obligations. Arrangements will be made at the outset of the scheme, when the number of observation officers available may be insufficient to meet the requirements, for vessels to be notified that it will be useless to proceed to a given port for observation officers because they do not exist at the port should she arrive there, and in such an event the vessel will no longer be under the obligation to make that useless journey. But the intention, and it is marked in plain terms throughout the scheme, is to make this a practical working arrangement within the limits it is possible to make an international agreement with 27 countries a practical working arrangement. It cannot be described in full terms as a contractual obligation, and such an arrangement may not be procurable in agreement between a large number of countries working with different objectives, but within the limits of this scheme it is desired to have a sensible working arrangement under which the administrators will carry out their work. Vessels will, as far as possible, be franked from harbour dues when they put into ports to which they were not intending to go, and the observation officers will be given the necessary powers to carry out their duties, including the power to send messages with priority once they are on board and desire to make a report.
That is the broad outline of the scheme. There are two other features which should 2117 be mentioned. One is that waters adjacent to Spanish territory mean 10 miles off the coast. We are not talking here of a narrow legal definition of territorial waters; we say that a vessel which comes within 10 sea miles of the Spanish coast at any point is proceeding to waters adjacent to Spanish territory.
I would like the House to understand at the outset of this discussion that it is not contemplated that there shall be any interference with vessels proceeding to or from the Canary Islands. The Canary Islands belong to Spain, but they are so far from the mainland that the danger of movements of volunteers from the Canary Islands to the mainland is not grave. The large number of vessels—liners, cruising vessels and others—calling at the Canary Islands merely for a short period of time to disembark a small amount of cargo or a small number of passengers is wholly disproportionate to the risk of there being anything wrong in traffic in that part of the world. At the outset of the scheme, therefore, it is not proposed to regard the Canaries as falling within Spanish territory.
If at any time good cause is shown why the Canary Islands traffic should be included. there is power, by Order, to amend the scheme and include them. I do not want the House to be under any false impression in debating the Bill. It is not proposed to apply the provisions to the ordinary traffic to and from the Canaries, one of the reasons being that homeward bound grain vessels from the Plate not infrequently called at the Canaries for bunkering and if we were to place upon the ordinary general traffic obligations of complying with this scheme, we should drive those vessels away from the Canaries to some other bunkering place where equal facilities would perhaps not be available and thus do quite unnecessary harm to the bunkering interests in the Canaries.
§ Dr. Burgin
It does not for the moment apply, except in the sense that if a vessel leaves Great Britain intending to call at the Canary Islands and then go to a Spanish destination, it is a British vessel proceeding to a Spanish destination, and comes within the operation of the scheme.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Suppose there were a service running between the Canaries and Spain direct, would that come within the scheme?
§ Dr. Burgin
Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me to make perfectly certain about that. I understand he is asking about British vessels.
§ Dr. Burgin
I am not sure offhand whether there is any such service. I am endeavouring at the moment to explain the proposition rather than to argue in favour or against it, and I wanted to make it quite clear that, whereas normally the Canary Islands would fall within what is regarded as Spanish territory, for the purposes of this Bill, they are, at the commencement, to be left outside. The hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate that the answer to his question is that to such a service this Bill would apply, because there would then be a British ship leaving port for a Spanish destination, and in so far as the voyage was from a port in the Canary Islands to the mainland of Spain, that outward voyage would certainly come within the scheme. That being the framework within which this Bill is intended to operate, perhaps the House will be good enough to turn to the Bill itself.
Hon. and learned Members particularly will understand something of the difficulties of dealing with anything as nebulous as an International Board for Non-Intervention in Spain. That board, intended to consist of a chairman and the eight representatives of the countries to which I have referred, will have above it the Non-Intervention Committee and will have below it an International Council for Non-Intervention in Spain. Hon. Members will understand that the scheme contemplated in the Bill, the Second Reading of which I am now moving, will involve receipts of money, payments of money, claims for the recovery of money, claims by shipowners against somebody representing the authority, and will involve a number of transactions for which it is desirable to have a legal entity. Consequently, the House will be interested to know that the Government contemplate that there shall be set up in the United Kingdom a company of limited liability which will 2119 be the legal entity representing the International Board for Non-Intervention in Spain and being the authority referred to in Clause 4 (3, b), where there is a reference to "the authority" which means:such body as may be certified by the Board of Trade to be the body entrusted by the International Board for Non-Intervention in Spain with the functions of the authority under this Act or, if no such certificate is given, the said International Board.I think the House will feel that what is in essence a mercantile marine programme ought to be worked out under the considerable control of the Board of Trade, and I think it will be felt to be a measure of assurance that there is to be a limited liability company, incorporated under English law, which will be a legal person in every sense of the word and which will be the authority for the purpose of the administration of this Act.
§ Dr. Burgin
There will be such assets as the Governments concerned consider are necessary to fulfil their obligations. Broadly speaking, it will be a legal framework working out the wishes of the executive, the executive being the International Board, and he executive working out the wishes of the general meeting, the general meeting being the Non-intervention Committee.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The hon. Gentleman envisaged the possibility of someone bringing an action against this company. What assets would be available to anybody bringing such an action?
§ Dr. Burgin
The cost of the whole of these operations, how that cost is to be provided and contributed by the various Governments are obviously matters to which I must refer before concluding my observations, and if it meets the convenience of the House I will refer to them now. It is intended that five Governments shall contribute 16 per cent. each, and that the remaining 20 per cent. shall be contributed by the other 22 countries represented on the Committee. The five Governments are the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Those five countries will find between them 8o per cent. of the cost, and the remaining 20 per cent. will be contributed by the 2120 other countries in certain agreed proportions. The House will recollect that there are concerned 27 countries, of varying degrees of wealth. The total cost of the scheme of observation, assuming it were continued for the full period of 12 months, is estimated to be £834,000, so that the hon. and learned Gentleman will see that the assets which will be at the disposal of this legal body will represent such sum of that gross contribution as remains to its credit at any particular moment.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Am I to understand that the legal entity will hold the whole of these subscriptions from the various countries in Great Britain, and that the similar company in France will have no assets with which to meet the claims of French citizens? Will Great Britain hold all the money available for claims by British shipowners?
§ Dr. Burgin
I do not want the hon. and learned Gentleman to understand that. I will find out what proportion of that sum is to be held in cash in Great Britain, but as we are here dealing with obligations, I think we need not fear a lack of assets to meet claims. The British Government's contribution will be made from the Civil Contingencies Fund and will be borne under a special subhead of the Diplomatic and Consular Vote, and there will be a Supplementary Estimate presented to the House as soon as possible in the financial year. I think I have dealt with the question of costs. I was anxious that the House should understand the importance which the Board of Trade attach to the idea of a limited company. Perhaps the House will bear with me for a moment or two while I deal with the provisions of the Bill. The Bill has four Clauses, and almost all the operative provisions which concern the Mercantile Marine of this country are contained in Clause 1, which reads:No ship to which the Merchant Shipping (Carriage of Munitions to Spain) Act, 1936 (hereinafter in this Act referred to as' the Act of 1936')"—I think that the definition of British ships will be within the recollection of the House—applies and which is bound to a port or place in Spanish territory shall enter any waters adjacent to Spanish territory unless she has first proceeded to the prescribed place and there embarked such observing officers as may be deputed in that behalf by the administrator at that place.2121 In this connection, perhaps hon. Members will refer to paragraphs 10, II, 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20 of the White Paper. Let me again make it clear that the Bill is a piece of machinery, that the machinery is to implement the scheme and that therefore the details are to be found in the scheme and not in the Bill. The Bill, being machinery, is drafted largely in the form of conferring on the Board of Trade power to make regulations to apply the Act. The British vessel is not to proceed to waters adjacent to Spanish territory without going to a neutral port first for the purpose of embarking observing officers. There follow some provisos. Regard must always be had to the stress of weather, and other things which may compel the vessel to do things which are beyond the control of the master or owner, and in such an event the vessel is not deemed to have committed the offence of breaking Clause 1. Clause 1 (4) says that it shall be a misdemeanor not to comply with the provisions of the Clause, and very substantial penalties are incurred. The words of the proviso are: "By stress of weather or any other circumstance which neither the master nor the owner of the ship could have prevented or forestalled." These words are taken from previous Acts of Parliament and are not specially designed for this Bill. They are the right words in legal language to indicate circumstances beyond control. There follows a second proviso giving power for the substitution of some other port for the prescribed port and a third proviso deals with the possibility that there might not be, at a given moment, enough observation officers to warrant a vessel going into a particular port on a particular voyage. In such circumstances the administrator may notify, if necessary by wireless, the fact that the vessel concerned is exempt from calling at that port on that voyage.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan
Is it intended that the legislation which is being passed by other interested maritime Powers shall be on similar lines to this Bill?
§ Dr. Burgin
The obligations under the White Paper are definite, and the countries concerned are to implement their obligations by their own legislation under this scheme. So far, the Irish Free State is the only country that has actually passed its legislation, although I have no 2122 doubt that other countries are in process of introducing such legislation. I am afraid I cannot say, however, what form that legislation will take. It is obviously necessary, if you are putting in force a scheme with the possibilities which attach to this scheme, to contemplate various emergencies and we must take into account that certain ports may not be as fully equipped as others in this respect.
§ Mr. Bevan
Do I understand that in the case of a ship sailing from a German port for Spain, or waters adjacent to Spain, the German authority, established under their own legislative enactment, can wireless that ship and say, "In our opinion there is a shortage of gfficers at the port of call, and you may proceed to your destination without taking any officers on board"?
§ Dr. Burgin
I follow the hon. Member's point. He will understand that the chief administrator and the administrators in the various ports are appointed by the International Board and that Germany, to take his own example, has not the right to appoint a particular administrator at a particular port. The administrators are servants of the Non-Intervention Committee—of the International Board—and they will be employed probably by the limited company to which I have referred. At any rate, it is not open to any Government to insist that at any port there shall be an administrator of its own nationality and thus the hon. Member's point does not arise. I do not want to blink the fact that it may be possible for an administrator of any nationality to show favouritism. It is fervently to be hoped that such considerations do not arise in international affairs, but I do not wish the House to assume that I am blind to the possibility that such things may require a tightening of the law. At the same time, if hon. Members follow the White Paper they will see that there are provisions for tightening, amending or modifying the scheme and just to the extent to which the scheme itself is tightened, amended or modified so must there be power in the Board of Trade to tighten, amend or modify the legislation implementing it.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
There is a provision that the administrator must immediately report to the higher authority by whom he will certainly be called to account if he has been showing favouritism.
§ Dr. Burgin
I am grateful to the hon. Member for calling the attention of the House so vividly to this point which emerges from the White Paper. That is the fact, but I did not want it to be assumed that there was no possibility, temporarily, of a vessel being improperly franked for a particular voyage. All the way through the wish of the Board of Trade is that the administration of this legislation should be made practicable and that is why I shall have to ask the House to give an unusual power to a Government Department—the power of amending the Act. It will be found that nothing short of such a provision gives the Board of Trade the powers which will be necessary to keep pace with an international scheme which is it self susceptible of amendment. The Clause goes on to say that the vessel having these observing officers on board shall proceed to the prescribed place taking the shortest available route and shall disembark the officers who have been taken on board. Power is given to the administrator if the port named does not suit the vessel to appoint a more convenient port. The House will see that there are circumstances in which Palermo, for instance, which is in Sicily and a long way off might be inconvenient for certain vessels and in which it would be more convenient to have a port nearer hand. There is, then, the provision as to failure to comply with the Act being a misdemeanour. Sub-section (5) is one to which I would call special attention. It gives owners of regular steamers on regular routes the power to make something in the nature of long-term contracts, to carry their observation officers with them.
§ Miss Wilkinson
If it is easy for any administrator to choose another port instead of one of the prescribed ports, why put in these prescribed ports at all? There does not seem to be any point in it.
§ Dr. Burgin
You must have centres at which to have this machinery. Broadly speaking, these administrators will be equivalent to members of the Diplomatic Corps and will be given diplomatic immunity and diplomatic privileges. It is necessary to select the places where these officers with the necessary services will be established and you choose the most convenient ports. When a ship 2124 has discharged its cargo and landed its passengers and, therefore, has no further use for the observation officers, you want to have them disembarked, and the scheme contemplates that they shall be disembarked at particular ports. But it might well be that, without doing any harm to anybody, the administrator could by agreement with the master of the vessel concerned arrange for an alternative port. I think the hon. Lady will find, on looking into the matter in greater detail, that such an arrangement will be for the convenience of shipping. I do not think there is anything further in Clause 1 to which I need call atention.
§ Dr. Burgin
It is the ordinary penalty for a misdemeanour. Clause I (5) provides that if any ship fails to comply, the master of the ship shall be guilty of a misdemeanour and the owner of the ship shall also be guilty of a misdemeanour if he is privy to the failure to comply. That does not mean an exceedingly small fine. It means liability to imprisonment. If it is a case in which the fine would be too or under it has to be dealt with summarily. It is, broadly speaking, the old offence of a misdemeanour with all the liability to punishment which it involves. The Act is to be construed as one with the Merchant Shipping Acts, and under Section 680 of the Act of 1894 a misdemeanour is punishable by fine or by imprisonment not exceeding two years, with or without hard labour, and the case must be tried summarily where the fine cannot exceed £100. So it is optional on the prosecution how they shall deal with a particular offence.
§ Dr. Burgin
We are dealing here with British ships, British masters and British owners. The offence of a German or Italian must be an offence under German or Italian legislation, and I cannot take the responsibility of expounding the probable course of legislation in other countries. It is better, I think, to proceed with our own legislation and to make it such that other countries may be pleased to copy it. We proceed to Clause 2, which deals with an entirely 2125 different set of circumstances and considerations from those involved in Clause I. It deals with the question of naval supervision and control. I would refer hon. Members to page 13 of the White Paper:In order to ensure that the procedure … shall be duly observed a system of naval observation will be established around the Spanish coasts. The duty of naval observation will be undertaken by the Governments of the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy. For the purpose of naval observation the Spanish coasts will be divided into zones.Then follows a list of names of capes on the Spanish coasts which are to mark the zones. I do not think any point arises on that which need detain us, but if questions do arise later in the Debate or during the Committee stage, they will be dealt with then. I ask the House to give attention to Clause 3. It is intended to serve two distinct objects. In the first place, the scheme contemplates the possibility of arrangements being made, with the consent of all the Governments concerned, on a number of outstanding questions. For instance, no decision has yet been reached as to whether a vessel which is merely disembarking observation officers should pay harbour dues when she goes into a port for that purpose. It is hoped that an agreement will be reached among the contracting countries by which ports will forego their dues when vessels call in pursuance of obligations under this legislation. It is also contemplated, as I have said, that the scheme which we are implementing may itself be subject to modification. Clause 3 deals with the possibility of keeping abreast with such modifications. Further, it will be seen from the scheme that arrangements for the constitution of focal areas may be brought into operation. It may be necessary to say that vessels proceeding in a certain direction shall pass through a given area, in order to make naval supervision more practicable. For instance, the Straits of Gibraltar being eight miles across, any vessel passing through them must be within 10 miles of the Spanish port. The Straits, therefore, provide a first-class focal area for vessels passing East or West, in or out of the Mediterranean. It may be necessary to institute similar areas on other parts of the Spanish coast. Clause 3 will enable that system to be applied to British vessels by Order in Council.
2126 I want the House to follow closely the explanation of the fact that the Government feel it necessary to ask for power to amend the Act. It is a power for which Ministers are naturally slow to ask, and which the House, naturally, may be rather jealous of giving, and it would not be proper to ask for it unless the exigencies of the case so required. I suppose that those who are in business will agree with me when I say that more companies have failed from lack of capital than from any other cause, and they will also agree that the worst thing one can do is to give an agent a power of attorney so badly drawn that it does not give him power to do the very thing he is wanted to do. It is no use implementing a scheme which contains within itself powers of alteration and amendment, if the Act by which you implement it, leaves you powerless to follow suit with amendments subsequently made in that scheme.
So this Clause, an unusual one, requiring special justification, gives to the Minister power to amend this Act by Order in Council and power to amend any enactment relating to merchant shipping. I am deliberately calling attention to the extent of the power which we are asking, because nothing short of it will enable you to implement changes in the scheme itself which it is probable will be brought into force. An hon. Member says, "Why not limit this Bill to what we have got already and bring in another Bill when necessary," and so on ad infinitum? No, Sir, the Government do not think that that is a practical way to lead to the settlement of international disputes. We think that having secured an agreement between 27 countries over such a large field of debatable and difficult territory, it would be very wise to take power now, by Order in Council, to amend this Act, though only to the extent to which it is necessary to keep pace with Amendments of the scheme itself. You cannot tell whether the powers that the scheme may require us to take would conflict with some other Act relating to the mercantile marine, and so we must have power not only to amend this Act, but to amend any Merchant Shipping Act which would otherwise make it impossible to carry out those powers.
In order to realise that this is an unusual power, the Bill goes on to say that 2127 you shall adopt the procedure that is adopted in the Import Duties Act. An Order in Council is made, and the Government act upon it, but that Order in Council has to have an affirmative Resolution of both Houses of Parliament within a given period of time. It is necessary to give the Government power to act immediately, otherwise you would defeat the whole object of your international cooperation, but at the same time we come to the House as soon as practicable within the normal period of time and procure an affirmative Resolution.
§ Dr. Burgin
The hon. Lady is entitled to use such language as she thinks fit, but this has not anything to do with the avoidance of criticism at all. The difficulty is that if you have an Act of Parliament which recites, to begin with, that whereas there is a scheme, that whereas the scheme imposes certain duties, and that whereas to fulfil those duties it is necessary to alter the law, and the scheme itself contains power that it should be amended, your whole law will be stultified by an Amendment by the Non-Intervention Committee, and you will be obliged to begin all over again. Instead of doing that, you have here the very sensible power, by Order in Council, to enable you to amend the powers that are given to you by this Act to the extent to which it is necessary to bring them into line with the scheme which you are desiring to implement, and in order that there may be no possible mistake about the matter, you undertake to bring that Order in Council before the House of Commons, for an affirmative Resolution, at the earliest possible moment.
§ Sir Robert Young
Are we taking steps to secure that these alterations of the law shall not be permanent?
§ Dr. Burgin
It is provided expressly in the last Clause of the Bill, in Sub-section (6):This Act shall continue in force until His Majesty by Order in Council is pleased to declare that it is no longer necessary or expedient that it should continue in force,2128 the idea being that this is entirely temporary and that the length of the Act must be consistent with the length of the scheme.
§ Dr. Burgin
Certainly. The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) asked where the scheme has power to amend. Paragraph (5) of the Resolution of 8th March, 1937, says the agreement is to be carried out "unless otherwise amended or determined."
§ Dr. Burgin
The 8th March is very recent, but it is being sought to be amended or determined in various ways. The Non-Intervention Committee is having before it new problems of this character, and the system of blocking holes and making the whole scheme as watertight and workable as possible is not a matter of taking an official determination but is a continuous preoccupation of all the Members of that Committee. Clause 4 of the Bill merely contains the definitions, and unless some hon. Member has any point on it which does not occur to me now, I think the Clause is self-explanatory.
The hon. Member has already explained to us that the appointed day will not be appointed until the other countries concerned have passed similar Resolutions, but I would like him to tell us whether he was then expressing the present intention of His Majesty's Government or intending to give the House a definite assurance that the Bill would not be brought into force, because otherwise the Government might change their mind and it might be another instance of nonintervention by example.
§ Dr. Burgin
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for enabling me to make quite clear what I had intended to do earlier. I had intended to give the Government assurance already given by the Under-Secretary of State in another place, and I 2129 give it categorically to this House. It is the intention that the Board of Trade shall not name an appointed day and bring this legislation into operation until the principal maritime countries having business with Spain adopt similar provisions.
Mr. David Adams
Who is to be the judge as to whether the respective countries concerned have in fact passed similar legislation? Is the Board of Trade to be the judge?
§ Dr. Burgin
Yes, His Majesty's Government is to be the judge, and it is a matter on which we are singularly competent. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) asked how the zones were selected. It is a pure matter of marine geography. If the hon. Member would take a large-scale map of Spain, he would see that, proceeding westward from France and running towards the Atlantic, there is a very natural sub-division to a particular cape. He would find that from that particular cape to the commencement of the Portuguese frontier, there was again a very well-defined allotted area, with ports and harbours within it and none just outside it. He would find then that from the southern frontier of Portugal there is a very natural zone from the Straits of Gibraltar to Cape de Gata, and so on round the coast of Spain, with Northern Morocco, with the Balearic Islands, he would find that it all divides itself almost into automatic channels.
§ Dr. Burgin
I am most anxious, as I hope have tried to convince the House, to be their servant and assistant in this matter. We are dealing with a complex state of affairs, but we are dealing with a White Paper which is extremely important and which gives a great deal of information. Besides taking the definite channels into which this coastline naturally divides its zones, the International Committee allotted to the various Naval Powers the supervision of given zones, and the allocation to the United Kingdom is the zone at the North of Spain, broadly speaking from the 2130 Pyrenees almost to the Western borders of the Province of Oviedo-Cape Busto. In point of fact it is from about the sixth degree of latitude to the first. travelling eastward. That is the area allotted to the United Kingdom. The hon. Gentleman asked where Malaga came. Malaga comes within the area from the coast of Portugal to Cape De Gata, which is known as Zone C, and Zone C is allotted to the United Kingdom. Thai: stretch of water, which includes the Straits of Gibraltar, is almost naturally indicated as being one of those which should be policed and controlled by ourselves. The result is that the extreme North, being the easiest of access for us, and the extreme South, being the regular passage through which the greater number of British vessels ply, are alike allotted to the United Kingdom. I think that gives the explanation that I wanted to give in presenting the Bill to the House. I invite the House to give the Bill a Second Reading, because it represents a clear piece of machinery to which we are committed already by the signature given to the international scheme adopted on 8th March.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade has moved the Second Reading of this Bill with a patience for which every one must be grateful, and I should like to start by congratulating him and all the authors of the scheme which this Bill is to apply, and which the White Paper explains, on the extraordinary ingenuity which they have used. If the machinery which they propose were actually set up, if it were to function and were to produce the results for which they hope, it would indeed be a striking example of an international mechanism that succeeds. We would welcome now, as we would always have welcomed at any moment, measures which were designed and which we thought were likely to make the Non-Intervention Agreement a working reality. We have never been against the policy called non-intervention, provided it were made equally effective to both sides in the civil war. We have only objected to unilateral action; to a system which, in our opinion, has become a one-sided sham which in practice is an extreme form of intervention against the Government of Spain.
2131 I am delighted that the Government on this occasion do not propose unilateral action, and I wonder whether they could not apply their new principle to the whole of their policy in this matter. I agree with the Minister that this Bill has a good many merits, which he has explained so well that I do not propose to devote any more time or attention to them at all. I am glad to note one particular change in the original scheme which he mentioned, namely, the addition of two representatives of smaller Powers to the International Board. The experience of the League of Nations has always proved that the addition of smaller Powers to the Council of Great Powers adds a great deal of moral authority to the work which is done.
Having said these things, I go on to say at once that we view this scheme as a whole with doubt and, indeed, with grave misgiving. We feel no certainty that it will achieve the purpose which it has in view. We fear that it may itself become the instrument of grave injustice against the people and the Government of Spain. We consider that it requires amendment in some parts of vital importance, and that there are some conditions without the fulfilment of which the operation of the scheme will be dangerous in the extreme. I will indicate what those amendments and conditions are in a moment. Happily, as the Minister explained, amendments can be made. Although I do not think the Opposition ever likes to give the Government power to amend without coming to Parliament, yet if our proposed amendments were accepted and carried through, some of us would be willing for this purpose to aloes that power to amend. In any case, we press upon the Government that, whatever is done in this House, they should themselves in the Non-Intervention Committee urge at the earliest possible moment certain amendments to this scheme before irreparable errors have been made.
To explain our attitude, and the changes in the system now proposed which we would like to see, I am afraid I must go back into the history of the civil war in Spain, trying to repeat as little as possible what I, at least, have said in earlier Debates. On 18th July last Spain was a member of the League of Nations. She was in normal diplomatic relations with 2132 every important country, with the exception, I believe, of the Soviet Union. Thus, if Spain were involved in warfare, her rights in international law were determined by these two facts. First, if she were the victim of foreign aggression she was entitled to receive from the 55 other members of the League whatever help against the aggressor Article 16 may be held to afford. If I understand the Government, they themselves admit that Article 16 implies at least the full and automatic application of economic sanctions against the aggressor. Second, if a civil war broke out, the Government, being in diplomatic relations with other Powers, was entitled to receive from those Powers the treatment which the practice of international custom over a period of centuries has established as law. The practice in modern times has mostly been in America, owing to the habit of Latin-American republics to embark on revolutions from time to time. It follows that the United States Government have had much more experience than anyone else, and in 1930 they made a declaration on the subject which I have cited before in this House. I want now to read only the essential sentence in that declaration. In 1930 the question arose whether the United States Government should send arms to the Government of a country where a revolution had 'occurred and should refuse arms to the rebels, and they made this official statement:Where we are in friendly relations through diplomatic channels with a Government which has been recognised as the legitimate Government of a country, that Government is entitled to the ordinary rights of any Government to buy arms in this country, while the people who are opposing and trying to overthrow that Government and are not yet recognised as belligerents are not entitled to that right.They go on to say, and I ask the Government to note the phrase:It is not a matter of choice on our part, but is a practice of mankind known as international law.On 18th July war broke out in Spain—civil war, as we thought at first, but within a week we knew it to be complicated by a proved case of international aggression. It followed that the Spanish Government were entitled to assistance under the terms of Article 16; that they were entitled to buy arms from other Powers; and that they were entitled to demand that arms should not be supplied to the rebels. We refused those rights 2133 to the Spanish Government. We did not do so because we had any doubts about the legitimacy or constitutional character of the Government. To-day we still recognise that Government, still deal with their Ambassador here, and still treat them, as we are bound to treat them under international law, as the Government of the country. We overrode the normal rights of Spain because we said that that was essential to do so, if European peace was to be preserved. We said that there was a greater interest which could only be served by refusing to sell arms to either side. We called that action the policy of non-intervention, and we hoped that we should by that policy shorten the war; allow the Spaniards to settle their own affairs; prevent dissensions, fears and suspicions growing up among the greater Powers of Europe; and avoid the creation of precedents in international relations that would be dangerous in future.
Who, looking back on the tragic nine months which have passed since then, would say that we had realised one of those purposes? The war has been prolonged; the Spaniards have been martyrised by a large-scale military and aerial invasion; suspicions and dissensions among the greater Powers have been enormously increased by the events that have taken place; and there have been a great number of precedents created in international practice, but, I am afraid, that all of them have been bad. In our view, these results are due to the fact that non-intervention was practised only on one side. The Fascist Powers did not come in until they thought they had supplied arms and men enough to win. They agreed to the Arms Convention on 28th August and the Convention in regard to troops on 10th February, when they thought their side was irresistible. When they found Spanish resistance stronger than they expected, they systematically violated the engagements they had made. As a result, Franco had more arms than Spaniards to use them, while the Government were sending their troops into battle armed with sticks and knives.
I have ventured to argue before in this House that this intervention by the Fascist Powers robbed the Spanish Government of victory on at least two occasions, and thus enormously prolonged the war. The first occasion was at the end of the first stage of the war when General 2134 Franco's adherents in Spain were completely checked and the Government were recapturing city after city; then foreign aviation and the Moors which the foreign aviators brought from Africa reversed the tide and prevented the Government from winning. The second occasion was at the end of the year when the Moors had been used up. As the "Times" told us go per cent. of the original contingent that bore the brunt of the attack had been killed. Then, the Germans and Italians having brought in a great deal more artillery, munitions and troops, the Government once more had to face new offensives at Malaga and elsewhere.
These contentions were singularly supported by an article which appeared from the correspondent of the "Times" in Spain on 7th January. In that article he gave a long description of the troops whom the Germans had sent. He said that there were about 10,000, he described their uniforms, the lorries they travelled in, the howitzers they used, and said that but for their intervention the Government offensive against Vittoria would have been successful. He concluded his survey by saying:Had Spain been left to herself the war would have been over long ago.My contentions were far more strongly supported by a fuller and more complete article which was published in the "Times" as late as 9th March. The "Times" says that it was written by an eye-witness of events in Spain. Whoever wrote it had exceptional means of finding out the facts. It seems to me completely impartial. I say that meaning that it contains a good many things with which I do not agree. I doubt whether it is possible to have, short of Government information from military attaches on the spot, a more authoritative statement about what has happened in Spain than is contained in that article in the "Times." At the risk of wearying the House, I want to refer to one or two passages.
§ Mr. Crossley
From which correspondent of the "Times" did the article come? Where did he write from?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
It does not say. I have the article here and will show it to the hon. Member if he likes. The writer is called a special correspondent.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I have no means of knowing. I should imagine he has been on both sides, and since what he says confirms what was said before Christmas by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Captain Macnamara) who has been there, I think I am entitled to claim that he is a high authority. He says that the International Brigade and Russian aircraft and ammunition had certainly saved Madrid at the end of October. I do not believe that anybody in the House doubts that that is true. But he goes on to say:There can he no doubt that foreign military aid first came from Italy and Germany. The Savoia aeroplanes which crashed in French territory in July were given their flying orders on July 57, before the revolt began, and the German bombers began to arrive at the beginning of August.He explains the importance of these aircraft. He says:The Savoia 81's and the Junker 52's which were supplied to them (the rebels) in July and August, 40 in all of the biggest bombers in Europe, enabled General Franco first to transport his troops across the straits from Morocco, and secondly to bomb the Government fleet which blocked the straits back to their base at Cartagena,that is to say, they prevented the Government from winning a victory which was almost within its grasp. He goes on to say that in October the Italians sent artillery and personnel, that in November they sent 40 more aeroplanes, and that they were aiding the insurgents at sea by using their fleet to watch on their behalf the movements of vessels from Russian ports. He goes on to say that betwen October and January a great many more troops from Italy and Germany were brought in. Coming to more modern times, he says that between 1st January and the middle of February, Italy poured 40,000 men into Spain fully equipped—and the Government will remember that the despatch of arms is a violation of the agreement of 28th August, whether there are men or not. These men brought rifles, ammunition, grenades, machine guns, motors and so on. The writer ends by saying that, including General O'Duffy's 3, 000 Irishmen, there are 60,000 foreigners assisting General Franco. He described two other occasions when this foreign help turned the tide in favour of General Franco at a critical moment. He estimates the volunteers on the other side at 20,000, or perhaps at an outside figure, although 2136 he does not appear to believe it himself, of 35,000; and he says that against the 200 aircraft which Franco has from Germany and Italy, the Government have perhaps 140 or 150 foreign planes. He says that there are 80 Italian tanks with General Franco and plainly implies that the superiority in tanks and artillery is very great.
Since this article was written we have the news of the offensive in Spain by four Italian divisions on the Guadalajara front. I venture to suggest that that news revolutionises the situation with regard to this Bill. It proves that the estimates of this writer in the "Times" of the foreigners with Franco were an absolute minimum. Anyone who has read the interviews with prisoners, made by journalists with nobody else in the room, can doubt that there is a very large-scale international invasion going on. Two German officers volunteered the information that they had been told that they were coming to fight Russians and that they have not yet seen a Russian soldier. One of them gave the figure of troops as 40,000 Germans and 80,000 Italians. An Italian prisoner has told us all about the four divisions and the names of the generals. He says that they were wearing Italian Army uniforms, that their families were being paid so much a day in Italy, and that they themselves were receiving so much a day when they got to Spain. It is perfectly evident that there is this large-scale invasion by the regular armies of Italy and Germany going on.
From this long survey I draw the following conclusions: That two of the Powers which have accepted this new scheme of control have not kept their word with regard to the undertakings of 28th August and 20th February; that they only agreed to sign when they thought they had intervened enough to win, and then later broke their word; that the Spanish Government have never had anything like the amount of foreign help, either in troops or material, that the rebels have had; that but for this intervention, in the words of the writer in the "Times," the war would have been over long ago; that if every Power refused the Government of Spain all arms, as we did, that Government would have been defeated long ago and the Fascists would 2137 have won. And then I draw this conclusion, which is vital to the arguments I am going to make about this Bill: that Germany and Italy have become belligerents in this war. It is no use disguising the truth in this House, and it is a fact that they have almost openly declared war. The Fascist Grand Council is appointed, as to every member, by Mussolini; and on 2nd March that council passed a resolution expressing "its solidarity with national Spain" and greeting the armed forces of General Franco,whose victory must represent the end of every Bolshevist attempt in the west.It is plain that Italy and Germany now regard themselves as belligerents in this war.
The survey which I have made leads to some other conclusions which are of no less vital importance. The first is that our Government have not used their power in the Non-Intervention Committee to expose the evasions and violations of the non-intervention agreement which have been going on. The whole purpose of the Non-Intervention Committee was to supervise the working of the agreement, as we understood it, and to examine complaints of violations when they arose. What happened when complaints were made? Nothing but counter charges, the whole thing ending in confusion, with our Government refusing to admit that it had any information of any kind. We had 56 diplomatic and consular agents in Spain and we had no information of any kind. In the second place, it shows that the Government refused to raise these matters in the Non-Intervention Committee, although they knew that the Fascists were preparing for a decisive coup. Take the recent case of the sending of Italian troops to Spain. On 17th January, the "Times" correspondent in Rome reported that there was a feeling there that Italy was ready for a volunteer agreement, so called, but that at the same time Germany and Italy were hurrying out men and supplies to General Franco. On 11th February the diplomatic correspondent of the "Times," who usually knows about as much as the Government, and certainly does not know things which they do not know, commenting on the proceedings of the Non-Intervention Committee, said:The day's proceedings only deepened the impression that some of the principal Powers 2138 are deliberately playing out time in the hope that the issue of the war will meanwhile be decided in their favour by force of arms.On the very day when he reported the making of the volunteer agreement, that is, on 17th February, the diplomatic correspondent of the "Times" said it was widely assumed that the foreign Governments which support General Franco thought they had enough men there to win and he added:The inflow, especially of Italians, has been extremely rapid in the last eight weeks, and it is not impossible that their total number has risen within that period from a figure below 10,000 to one within measurable distance of 50,000.The Government did not tell us anything of that. On the contrary, they told us, as the Noble Lord said on 8th February, that all Italian troops in Spain ranked as volunteers. He said later that so far as they knew the numbers on the two sides were about equal. If that was the information they were receiving, they were even more singularly ill-informed this year than they were last autumn.
I ask the House to forgive me for having strayed, as they may think, so far, but it is with that background, and with our minds full of these facts, that we approach this new scheme of control. We consider that there are certain conditions which are really vital if that scheme is to be justifiable at all. The first is that it must work fairly on both sides. Germany and Italy have been given the job of looking after the coasts of the Government of Spain and we may be sure that there will be very rigorous application of control there. Since the loyal Governments are those which are likely to send munitions to the Government of Spain, it is likely that this scheme may dry up all the outside sources of munitions which the Government of Spain now has. If that should be so, then a small quantity of munitions going to the other side, a small evasion of the control, will become of immense importance. Therefore, it is very important that there should not be even small-scale evasions on the other side.
When we come to look at the control proposed, we are afraid that it may be all too easily used by Governments, which have proved themselves time and again to be Governments of bad faith, to abuse the gaps in the system which will exist. For example, no Air control 2139 is provided for. Aircraft can fly from Italy and Germany and without coming to earth can reach General Franco's lines. We know that because one aeroplane crashed in France with all its documents on board. No one likely to send aircraft can fly to the territory held by the Government of Spain. Yet the provision of more aircraft may be a decisive factor, as the foreign aircraft were decisive in the march up the Tagus Valley in October. Take the Canaries. The danger which we have in our minds about the Canaries, in their exclusion for a month or more from the operation of the scheme, is that ships going from European countries will build up stocks and reserves of men in the Canaries for General Franco, which he can subsequently bring to his territory in ships under his flag.
As I understand the difficulties of the position they are principally a matter of expense—according to the explanations given in another place—but we should not allow such a gap if this war were our own, and I want to ask the Government whether they will not seriously consider sending a couple of warships down there, with a corps of half-a-dozen observers. Then, when a ship came from Europe towards the Canaries, we could put on board an observer, at the ten-mile limit—the limit of observation. He would accompany the ship into port and see that no arms or troops were unloaded, and would then come out again with the ship and rejoin the warship. There would be no great expense about that, and no difficulties, and that arrangement could be made to operate to-morrow if there were agreement. In the third place I come to a more general criticism of the efficacy of this scheme. The Minister explained with great lucidity how it is to work. Every ship is to carry an observing officer with power to demand the unpacking of goods, to look at the passports of the passengers, to supervise the disembarkation and to find out any facts he wants to know. If he finds that there are arms or troops on board he reports to his higher authority and ultimately to the Non-Intervention Committee in London. Also, under this scheme the captain of the ship has duties. Under the national laws which will be passed, he may not land troops or goods, and if he does he is to be subject to a penalty. My hon. Friend the Member 2140 for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) pointed out the serious danger that Governments which are of bad faith will impose illusory penalties. The captain may refuse to listen to the observer and may unload his forbidden cargo. The matter will come before a German or an Italian court and a formal sentence may be passed; it will all be done in camera, and no one will know what happens, or if anything happens at all. Probably in fact the captain will get a big reward. Against that kind of abuse there is only one protection under this scheme, and that is the report of the observing officer. I ask the Government whether they will not make another change in this scheme and agree that the reports of the observing officers on board vessels shall automatically and at once be made public. As I understand it, they are to be handled by diplomatic procedure, and ultimately discussed in the Non-Intervention Committee. If that is so, and if there is no publicity, we are afraid that there will be the same farce as there was over complaints of violation last autumn. We beg that, as a real measure to make this scheme work, we shall have automatic and immediate publicity given to the reports from the observers.
And may I make one further suggestion in this connection? It is assumed that there is no penalty which you can make for violation of this kind. With respect, that is not true. There is one very important penalty. Suppose a captain insists on unloading a given amount of ammunition or a given number of troops in one of General Franco's ports. In that case you can agree that the same quantity of arms or the same number of volunteers shall be allowed to go to the Spanish Government; or, if you want to make it a preventive measure, you can allow double the number to go to the Spanish Government. Let the Minister not think that this is a frivolous suggestion. If we know that under this scheme one side is getting arms as a result of international bad faith, then it is only right that the other side should get them too.
I pass to our next objection. It is hardly an objection; it is really an observation concerning our share of the control on the Portuguese frontier. In the White Paper the Government gave an assurance to the Committee that they were fully 2141 satisfied that the Portuguese Government would allow—
§ Dr. Burgin
I am sure the hon. Gentleman will understand that I do not wish to prevent him making, within the limits of order, a general survey, but I am sure that he would not suggest to the House that any part of the land control of the Portuguese Government comes within this Measure.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. It is quite true and I will leave the Portuguese point alone. [Interruption.] The Leader of the Opposition reminds me that the Measure is futile unless the land control is effective. I can make my point in one sentence and I think the hon. Gentleman will not mind if I do. I only want to remind the Government that mule trains in mountainous country can carry a lot of ammunition, and I hope that the Government will make certain that there are enough observers on the spot to see that that is not done.
I pass to the next grave danger that we see. It is a danger concerning the control of General Franco's coasts. Under this scheme, as the Minister has explained, the control applies only to ships of States which accept the plan. That is inevitable under the scheme. But it does leave dangerous gaps. Japan has a large merchant fleet. Japan signed a Treaty with Germany not so long ago pledging those countries to an ideological conflict with Communism. Suppose that Japan sends a lot of ships to help General Franco; what are you going to do? How are you going to right that injustice? Suppose an even graver case. Suppose people transfer their ships to General Franco's flag. Suppose that German and Italian ships are transferred to that flag. To prevent that, some amendment of this scheme is necessary, and should be relatively simple. It ought to be possible to forbid the transfer of ships to General Franco's flag, and to take the International Register of Shipping, as it was on 8th March, as decisive, and to say that no change in that position will be allowed. If you wanted to add a penalty, you could provide that if any ship is found to have changed its flag since 8th March, and is under General Franco's flag, it shall be seized and sold as prize and the proceeds used for paying the costs of control. If this were a serious 2142 scheme, some amendment like that would be made. I am sure that the Government will agree that something should be done to meet the grave danger of transfer of flag after 8th March.
Another danger of the abuse of this control relates to the Spanish Government's coast. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale drew attention to the fact that patrol of the Government coasts is allocated to Italy and Germany. But they are belligerents. The Government of Spain have for months been pointing out that those countries' fleets have been bombarding Spanish towns, that they have shielded the rebel fleet when Government ships were in position to attack them, and that they have signalled to the rebel fleet to come up and capture merchantmen. According to those claims, the German and Italian fleets have virtually instituted a blockade which the rebel fleet could not have instituted by itself. These allegations are supported in a considerable measure by the reports that have appeared in the "Times." I could give details if I had the time, but I do not want to weary the House. At any rate, is it not a matter of common sense that, if you have, as Germany and Italy have, engaged your Army and your Air Force in warfare in a foreign country, you will certainly engage your fleet? We ask: Why did the Government agree to this system which may enable the German and Italian Fleets to blockade completely the Government coasts, so far as the Spanish Government's own ships are concerned, and which may allow those fleets much greater opportunities for offensive operations? I am asking questions which I hope will be answered. Why did His Majesty's Government not agree to the proposals put forward by France and Russia for mixed patrols? We were told that there were technical difficulties, but the noble Lord will remember the saying at the Disarmament Conference that a technical difficulty is usually a political objection in uniform. If the Admiralty of France were prepared to accept a mixed patrol of ships of different Fleets, we might have done so too. It is too late now, but I hope that the Government will at least introduce another amendment of this scheme and insist that neutral naval officers shall be put as observers upon the ships which are doing the blockading. Why should any nation that is of good faith in this matter not 2143 agree that every naval ship that she has there should have a Swedish or Dutch naval officer on board to see that she is not doing anything that she should not do? I hope that the Government will press that suggestion very strongly.
The last point I want to make is in regard to a condition without the fulfilment of which we should consider this scheme dangerous in the extreme. That condition is that steps should be taken immediately to secure the removal of foreign troops from Spain. It is not only unreasonable, but it is immoral in the highest degree, to deprive the Spanish Government of arms and to make the arms blockade completely effective against her, at a time when a large-scale international invasion is going on. That would be the kind of non-intervention which would set the final seal of sacred propriety upon intervention of the most dangerous kind. I have already quoted the Noble Lord as saying that all foreign troops in Spain "rank as volunteers." I would recall a recent case in which a public servant was awarded £7,000 damages because somebody slandered him by saying that he believed in a talking mongoose. During this last winter His Majesty's Government have accomplished a far more difficult intellectual feat than believing in a talking mongoose; they have believed not only in totalitarian volunteers, but that Signor Mussolini intends to keep his word. It is true that some people have reported that there is a pretence of recruiting these volunteers at Fascist headquarters in Italy. But the prisoners say that they were mobilised. No one doubts that they were clothed, housed, fed, armed, transported, shipped and paid by the Governments of Italy and Germany. They are not volunteers. You cannot put on the same footing as those troops the other volunteers, the 20,000 or so of the international column on the Government side who are engaged in what Lord Palmerston encouraged 10,000 Britishers to do for the Government of Spain in 1837. They are doing only what was done by people like Lafayette, Byron and Garibaldi, whose names Englishmen, not less than others, now honour. You cannot put these men on the same footing as the hired levies from Italy and Germany.
But, if it can be done, we want all foreigners to leave Spain. Indeed, we 2144 say that the first and most urgent duty of the Government, before they do anything else with regard to this control, a duty which must be fulfilled before we can vote for the Bill—and that is why we are going to vote against it to-night—is that they shall demand that all the foreigners be withdrawn. Do the Government really think that this control is safe or right until that removal of foreigners has been carried out? Do they deny that the German and Italian armies are in Spain? Do they deny that that is a violation of the agreement of 28th August, and of the principles which they laid down in the Council of the League Resolution last December? Do they deny that it is a violation of the Covenant of the League? Then let them act. Let them no longer pretend not to know the facts. Let them consider where pretending not to know the facts may lead their. Here is one example. On 22nd December, the prohibition of volunteers was raised in the Non-Intervention Committee; on that day 6,500 Italians left for Spain. On 2nd January, the Gentleman's Agreement was concluded; 4,000 more Italians landed in Spain. On 7th January, an Italian Note agreed in principle to the prohibition of volunteers. Ten days later, 10,000 more Italians landed in Spain. On 25th January there was a further Italian Note agreeing to a joint prohibition of volunteers. Two days later a further great number of Italians arrived. On 20th February the agreement was supposed to come into force; I understand that the Foreign Secretary now admits that 10 or 12 days later more Italians arrived in Spain.
We beg the Government not to pretend any longer to be blind. We beg them to consider that we are in a grave international crisis. They should summon the Non-Intervention Committee to-morrow, demand the evacuation of foreign troops, and allow no sabotage in the discussion about the gold assets of the legitimate Government of Spain. If they cannot get an agreement to that end—of course I know they would like it—and a system of supervision which will give guarantees that the evacuation will be applied in fairness to all, they should, within a few days, at the beginning of next week, summon the Council of the League of Nations and send a League of Nations Commission of Inquiry to Spain. If General Franco refuses to receive it, he will stand 2145 self-condemned. If he refuses to receive the commission, or if the commission reports that foreign troops are there, then the Government should let the Spanish Government buy arms. Unless they can get rid of the foreign invaders of Spain, the Government must restore the rights of the Government of Spain. I have a profound conviction that that is all that is needed to bring this aggression to an end. The Government of Madrid still have, as they always had, hundreds of thousands of men whom they cannot put into the field because they cannot arm them.
I know that the Government are going to say that selling arms to Spain would be intervention and that intervention is war. But the German and Italian Governments have sold arms in Spain, and the Russians have sold arms on the other side, and there has not been war. Is it seriously suggested that if, as a reply to the German and Italian aggression, we sold arms to Spain, Hitler would declare war upon us? I am certain that that is a fantastic suggestion. Indeed, the best hope of averting war lies in stopping this continual encroachment of aggression spreading gradually from continent to continent—Asia in 1931, America in 1932, Africa in 1935 and Europe in 1936. And now Hitler is preparing to spring another mine in Austria; the danger signs are there. Czechoslovakia is on the list. Let the Government make a stand while they have a chance of stopping one of these aggressions without war and by peaceful means. We ask them to rouse themselves to action. If they do not, they may be roused all too soon by the tocsin of war.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Petherick
The final point of the hon. Member was an appeal to the Government to do everything they could to stop war before it was too late, but that is precisely what the Government are endeavouring to do by introducing this Measure. In the opening of his remarks, the hon. Gentleman said that he was in favour of intervention, and I understand that that view is shared by hon. Members who sit on those benches. His objections, apparently, are that the Non-Intervention Agreement is not likely to be carried out. It will be very interesting to know exactly where hon. Members opposite stand. While endeavouring to 2146 persuade the House that he wanted nonintervention and that he was in fact impartial, the hon. Member showed in almost every word of his speech that his main and almost his only desire, is that the Government forces in Spain should win.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I do not pretend to be impartial; I want the Government of Spain to win. All that I ask for to-night is something to which, I hope, every hon. Member in every quarter of the House will agree—a system which works fairly all round and is real non-intervention because it does not help anyone at all.
§ Mr. Petherick
We now know that the only thing that hon. Members opposite wish for is that the Government forces in Spain should win. Surely, true nonintervention would be to leave the Spaniards to fight it out, but the hon. Member adds a plea that this country should take sides in order that the Spanish Government may be successful in the war. It has often been maintained in the past, and even at the present time, that the Spanish Government is not only the de facto Government, but is also the legal Government in Spain; but there is a certain amount of doubt as to whether it is the legal Government. I am not going to argue whether it is or whether it is not; all I would say on that point is that this movement in Spain against the Government has now ceased to be an ordinary rebellion, and has become a civil war, and you never have a civil war in any country—and so far as I know there has been no such civil war in history—unless there is a large proportion of people on both sides who firmly believe that they are right and that they are fighting for the safety and future of their country. Therefore, it seems to me that, whether General Franco and his supporters are in the right or whether the Government are in the right, both sides, strong, powerful and determined, think that they are in the right. I do not believe it is for this country to take sides at all. I maintain that our object is to do everything we can, in conjunction with other countries, to localise the war and prevent it from spreading, perhaps all over Europe.
I see that there is an Amendment on the Paper, that the Bill be read a Second time upon this day six months, which has been put down by hon. Members who represent Clydeside divisions. Do they 2147 by that Amendment suggest that we should actually interfere in the civil war? If so, they could not possibly object to German or Italian interference in our internal affairs here in this country. Moreover, do they think that, if we did interfere, we should carry the country with us; or are they so indifferent to democratic opinion that they would not mind whether we carried the country with us or not? I am convinced that, even though the people of this country may be divided as to which of the two sides they want to win, they are absolutely determined not to get involved in internal troubles in other countries, wherever they may be. I would like to ask both sections of the Opposition this question: Do they ignore completely, in the attitude they take up, the danger of a war spreading to other countries, including our own, and setting the whole of Europe in a blaze? They would say, perhaps, regardless of risk, let us help the proper Government in Spain; let us sell them arms because they are the proper Government. Is that really because it is the proper Government, or is it because that Government represents Left-Wing opinion? It would be interesting to hear the reply to that question. If it is not because the Spanish Government is a Left-Wing Government, it would be interesting to see the reactions of hon. Members supposing, for instance, that the position in Germany should become confused, and that a civil war should break out against the Hitler regime. Should we then be told that we should be acting constitutionally and properly by helping the Hitler regime against the rebels who were trying to overthrow it? If hon. Members opposite really hold that belief, we might possibly see, at some time in the future, the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) and his friends fighting shoulder to shoulder with Herr Hitler in defence of the sanctity of established institutions. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker), who, I notice, is not here at the moment, said that the Spanish Government have been martyrised by non-intervention. He told us a great deal about the intervention of Italy in Spain, but we did not hear a word from him, except by implication and in passing, about the intervention on behalf of the Spanish Government of the Russians, and, indeed, of the French. I do not 2148 wish to over-state the case, but it is extremely difficult to establish which countries—
§ Mr. David Grenfell
In the temporary absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, may I point out that he did mention that there might be from 20,000 to 30,000 foreign troops on the Government side?
§ Mr. Petherick
He did say that, but only in passing. The whole gravamen of his charge throughout his speech was against Italy and Germany. He said that of course it was plain that a number of foreigners—I think he said 20,000 or 25,000—were fighting for the Government, but it was as a minor issue; his chief claim was that the real culprits were Germany and Italy. I do not believe that they are the real culprits, but, if they are, I am not sufficiently interested to lay the charge against them only, because it is beyond doubt that the principle of non-intervention has been infringed by many countries in Europe, including Ireland and ourselves to a modest extent. Is it not, therefore, all the more to the credit of Lord Plymouth and his committee that they have been able to induce those countries which felt very strongly that they wished General Franco and his insurgents to win to agree to this non-intervention pact? I hope that in this matter His Majesty's Government will be able to count on at least lukewarm support from the Liberal benches, because it is undoubtedly the case that, the stronger the consensus of opinion in this country is in favour of localising the war, the more chance there will be of that localisation being successful.
I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade a few questions on the Bill itself and the White Paper which accompanies it. Can he tell the House how far other countries that are participants in the non-intervention agreement have gone in putting legislation through their Chambers, where, indeed, Chambers exist; and how soon it will be before everything is completed and we are able to go ahead and try to make non-intervention effective? Furthermore, I see that the penalties against our own subjects who infringe the provisions of the Act are about £100. It would be interesting to know what penalties foreign countries intend to impose on their nationals. To take another 2149 point, I understand that the Non-Intervention Committee deals with broad questions of policy, and that the Non-Intervention Board will deal with details, but I am not quite clear as to what matters the Council, which apparently will be under the Board, will deal with.
This Bill, as the Parliamentary Secretary has said, applies only to British ships. The Bill and the White Paper have not been in our hands for very long, and therefore I may be a little confused on this particular point. Are we to understand, for instance, that our Navy can only board British ships in the zones allotted, or are they permitted to board the ships of foreign countries? Again, what steps have been taken so far with regard to the appointments of observers and administrators? It is not necessary, apparently, to have a Financial Resolution accompanying the Bill, but it seems to me that the expenditure of a considerable amount of money by this country will be involved, either directly or indirectly, in carrying through this policy.
There are one or two other quite minor matters in connection with the Clauses of the Bill on which I should like to have some information. Sub-section (4) of Clause I says that, if any ship contravenes the provisions of the Section, the master of the ship will be guilty of a misdemeanour and subject to certain penalties. Ought there not to be some proviso to deal with the case of a master who is able to prove that he has received orders from his owner or his charterer? Sub-section (5) gives the Board of Trade power to exempt ships regularly engaged in carrying goods or passengers to or from Spanish territory. From this it appears that, if certain conditions are fulfilled, a ship does not have to go to a prescribed place. Is this Sub-section entirely necessary? Would it not be possible to include, say, Tangier as one of the prescribed places? Sub-section (6) states what an observer can do. There are many things that he cannot do. He certainly cannot prevent a cargo from being discharged or passengers from landing. In the Act that we passed last year powers were given to officers of His Majesty's Navy to take in tow an offending ship which was carrying munitions to Spain, and bring her into 2150 port, and then proceedings could be taken against the master in the Courts.
There are one or two other points, purely of a Committee nature, with which I do not desire to bother the House now, but I would like to say that I feel most strongly that, although it is quite possible that other countries may not fulfil this Non-Intervention Agreement to the fullest extent, the measures which His Majesty's Government are taking are entirely right in the circumstances. The object of localising the war in Spain is a very high object, and I only wish that we could carry it to a further conclusion in our general international relations. Hon. Members on this side of the House have only one motive in this matter. We may have private hopes one way or the other, but we are not pro-Franco or pro-Government. The only thing we wish to see is that Great Britain does not get involved in war, that Europe is not thrown into a terrible bonfire, and that the war in Spain is allowed to carry on its natural course and to be brought to a conclusion by the Spaniards themselves at the earliest possible moment. If I may just say this in conclusion. It is a quotation from Octavia, the wife of Mark Antony and the sister of Octavius, who said when those two soldiers and administrators were threatening to make war on each other:No one knows which of you would win. And in either event my lot would be miserable indeed.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. W. Roberts
The legitimacy of a government is not reckoned by whether it is a government in being, but by whether it rests on the wish of the people and has been legally constituted as a democratic government. The Spanish Government was so constituted, in spite of statements to the contrary. I have not the figures here, but those parties in Spain which are supporting the Spanish Government to-day commanded a large majority at the General Election. Even if that Government had a majority in the Cortes but had a minority of votes in the country, it would still be the legitimate Government. The Conservative party in 1924 polled about 37 per cent. of the votes in the country, but I did not notice that any members of the Army or Navy thought fit on that account to rebel against that Government. I believe it 2151 was Metternich who said that non-intervention was a metaphysical dream, and when asked to describe what he meant, he said it meant the same as intervention. Apparently that definition is as correct to-day as it was in his time.
An agreement was reached six months ago by which 27 Powers agreed not to send arms to Spain. We are asked to-day to pass a Bill, not to make that nonintervention effective, but to enable the Foreign Office to get the information in which it has been so lacking recently, to establish a system of observation. That is all this Bill does. It does not give the officers appointed under it power to stop arms going into Spain; it does not give warships operating under it power to stop ships and turn them back if they are found to contain arms. It only gives them power to observe. During the six months of negotiation non-intervention has been flagrantly violated, chiefly by Germany and Italy, and not by Russia—that is agreed by the right hon. Gentleman's own newspapers, such as the "Times" and the "Daily Telegraph," which are not normally expected to have a Red bias. This Bill might be more acceptable to some of us if previously an agreement had been reached to withdraw the volunteers at present in Spain. In all these negotiations the Spanish Government have taken up a perfectly correct attitude on every occasion. They have always been ready to fall in with the ideas put to them by the Non-Intervention Committee, or by any other association of great Powers. They have on this occasion already agreed to the withdrawal of volunteers fighting on their side. It is General Franco who has blocked the possibility of limiting this war to a Spanish Civil War. That has been the case on almost every occasion. The delaying tactics of Germany, Italy and General Franco have prevented this war being limited to a civil war in Spain.
I would like to reinforce the plea so ably expressed by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) that a commission should be established by the League of Nations to inquire what volunteers there are and to arrange for their simultaneous withdrawal. We have heard criticisms of the League of Nations because of the ineffective and slow procedure adopted with regard to the Abyssinian question, but if the working 2152 of the Non-Intervention Agreement is an example of what we may expect from the return to the more old-fashioned, direct diplomacy, all I can say is that the League of Nations is efficiency and speed itself. I wish to emphasise a point which has previously been made, that the sending of large number of regulars by Italy and Germany, which is also an established fact, is an act of aggression just as bad as that of Italy against Abyssinia, or Japan against China. I would like to know whether the Government are proposing to raise this question at Geneva, and, if not, why not? When there is this evidence of interference by the navies of Germany and Italy, of the participation by their Air Forces and regular troops, we deserve a full explanation of what the Government's policy is, and whether this question is to be raised through the League of Nations.
We might be more able to welcome this Bill if it were not the fact that it is probably going to give an additional advantage to General Franco. Many of us on this side are only anxious to see non-intervention made effective, but that will not be done merely by Great Britain setting a good example. We want to be assured that the effect of this scheme will not be to hand over the Mediterranean coast of the Spanish Government to Germany and Italy and so enable their naval forces to exercise observation on possible munitions and volunteers going into Spanish Government territory, to enable them to carry out a blockade of food supplies in collusion with the rebel navy and armed merchantmen, and so present General Franco with a handsome present. Why was not the much more effective and fairer system of observation at the ports not accepted? The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade did not give us any of the history of the negotiations leading up to the Bill. I believe it is correct to say that it was not the objections of the Spanish Government which prevented that fairer system being adopted, but the objections of General Franco, Germany, Italy and Portugal. There has been no willingness on the part of the Fascist Powers to afford any equality to those fighting in this war. If the system of control at the ports had been adopted, this tremendous loophole in the scheme would not have arisen of 2153 General Franco's ships being able to import arms under the eyes of the British and French Navies.
Is there any provision in the Bill to prevent Italy or Japan, the United States or the South American Republic, or any other country, whether a member of tile Non-Intervention Committee or not, selling a ship to General Franco or to the Spanish Government, making a paper transaction? I am not clear whether such a ship could be stopped, whether a ship having the right to fly the flag of any of the countries parties to the Non-Intervention Agreement can pass the British and French Navies without control, or whether there is an obligation on the British and French Navies even to report the existence of such a ship. I find nothing in the scheme which obliges the navies to report such an occurrence if the ship has the right to fly such a flag. In almost every case where the word "ship" is employed, it is modified by the phrase "having the right to fly," but in the Clause which deals with the Government's exercising naval observation, I see that the word "ship" is not so qualified. Does that mean that the Navies will have the right to stop every ship to find out what she is? That cuts both ways because, while we and the French will carry out our obligations scrupulously, we have, from past experience, no confidence whatever that Germany will not make use of the right to create a blockade of foodstuffs and other raw materials which the Spanish Government has a right to receive and which General Franco will receive, because we shall be carrying out our duties scrupulously, and not exceeding them.
Those are two very large loop-holes in the scheme, and there are others which have been mentioned, but on this whole question I ask the Government to consider very seriously whether they are not allowing all kinds of rights which British Governments for centuries have struggled for—rights of neutrality on the sea—to slip through their fingers. General Franco, for instance, is laying mines somewhat wholesale outside the 10-mile limit. Our information is that the whole of the channel between Majorca and the Spanish coast is mined right across—and that is far more than To miles—and British and French ships have been advised to make a wide detour. Are the British Govern- 2154 ment allowing action to be taken which will in the future create precedents which may be very serious indeed?
Questions of that sort affect the Dominions as well as ourselves, and I should like to think that the Dominions have been consulted on this matter. The trade route from the Mediterranean down the West Coast of Africa is important to them as well as to us. Even during the War I believe we did not lay mines outside our territorial waters except in retaliation for some action taken by our enemies. [Interruption.] The reason was always given that it was in retaliation for mines which Germany had laid. On this occasion the rebels have been allowed, without any protest being made, to lay mines both in the Bay of Biscay and in the Mediterranean which have caused serious loss to British shipping.
§ Mr. Roberts
I am talking about the legal position. I ask whether in view of conventions, which no doubt will not be very carefully observed on either side, which were agreed to before the War, the British Government and the parties to the agreement will not take it upon themselves to sweep up these mines. What objection is there to doing that? They are German mines of the latest type and Germany, in supplying them, has broken the Non-intervention Agreement. She had no right to supply them and, according to international law, the rebels have no right whatever to lay them, and they ought to be swept up. I would ask, also, that there should be a little more consultation with the British Dominions over this question. I am not satisfied that this scheme will in effect be a step forward in establishing non-intervention. I am a little inclined to fear that the only reason why, after such long delay, Germany, Italy and Portugal have agreed to it is that, knowing that they have such large supplies of munitions, aeroplanes and regular forces in Spain, such observation as is established by the Bill will be quite valueless, though they may think it will be of some value in that they have now overwhelming forces there, enough to win the war, and that the control will be effective in preventing any other country equalising the balance by 2155 supplying the Spanish Government with what the rebels have obtained illegally, contrary to the undertakings of the Powers who supplied them.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Crossley
The hon. Member's speech, like that of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker), who made an eloquent and notable speech earlier on, has covered a very wide range. I do not wish on this occasion to make what by inclusion and insinuation I was charged with last time I spoke on this subject, a biased speech. I certainly shall not attempt to enter into the controversy as to whether or not the Government of Spain is a legally constituted Government. But I should like to deal with some of the points that the hon. Member for West Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) has raised concerning the Bill. I do not think he has done justice to the patience and perseverance of Lord Plymouth's Committee. Heaven knows, international agreements are not easy to come by at present, but they worked for months and months, and this is the result, and I do not think it serves any useful purpose to say, before it has been tried out in practice, that it is bound to fail because the observers have power only to observe. They also have power, of course, to report to the Non-Intervention Committee, and, if the countries which have put their signatures to the Non-Intervention Agreement are sincere in their desire for non-intervention, you must give them a chance at the beginning. The only country which declined to take up its sphere of action under the agreement was not Germany, not Italy, not France nor England, but Russia. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because they did not like sailing in the rough waters of the Bay of Biscay.
§ Mr. Crossley
The German sphere in the Mediterranean is the furthest part of Spain from the German coast.
§ Mr. Crossley
Possibly. This is an agreement which involves a number of countries which hold entirely different opinions. In Italy there is a most 2156 sincere desire for victory for one side; in Germany there is probably sincere desire for victory for one side, and in France and Russia for victory for the other side. I believe our people are only too desirous of not being dragged in at all on either side. Most people in this country have private sympathies with one side or the other, but the considered and firm opinion of the vast majority is that they do not want to be brought in to help either side in the dispute.
The hon. Member went on to the League of Nations. I cannot conceive a more dangerous arena into which the League of Nations might be drawn. It is having a hard enough time at present. Many of us on this side, as well as hon. Members opposite, are hoping that it may be rebuilt, but it cannot be rebuilt by plunging it into a conflict in which the sympathies of half the world are on one side and of half the world on the other, and which is not a rebellion at all but a civil war on the same sort of scale that we had in the time of Cromwell, when probably most Members of this House would have been Roundheads and opposed to what might have been held to be the constitutional Government of the time. I hope that, whatever happens, our Government will at no time encourage any appeal to the League of Nations.
Does not the hon. Member admit that, assuming the truth of the charge of large-scale intervention by Italian troops, it constitutes a flagrant violation of the obligations under Article 10 of the Covenant and, if that is the case, is it not proper that the League of Nations should be asked to express its opinion on the subject? What is the use of the League if it is not allowed to discuss any subject on which there is a strong controversy?
§ Mr. Crossley
Perhaps the hon. Lady is right, but I should not care to assume that those charges by the Spanish Government are correct. I believe that intervention on both sides has been pretty general and equal from the outbreak of the war. This is a sincere effort to stop it and I should not like to prejudice it by fresh appeals to the League of Nations at present. The hon. Member for West Cumberland asked why there could not be observation at the ports. I agree that that would be a very much more satisfactory arrangement than observation on 2157 the sea, because observation on the sea is very difficult. It is a very big sea and ships may get past. But consider the difficulties of observation at the ports. Consider the difficulties of German and Italian observers trying to do their duty in the harbours of Valencia and Barcelona, and consider the difficulties of French and Russian observers trying to do their duty at Vigo and Cadiz. I think their position would be most unpleasant. When a religious deputation went from this country to Spain recently they were met on the gangway of their ship and asked, for the safety of their conductor, if they would not immediately retire to their cabins and change their collars before they went ashore.
§ Mr. W. Roberts
Is the hon. Member also aware that General Franco would not give them permission to go into his territory?
§ Mr. Crossley
I believe that it is true that General Franco denies many people permission to enter his country, and equally it is true that his principal source of military information is the foreign Press correspondence from Madrid. For that reason he is extremely desirous not to have too many people in his country, particularly people well known to be violently prejudiced in their views. The suggestion which came from the hon. Member for Derby was for mixed patrols on the sea. Mixed patrols can be of two kinds. They can be a patrol of observers of different nationalities on a ship of a particular nationality, or they can be ships of different nationalities forming particular squadrons. If you adopt the latter course, a ship manned by a captain and crew sympathetic with the ship bringing arms would probably let that ship through. It would be a much less effective method of control than the method of control in the Bill. I do not think the method in the Bill is idealistic. I doubt whether an idealistic method of control could be devised, but it is about as clever and as likely to meet the difficulties as any scheme which could, in fact, be devised.
The last matter the hon. Member raised was that he desired the British Navy to conduct general mine-sweeping duties. I cannot help thinking that that would be rather a superfluous addition to their duties, which they are carrying out in a magnificent way by impartially rescuing 2158 the people of both sides in Spain. The hon. Member for Derby was excessively nervous that on the Eastern side of Spain the Germans and Italians would administer a blockade. I would remind him that the Germans and Italians on the eastern side of Spain will have precisely the same powers as we shall have in certain other areas and as the French will have in other areas, namely, to send an observer on these ships to report to the Non-Intervention Committee. That is all their powers can be. I do not believe that there has at any time been bombardment by Germans and Italians. That is a dangerous accusation, particularly in view of the fact that the Spaniards are not very knowledgeable about their own Navy, when on one occasion they bombed the "Royal Oak" in mistake for the "Canarias," despite the fact that the "Royal Oak" is three times as large as the "Canarias." I think they have from time to time mistaken their ships, and said they were ships of another nationality. Nevertheless, I feel that that is an accusation which should not be made.
§ Mr. Roberts
The Spanish Government only shelled a wrong ship. I wonder whether the other side shell wrong cities by mistake?
§ Mr. Crossley
I do not think so. I should think that they intended to shell Valencia, and that it was a Spanish ship that did so. I have seen no real evidence to prove that it was anything else, or, that any German or Italian submarines have in fact conducted any military operations on the East Coast of Spain. If the hon. Member is able to direct my attention to any reliable evidence on that point, I shall be glad if he will do so. I have seen opinions expressed by Spaniards and by Spanish Press representatives, and I was casting doubt upon the authenticity of the evidence by relating the incident of the "Royal Oak," and the "Canarias," and that was my point. I would make this appeal, that we should at least assume the integrity of the countries participating in the Non-Intervention Agreement. I believe that the intervention on 2159 both sides up to the present time has been about equal. I would gladly develop that matter but I think that perhaps I had better not do so. I hope that the House will prove a little more grateful than it has in the last hour for the extremely hard work of Lord Plymouth's Committee.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."
I appreciated very much the clarity with which the Parliamentary Secretary introduced this Bill to the House. I do not think that we can complain of the way in which he did the job allotted to him. I would certainly congratulate him upon his clarity, and I only wish that the Government of which he is a member had showed similar clarity with regard to the policy they have pursued. I also wish to congratulate the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) upon the speech that he made here to-day. It was one of the most memorable speeches I have heard in this House. It was a scathing indictment of the policy of the Government, and it has put on record the organised hypocrisy of the policy of the National Government with regard to Spain. He left very little more for anyone else to say from this side of the House with regard to the position, and I do not intend to repeat the facts or the arguments which he introduced in connection with this matter.
Evidently the Government have been very successful not in their policy of nonintervention, but in the policy of intervention, because all the way through the Government have acted in such a manner as to give every support to the insurgents in Spain, and also to deny to the legally constituted Government in Spain that which that Government were entitled to expect from the British Government. The overwhelming majority of the working classes in this country believe that the British Government have acted very badly in connection with the Spanish Government. I am confident that the overwhelming opinion of the working-class people is that the Spanish Government and the Spanish workers have not had a square deal from the British Government. In the past, the British 2160 Government have never acted as they have acted in connection with this matter in refusing to allow munitions to go to the legally constituted Government in another country. It was a quite unprecedented action, and one which I believe was dictated by the class sympathy of the Government rather than by their class interest.
This is an agreement which has as its objective the ending of the civil war in Spain, simply by cutting the throat of the Spanish Republic, because it really appears to be handing over to Germany and Italy the opportunity of making it almost impossible for the Spanish Government to carry on their struggle against the rebels in that country. Complaint has been made by the Spanish Government to the League of Nations and they have been told of the divisions of the Italian army fighting in Spain on the side of Franco, and now this House is being asked to hand over to the Italian Government the full opportunity of blockading the Spanish coast, so that the Italians will be at liberty to give full support to the divisions which they have operating on the side of the rebels in Spain. Is there any Member of the House who believes, now that this agreement is made, that, if the forces on the side of the Spanish Government obtain the victory over those Italian troops, the Italian warships will not see to it that succour goes to the Italian forces operating in Spain on behalf of the rebels? Are they going to leave their fellow-countrymen to whatever may happen to them if the Spanish Government forces are able to get the upper hand? If there are 100,000 Italian soldiers in Spain, fully equipped—
§ Mr. Stephen
The hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley) assures me that they are not there, but I listened to his speech and I obtained nothing from it in the way of material to provide me with any brief in regard to his statement.
§ Mr. Crossley
I could have given the hon. Member any amount of material, but I Was trying to talk about this Bill. My view is that there are probably about 20,000 Italians in Spain.
§ Mr. Stephen
I am sorry, if the hon. Member could have given me all that information, that he did not give me some 2161 information instead of simply twiddling his thumbs and making casual remarks in the way that he did when he was addressing the House. An hon. Member opposite interrupts me. I did not interrupt him when he was making a statement to the House, and was referring to the Amendment which we have put on the Paper. I can tell him, if he is sufficiently interested in the subject, that a statement was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) on a previous occasion as to what our attitude would be in the case of Hitler's Government seeking arms from this country. It was superfluous on his part to put his question once again. If he does not like to take the trouble to make himself fully conversant with what has been going on with regard to these matters, he cannot expect us to make up for his lack of interest in the proceedings.
There is evidence that about 100,000 Italians, fully equipped by the Italian Government, are fighting in Spain on the rebel side, and we are asked in this House to pass a Bill which is going to put the Italian Government into the position of being one of the watchdogs to see that munitions do not go into Spain to their own men. The Government are taking up a preposterous position. It has been made perfectly plain that on every occasion when the forces of the Spanish Government have been getting the upper hand naval or military action by the German and Italian Governments has been responsible for Franco's forces being able to make headway. It has happened on several occasions when the Spanish Government forces have been getting the upper hand that there has been renewed and definite intervention by the German and Italian Governments in support of the rebels. The hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley) said that this is a civil war and that the people in this country were divided, one set supporting the Spanish Government and the other in favour of those who are fighting for Franco. It is a foreign invading army that is in Spain fighting against the Spanish Government, while the overwhelming majority, practically the whole, of the Spanish people are fighting against that invading force which has been carrying on war in their territory.
§ Mr. Crossley
I would directly contradict that statement. I believe there is an 2162 army of nearly 200,000 or 300,000 Spanish people on his own side. I have seen vast numbers of them in training.
§ Mr. Stephen
The hon. Member says that he has seen vast numbers of them in training. I do not know how he discriminated between them and the Italians.
§ Mr. Stephen
It is now obvious what worth can be attached to the arguments of the hon. Member. When does an Italian cease to be an Italian in Spain? Does he by putting on a red cap become a Spaniard? I will leave it at that. When an army revolts in a country and the Government of that country has to depend upon what arms it can get for the working classes, that Government must have a tremendous support from the working classes if it is able to maintain itself against the military machine. If 80 per cent. of the British Army were to revolt against the Government I wonder how long the Government would last. I do not think it would last very long. I do not think it would be able to arm a sufficient number of people to put up any great defence against the Regular Army. In Spain the overwhelming majority of the people in the country are behind the Spanish Government and therefore they have been able to carry on, and I believe they will ultimately get the victory, in spite of Italy and Germany.
The policy of the Government has been proved to be an absolute imposture from the point of view of non-intervention. That proof has been provided by the hon. Member for Derby. He made an absolute stone-wall case against the Government, and I am glad that the Opposition are going into the Division Lobby against the Bill. When I hear hon. Members who profess to be great defenders of the British Empire talking in favour of the off-scourings of those countries that are in the forces of Franco, I would ask them and I would ask the Government whether they think that Mussolini and the Italian Government are risking all these Italian lives without Italy ultimately getting its price in the future if Franco and those who are associated with him are successful. I would ask the supporters of the British Empire whether they think that Hitler and the Germans are making all these contributions in support of the rebels in Spain without expecting to get the price for their support.
2163 This National Government has been a pitiful failure, and this Bill is one more object-lesson of the way in which the Government are fumbling in handling the affairs of the nation. Their policy, even from the point of view of the Imperialism for which they are supposed to stand, is a policy that should entitle them to a place in any lunatic asylum. They are putting the workers of this country into a more and more dangerous position. The kind of policy that is embodied in this ageement and the way in which the Government have handled non-intervention is a sure way of leading to a world war in the future, when the British workers will be expected to give their lives in defence of this country again. I protest against the Government taking the line they have taken. Let the Spanish Government get arms. Let the British Government make an end of this policy of imposture, and the pretence that they are pursuing a policy of non-intervention. Let them say that they will have no more of this policy, which has proved so fruitless. Let the Spanish Government get the arms they require in order to equip the working people of Spain against the rebels who are being kept in the field by the Fascist Powers for the benefit of Fascism in the world.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I beg to second the Amendment.
In doing so I hope that hon. Members will not think that we are claiming more than our share of the time available for speeches. I shall not enter into the merits or demerits of the question as to who started or who did not start the civil war in Spain. I want merely to examine the Measure as a business proposition, leaving aside the question whether the rebels of Franco are right. This is not a defensible business proposition. What about the suggested fine of £100? What would be the sentence that could be inflicted in lieu of that fine? It would be, comparatively speaking, nothing to these people. Some six weeks after the event action might be taken. In six weeks a whole area could be swept away. The hon. Member opposite admits that Italians and German troops are there, and he says that Russian and French troops are there. Let me deal with the position of the Italians. We are told that 2164 there are Italians fighting on both sides. Does the hon. Member think that it is human to expect the Italians to stop the necessary arms going to their friends? Nobody really expects that. It will not be done. It will not be done by Germany, and nobody seriously expects it.
Will the Bill fulfil its object? No one can defend it as a business proposition. If it had been applied to our social life we should have knocked lumps out of the Bill. If the Government are going to carry on this policy, let them not insult the House of Commons with a Bill like this. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade gave a lucid and capable explanation of the Bill, but he never once faced up to the impossibility of the Bill. He did not look at its defects. He said that we needed some kind of machinery and he hoped to make it workable. I shall give my vote against the Bill for many reasons, but my chief reason is that, apart from the merits or demerits of the struggle, this Bill will serve the purpose of the Germans and the Italians, but it will be against the interests of the people of Spain. For these and other reasons I shall vote against the Bill.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Viscount Cranborne)
This is not, strictly speaking, a Debate on foreign affairs. On 2nd March we had a Debate on the foreign situation, in which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke of the new agreement of the Non-Intervention Committee to cover the prohibition of the despatch of volunteers and also of the scheme of observation which was being prepared. Many hon. Members expressed their views on these questions. I would like to say on behalf of my right hon. Friend that he is sorry not to be able to be present to-night as he had intended, but hon. Members will be aware that the visit of the Swedish Foreign Minister is occupying my right hon. Friend, and he has therefore asked me to take his place, inadequately I admit. To-day we are concerned not so much with main principles of policy as with a technical Bill and normally a representative of the Foreign Office would not speak. There is, however, one point of a semi-technical character about which I want to say a word. It has been 2165 raised in Questions during the last few days and was raised by the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts), who asked what would be the position with regard to ships which were chartered by General Franco or the Spanish Government and became temporarily of Spanish nationality. He asked whether they would come within the scope of the scheme. They do not; but I fully recognise that it is an important and material point, which, I can assure the House, is being carefully considered to see whether some arrangement can be made.
I rose to speak only because certain wider issues have been raised which involve general questions of foreign policy and I thought the House might expect to have a few words on these questions as to the point of view of the Foreign Office. As I understand the position, hon. Members opposite are not in principle opposed to non-intervention; that is to say, they would agree that the affairs of Spain should be the concern of the people of Spain. On that general basis there is a wide measure of agreement between us and, therefore, I hope anything I shall say will not be regarded as provocative. We want to emphasise the amount of agreement there is between us, not the amount of difference. Hon. Members opposite, in general, are in favour of the principle of non-intervention as I have defined it, but they have considerable preoccupation with regard to the effects of that policy. Their pre-occupations, I understand, arise from an apprehension lest this policy of non-intervention may, in fact, militate against the Spanish Government, lest it should, in fact, act as intervention against the Spanish Government. That apprehension has been visible in many of their speeches in the past, and was clearly visible in the speech of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker). He said that the Non-Intervention Agreement had not been effective and that the violations of it had been flagrant. In particular, he drew attention to the Italian forces who are now fighting in Spain. With a great deal of what the hon. Member said hon. Members in all parts of the House are in agreement. I wish hon. Members opposite would only believe that we dislike violations of the Non-Intervention Agreement just as much as they do.
§ Viscount Cranborne
It is evident that there have been violations on both sides. The only criticism I have to make on the speech of the hon. Member for Derby is that it seemed to be slightly one-sided; it did not give quite a true picture of the situation in Spain as it is to-day. Still, it is perfectly true that there have been violations on both sides. May I say one word in answer to an accusation which the hon. Member made against the Governnent? He said that we had never brought any evidence of violations before the Non-Intervention Committee. I understand that is not so, that in certain cases we did bring evidence, and notably in four proved cases, some on one side and some on the other. What was the ultimate fate of that information I cannot say, because that is a matter for the Non-Intervention Committee; but it is untrue to say that we never brought forward any evidence.
Are we to understand that in the course of eight months' work the Non-Intervention Committee was able to discover only four proved instances of breaches of the Non-Intervention Agreement?
§ Viscount Cranborne
Four proved cases are four proved cases, on whichever side they are, and, in fact, they were on both sides. We do not in the least deny that violations have taken place. It is not merely that men have gone in—we all know that men have gone in, and up to 20th February that was not a breach of the agreement—we all strongly suspect that war materials have gone in. In this House we have had speeches telling us of Italian planes and German machine guns, and Russian tanks which have been seen. It is clear, I think, that violations have taken place on both sides.
§ Miss Wilkinson
Will the Noble Lord tell that to the Foreign Secretary as he does not seem to know it?
§ Viscount Cranborne
My right hon. Friend does know it. But I should like to ask hon. Members opposite what would be the position if there had been no Non-Intervention Agreement at all? As I understand it there would have been wholesale assistance given to both sides by anybody who sympathised with them, and, apart from the danger that would have created of the war spreading throughout Europe—a very real danger 2167 which hon. Members opposite do not seem to realise sufficiently—indeed, the hon. Member for Derby in the course of his long and full speech never mentioned it at all, although it was the original reason why M. Blum asked us to co-operate—apart, however, from this danger, would it in fact have helped the Valencia Government? The implication of the speech of the hon. Member for Derby was that the Valencia Government would have been better off. Frankly, I do not believe they would have been.
§ Viscount Cranborne
They may think so. Men would have gone in just as they have now, and arms would have gone in in far greater quantities than now. There is a suggestion by hon. Members opposite that this country alone should have poured in arms to the Spanish Government to such an enormous amount that it would have completely redressed the balance. I understood the hon. Member for Derby to say that we ought to have sold arms to the legitimate Government. That rests on the assumption that we have got an enormous surplus pool of arms available to be sold to any country in the world; that we have a sort of widow's cruse out of which we can always pour guns, rifles and ammunition. That is not the case. Some of us wish, from the point of view of collective security, that it was the case, but it is not, and that is why the Government are asking for their re-armament programme, which they regretfully feel to be necessary. We have certain existing contracts with foreign Powers which we are doing our utmost to fulfil, but the overwhelming proportion of the arms we can produce is needed by us. On the other hand, there are some other nations, which I hope I need not specify, which seem to be remarkably well supplied with arms; and where now under the Non-Intervention Agreement, a trickle, comparatively speaking, goes through, if there had been no Non-Intervention Agreement, a flood of arms would have gone through, and it would not necessarily have benefited the Spanish Government. Hon. Members opposite may not accept that view as coming from a junior member of the Government, but I would point out to them that it is the view taken by the "Daily Herald" in a leading article two days ago. The hon. 2168 Member for Derby would call it impartial, because it says some things with which he does not agree and some things with which I do not agree. In this article the "Daily Herald" said:Can it be doubted that, short of European war (and if that is proposed, then out with it), the only hope of preventing the further landing of divisions of the Italian army in Spain is the naval control.Hon. Members opposite are now opposing naval control.During the period before non-intervention in arms did not the rebels profit more than the Government?Do hon. Members want to bring back that state of affairs?Is not the Italian army now attacking Madrid the practical demonstration of how 'Free Trade' in volunteers has worked out?By this Bill we are trying to give protection.And if non-intervention were now abandoned, is it not certain that the Fascists would pour men into Spain until a Government defeat were assured?That is an admirable review of the situation and answers the speeches of hon. Members opposite. I do not want to be provocative, but I hope they will believe that the Government are no more satisfied than they are with the present position, and that we shall never be satisfied until we see every foreigner off the soil of Spain. At any rate, we honestly believe that by this agreement the dam which the Non-Intervention Agreement provides will be extended and strengthened. Moreover, except for one report which, as my right hon. Friend said today, is being urgently examined, we have no reason to suppose that this new agreement is being violated. The hon. Member for Derby assumed that it was being violated, but he gave no evidence, and except for this one case, on which we have frankly given the House all the information we have, I know of no evidence that the new agreement is being violated.
My right hon. Friend and I are almost constantly being twitted by hon. Members opposite for our lack of information. Some hon. Members opposite seem to think that the Foreign Office is singularly inefficient, and others seem to think that we are deliberately dishonest. Perhaps they will forgive me when I say that to us they sometimes seem to be either irresponsibly credulous or deliberately 2169 blind to the realities of the situation. Some hon. Members will remember that there used to be newspaper posters all over London, "If it is in John Bull, it is true," and it seems to me that that is the principle on which a great many hon. Members opposite work. They seem to think that if anything is put in the Press it must be true; they are not always certain about the "Daily Herald"—sometimes they are a little doubtful about that—but if it is in the "Times" or the "Daily Telegraph," they say it must be true, and they come straight to the House and put down a number of questions or make speeches calling upon the Government to confirm the statements in the Press. If the Government do not confirm them, they say that we are either dishonest or incapable.
I ask hon. Members opposite to consider the circumstances in which this information has to be obtained. War conditions exist in Spain, and although it is true that we have representatives there, they are only in certain towns, for it would be impossible to have masses of inquiring Englishmen strewn throughout the country. Although we receive reports, they are not always comprehensive, and in the nature of things cannot be so, and sometimes they reduplicate one another —a man in one town may see what he believes to be a group of Italians, that group may go to another town and may be seen there by another man. Consequently, when we say that we cannot give the House accurate and comprehensive information—[Interruption.] It is all very well for hon. Members to laugh, but we are telling the truth, and it is they who are out of touch with all realities. The hon. Member for Derby was not hampered by any such conditions, for in his brilliant speech, which I am sure we all considered a remarkable performance, he always seemed to have obtained any information he wanted to get, and his only requirement was that it should all be on one side. He painted a brilliant picture; the only fault was that it was not true to life, and I took that to be due to the fact that he had left out all the red.
§ Viscount Cranborne
It is the colour I see the hon. and learned Gentleman 2170 the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps).
§ Viscount Cranborne
Hon. Members have asked for exact information with regard to foreigners in Spain, but I submit that there are two things which are much more important than that. The first is that we should prevent any more foreigners going in—I am sure hon. Members will agree with that—and the second is that the foreigners who are there at present should be withdrawn as soon as possible. The first step has already been taken by the Non-Intervention Committee, and I suggest that to its effective fulfilment the Bill which is before the House is an essential contribution. I hope the Bill will be passed through all its stages with the least possible delay. I understood the hon. Member for Derby to say that hon. Members opposite will go into the Division Lobby against the Bill, and he put forward the alternative suggestion that before this Bill is passed, or the agreement put into operation, His Majesty's Government should take the matter before the League of Nations. I am not clear as to why His Majesty's Government should take it before the League of Nations. I thought the hon. Member for Derby showed himself to be an internationalist only in the sense that he wanted us to do everybody else's business.
Hon. Members opposite are constantly speaking of the Spanish Government and saying that it ought to be supported because it is a member of the League. There is nothing to prevent the Spanish Government putting its case before the Council of the League. If in this country we had a civil war in which there was foreign intervention, I am certain we would not desire or expect the Spanish Government to put our case before the League, but would be ready to do so ourselves. If the Spanish Government puts its case before the League, I assure hon. Members opposite that we, who are a permanent member of the Council, will be only too ready to give serious and objective consideration to the points which the Spanish Government may put forward. I do not think it is for us to do a piece of work which is the job of the Spanish Government. The fact that a matter may come before the League 2171 at any future time does not justify hon. Gentlemen opposite in voting against the Bill.
Before they do that, they must be able to prove, in the first place, that the new agreement on volunteers has been violated. The whole of their case rests upon the allegation that the agreement is being violated, and that therefore it is of no use, because it will militate against the Spanish Government. They have not given one piece of evidence to prove that allegation. The hon. Member for Derby quoted figures, but they were all prior to 20th February, and until he can prove that the agreement has been violated, he has no argument against the Bill. Secondly, hon. Members opposite must prove that the situation of the Spanish Government will be made worse by this Bill. They have not been able to do that, and indeed I think I have been able to prove, by quoting extensively from the "Daily Herald," that if this Bill is not passed, the situation of the Spanish Government will be far worse. Our case for the Bill is that it will help to stop volunteers going to Spain. There is no evidence that it will not stop them altogether, but even if it does not quite do so, it will immensely reduce the numbers. If this scheme is not put into force, it will, I believe, hurt the Valencia Government more than the other side, and surely that is not the object of hon. Members opposite.
I agree that this agreement with regard to volunteers is not enough, as the hon. Member for Derby said. It is essential that there should be a withdrawal of foreigners from Spain, if we can get an international agreement on that. As hon. Members know, that matter is under immediate consideration, and His Majesty's Government will do anything they can in that direction. In the meantime, if the war is to be limited and shortened, it is essential to take this first step to prevent more foreigners going to Spain, and I believe this Bill is a considerable contribution to that end. I would remind the House of a very old proverb—" Half a loaf is better than no bread." This Bill is not a whole loaf, but it is half a loaf, and I hope the House will accept it. I believe hon. Gentlemen opposite will incur a very heavy moral responsibility if they do not vote for the Bill.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Miss Wilkinson
The Under-Secretary has said that half a loaf is better than no bread, but I would remind him that half a watch is not necessarily better than no watch. Our difficulty in regard to his speech, which was an example of Oxford Union debating in the best Cecilian style, is that like most Oxford Union debating it cleverly avoided the point at issue. The Noble Lord said truly that we on this side were not opposed to non-intervention. What we are opposed to is a farce that pretends to be non-intervention but which works overwhelmingly on one side. The Noble Lord never once met our contention with regard to this point, except by saying that there had been intervention on both sides. He seems to think that we are afraid to pronounce the word "Russia." Let us get down to the facts. I do not know exactly what is the time lag with regard to Foreign Office information, but we find the Noble Lord and his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary coming down here and for a certain number of weeks denying that they have any information that a particular lot of interventionist troops have been engaged. But when a number of the interventionist troops have been killed by the loyalist militia, then we find the Noble Lord and his right hon. Friend making speeches which assume that those people—whose presence in Spain they had been denying for weeks—were really there all the time and had been killed, and so he and his right hon. Friend get ready to say that they have no information about a second lot of interventionists.
§ Viscount Cranborne
The hon. Lady is not quite fair to me. She will remember a question which she herself asked with regard to the entry of troops into Malaga. On that occasion we said that there was a mixed force, including 3,000 Italians, and they were not at all dead, but were in full activity.
§ Miss Wilkinson
Yes, and fighting the battle of the Noble Lord's interventionist friends. Even the Noble Lord would find it difficult to deny the presence of troops when the Press of the world was ringing with stories of what they are doing and of the appalling way in which they were treating the refugees who were getting away from Malaga. I do not think the Noble Lord can pride himself on that particular admission, and for the rest we 2173 have had this time lag of which I speak —this period between the time when the Noble Lord and his right hon. Friend go on denying, until the time when they have to admit the presence of one lot and prepare to deny the presence of the next lot. Will the Noble Lord acknowledge that during the whole of that period before the end of October, which was the time when the first Russian contingent arrived, he and the Foreign Secretary were denying and denying and Denying that there were any Italian or Gorman troops there? But the moment the first trickle of Russian help began to appear, then the Noble Lord was perfectly happy to assure us that both sides were equally at fault.
I do not know whether the Noble Lord can produce evidence to justify what was almost the aspersion which he cast on the most dignified representatives of his own Press, but it would appear that while denying any veracity to the correspondents of the "Times" and the "Daily Telegraph" he is prepared to accept the anonymous leader of the "Daily Herald" as something like Holy Writ. One is glad to notice this movement in the right direction, or should I say in this case in the Left direction, on the part of the Noble Lord? I have been reading the Press carefully on this subject, and as far as I can gather no one has suggested that there are any Russian troops fighting in Spain. I do not know whether the Noble Lord extends to the "Daily Mail" the objection which he appears to have to other organs of the Conservative Press on this subject, but one would gather from the "Daily Mail" that the entire Russian Army is fighting in Spain. Apart from that, however, no one has said that there are Russian troops there, although it cannot be denied that tanks and aeroplanes and technical assistance from Russia have been employed. But is the Noble Lord aware of the fact that all that assistance, plus the very real volunteers of the international force on the Government side, is nothing like the amount of assistance that—even if we take the time lag admissions of the Noble Lord and his right hon. Friend—has been forthcoming on the other side from the Italians?
Why have we this Bill at all? We are not only discussing the situation in Spain, we are discussing the proposals in this Bill. What is the whole story of 2174 non-intervention—and I am not now referring to what has happened in Spain but to what has happened in this House, because that is our concern. The Government may justify their attitude on nonintervention on the ground that it is a necessary policy. But it seems to me that, in the interests of international decency, it would be better to admit the facts about non-intervention instead of putting the Foreign Secretary and the Noble Lord to what they must regard as the rather distasteful task of having to go through the motions of denying what they know to be true.
What are the plain facts? The Left Government in Spain had only one advantage against the rebel officers—who, on the whole, were backed by the rich—and that was the power to buy arms. It was never contemplated, however, when the international law grew up by which a Government was given the right to buy arms to preserve law and order within its own frontiers, that a workers' Government would ever be in control of a country and exercise that power. But when the occasion arose on which a workers' Government had that advantage, we set up a Non-Intervention Committee to neutralise their advantage. That is the whole story of this Non-Intervention Committee. A Government of the Left was in control of the finances of the country, and had been put there by the country's votes. Therefore, it was necessary to neutralise their power to buy arms, and that has been the sole purpose of our non-intervention. Nothing that the Non-Intervention Committee has done has prevented one gun or one aeroplane from reaching Spain. It has, however, done one thing. It has made it necessary for the Italian Government to call their troops "nationals" when they are in Spain. Judging by an answer given by the Foreign Secretary earlier to-day, when he would not allow me to use the word "troops" and substituted the word "nationals," apparently "nationals" is an alias for foreign troops in Spain just as "National" in this country is an alias for Conservative.
To come back to the Bill there was, of course, a new situation when Russia started to send in war material. Then we have this Merchant Shipping Bill to neutralise the possibility of Russia sending material to the Spanish Government, 2175 exactly as the previous activities of the Non-Intervention Committee neutralised the original advantage of the Spanish Government. That is the meaning of this Bill. It is difficult, of course, to regard the Noble Lord as Machiavellian. He sounds charming and looks most disarming, but he must allow a certain ability to those on this side of the House to put two and two together and to find that they do not always make five. We have to take the obvious deduction from the Government's action. I have read this scheme through with the utmost care, and I cannot find anything in it that is going to prevent the Italian troops doing anything in Spain that they want to do.
An answer was given by the Noble Lord yesterday or on Monday in which he said that it was legitimate for a ship in general to change flags in order to avoid capture. Leaving aside the ships that could transfer to the flag of any other nation than the 27 nations included in this scheme, an Italian ship, for instance, has only to be provided with an ample supply of the flags of General Franco and to go to that coast which the Italians, warm friends of General Franco's, have under observation—
§ Viscount Cranborne
I understand that the observers who will be put on board these ships will be appointed by the committee, not by the different Governments.
§ Miss Wilkinson
The point is that they cannot interfere with a ship that is flying the flag of one of the countries outside the 27 nations in question.
§ Viscount Cranborne
On this particular point about flags, perhaps the hon. Lady will put her question to the Board of Trade, because I have not got the details, but I recognise that that point is very important—the point about the chartering of ships by General Franco—and it is being carefully examined at the present time. It is a very important point for the success of the scheme.
§ Miss Wilkinson
I am glad that we have had from the Noble Lord that admission, that this is what could be described as a big loophole in the Bill, but it seems to me to render this Bill nugatory. The Noble Lord admits in substance that you can drive a coach and 2176 horses through the Bill by a simple transference of flags.
§ Viscount Cranborne
I did not say that I admitted that. I said that it was a point which I believed was being dealt with by the President of the Board of Trade in his reply. It is a point more for the Board of Trade than for the Foreign Office.
§ Miss Wilkinson
I agree with the Noble Lord. He is very wise in trying to put the paternity of this infant on the Board of Trade and to get out of results that might be most inconvenient to the Foreign Office. However, if the President of the Board of Trade is going to reply, I want to ask him whether he will deal with this point, because it seems to me that either this thing is going to be effective., or else any ship can go through it, provided that it goes to the coast that is being watched by the side to which it belongs. There is another incredible side to this Bill, that the two countries, particularly Italy, which are regarded as among the chief offenders should be given the coast to watch that is nearest their own shores.
A previous speaker on the benches opposite sneered because Russia had not come into this guarding of the coast scheme, but it must be admitted that since Russia does not deny that she is helping the loyal troops, she has been both honest and internationally decent in refusing to come into that scheme. Therefore, it surely would seem that since the three main countries concerned are Russia, on the one side, and Italy and Germany on the other, if Russia does not come in, the only decent thing to have done would have been to have eliminated Italy and Germany from the coast-watching scheme. Can anybody justify the putting of the coast-watching in the Mediterranean in Italian hands—that is to say, that a ship, so long as it flies the flag of a nation outside the 27 countries in the scheme, or General Franco's flag, can go to a coast where there is no other watching than by those people whose whole interest it is to allow stuff through for their friends in Spain? There ought to be some action taken in that matter.
I listened to the statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade this evening. which simply went round and round every single point. It 2177 was a clever speech, but it was an insult to the intelligence of this House. This zoning scheme simply reduces this country to the position of taking part in a plan for providing that everything is done that can be done to interfere on one side; and then they send the Noble Lord here to make pretty speeches to cover up the fact of the farce that this non-intervention scheme really is.
§ 8.42 p.m.
Lieut.-Colonel Sandeman Allen
A great deal of criticism has been levelled at the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in regard to lack of information on the part of the Foreign Office, but I would remind the House that in the last two General Elections the information received by the Socialist party was extremely inefficient and small; and to get information in time of war is a very different matter indeed. If I may bring the House down, to use the words in the scheme, to the "focal area," I would like to deal with the machinery of the Bill rather than with the reasons for the Bill. We all admired the clarity and lucidity with which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade moved the Second Reading of the Bill, and I hope that this House will see its way to pass the Bill, as being a real contribution towards a settlement of the very sad state of affairs which exists in Spain and towards the peace of the world.
This Bill is being hastened through Parliament. It is going through all its stages in both Houses, I understand, in 14 days or less, and in those circumstances extra care is undoubtedly necessary to see that no serious mistakes are made. This is a novel and an exceptional Bill, involving more control over the coasts of a country which is in a state of war. The powers of the Board of Trade in this Bill to alter legislation once we have passed it are very great indeed. That is admitted, and the Government have put in certain safeguards. To my mind, the necessity for this Bill should not last a very long time, but circumstances are most extraordinary at all times. One never knows how they are going to shift from day to day, and it might easily be that this Bill may be required for a longer period than is anticipated. Would it not be possible for the President of the Board of Trade to consider making this Bill function for 2178 only 12 months, so that it could then again come before the House for discussion in the dire event of its continued necessity 12 months hence? I am certain that this House does not like parting with such enormous powers to a Government Department, and I hope that that suggestion will be considered.
The necessity for this Bill is political, and undoubtedly a certain burden will he placed upon the shipping industry. I think the House ought to be very careful to see that no single industry should he picked out to bear a special burden for a special purpose of national importance, and that there should not be too much cost to the shipping industry involved in this Bill. The results of this action of the International Board will undoubtedly prove the innocence of Great Britain in the matter of supplying munitions of war or volunteers to Spain. I would ask the President of the Board of Trade to be careful that any regulations affecting British steamers are not more onerous upon British shipping than any regulations brought in by foreign Governments. There should be equity of treatment as between the vessels of our country and the vessels of any foreign country.
I should like to ask also whether any alternative scheme has been considered. There was, I understand, an alternative scheme put forward, but has it received serious consideration and what is the position in regard to it? The case of the steamship "Springwear," which was ordered into Gibraltar, shows the advisability of using an alternative scheme. The "Springwear" is owned by the Springwell Steamship Company. The directors of that company are men of the highest integrity and honesty. That ship was ordered into Gibraltar and had to discharge its cargo, which was examined. It was found that there were no munitions and that it was innocent of any contravention of international regulations. Who had to pay the demurrage and the cost of discharging that cargo and examining it? Have the steamship owners, who have turned out to be innocent, to bear the financial burden, and what will happen in future if similar cases arise? The alternative scheme, I understand, was that observers should be at the place of loading of a steamer that is bound for Spain, and it seems to me to be a much simpler arrangement. If the alternative scheme 2179 should prove to be more attractive, am I right in saying that Clause 3 will give the President of the Board of Trade power to turn over to that scheme, should it be agreed upon by the board?
I was glad to hear from the Under-Secretary that action was going to be simultaneous between all the principal competing Powers. I look upon that as very important, but I hope that all the notice possible will be given to shipowners of the date of starting this scheme. The costs to shipowners will be fairly considerable and they come under two heads. First, the shipowner has to make arrangement for the necessary deviation arranged for under the Bill. He has possibly to arrange for extra supplies to his bunkers and for his food supplies on board. He has obligations to arrange with his agents and customers for whom he is carrying. He may have specified dates by which to deliver; he may have obtained his orders by having given specified dates, and those dates in the contracts might easily be broken. Demurrage will be incurred, for which I see no provision in the Bill, and there may be liabilities unknown. The liabilities under paragraph zo of the White Paper are not very serious, but it says:No payment will be made from the International Fund referred to in paragraph 52 below to shipowners in respect of delay or diversion occasioned by the necessity to embark or disembark Observing Officers,provided the administrators carry out the drill correctly. It says that no payment will be made. It may be said that shipowners will not suffer but will get money from the clubs. If the draw-out is too large, then surely the clubs will increase the amount of money they will get from the shipowner and in the long run the shipowners will have to pay. That is the matter for consideration by the House. Paragraph 17 in the White Paper says:The Observing Officers will be carried on the same conditions with regard to liability for life and property as are passengers on the vessel in question.I cannot see anything in the Bill to implement that paragraph, and I would like some assurance from the President of the Board of Trade that there is no such liability. I can see no reason why a shipowner should be held liable in law for the same risks with regard to the observers whom they are compelled to 2180 carry as a national duty in order to carry out an international duty as they are with regard to passengers. The expenses that are liable to be incurred by the shipowner come largely under Clause i, Subsection (6), and they are dealt with in the White Paper in paragraph i6. Clause 1, Sub-section (6), says:An Observing Officer carried in a ship in pursuance of this Act shall, while on board the ship, be entitled to be provided with subsistence and accommodation, and to require signals to be made and to require messages to be sent by wireless telegraphy.It states in paragraph 16 of the White Paper that shipowners will be placed under an obligation to provide messing similar to that provided for the master of the ship or first-class passengers. I see now that it states that payment will be made for that, and, therefore, that meets my point. In Sub-section (8) of Clause r it is stated that the Board of Trade "may" make regulations as to payment for subsistence and accommodation. I think it ought to be stronger than "may." The shipowner is entitled to have his expenses paid. The same word "may" applies to the payment of tolls and dues and rates or charges incurred by a ship, but I hold that the powers of the Board of Trade should not be optional, and that we should say that they "shall" make regulations providing for payment. Whether the words "may" and "shall" have the same meaning in this case is a point for one of the legal Members of the House, and I should be glad to get information upon it for nothing from the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). Will he tell me?
Lieut.-Colonel Sandeman Allen
Then the point was a good one to make. Here is a really technical point which I hope the President of the Board of Trade will be able to answer. Take the case of a charter party—I do not mean by charter party the avoidance of the British flag, but a charter under the British flag. In the case of a charter from, say, London to Barcelona, the insurance policy normally says that the voyage must be a direct one without deviation; and if there be deviation to a second port the insurance policy is invalidated. I want to ask, Is the onus to be on the owner of the steamship to insert a provision in the contract to cover that point, or will 2181 the existence of this Bill, when it becomes an Act, free him from that necessity? It is an important point, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to clear up the difficulty in my mind. In paragraph 21 of the White Paper we find that representatives of the Governments of the countries in which the observation ports are situated will consult with one another with a view to reaching agreement on behalf of their respective Governments:(a) for the exemption, on a mutual basis, of ships calling at these ports merely for the purpose of embarking and disembarking observing officers from dues and other charges (excluding pilotage) normally paid by ships entering those ports, or (b) if this is not possible for the reduction of these charges.Would it not be possible for this country to give a specific lead in this matter by stating at which of our ports the vessels will be exempt from dues? Further, may I presume that the retention of the right to charge pilotage dues does not imply compulsory pilotage except where pilotage is compulsory—I mean that pilotage is not to be made compulsory where it is not already compulsory. In this matter of deviation, with all its difficulties and expenses, I hope that the Board and the Board of Trade will see that the charges falling on an industry which is largely finding things difficult enough, especially in the Spanish trade, shall be reduced to a minimum.
Paragraph 12 of the White Paper deals with the picking up of observers, and I see difficulties there which ought to be cleared up. For example, the normal route of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company's vessels to South America is via Corunna and the Azores. If those vessels have to pick up an observer I think Brest is the port they would use under the terms of paragraph 12 (d) of the White Paper. When a vessel clears from Corunna for South America via the Azores to what port will she have to return her observing officer? The nearest French port is Bordeaux, but that will mean a deviation of 500 miles there and 500 miles back, adding 1,000 miles to the voyage. If the vessel is deviated to Lisbon that will be 300 miles both ways, and, besides, Lisbon is an extremely dangerous and difficult port for vessels which do not go there regularly, especially large vessels, being, indeed, a dangerous port at all times, because of the liability 2182 to stranding. I believe that Oporto is only 200 miles away, but that is equally dangerous. What is to be the position in those circumstances? I do not want to enlarge on this aspect of the matter, but I could give examples of other voyages. What I want the House to realise is that there ought to be the utmost elasticity in the working of this Measure. The International Board and the Board of Trade are using the best available brains in working things out, and I am certain that they will pay close attention to these important points. I notice that Sub-section (3) of Clause 1 of the Bill differs in its wording from paragraph 18 of the White Paper. The Sub-section says:When any ship to which the Act of 1936 applies … leaves a port or place in Spanish territory bound to any port or place not in Spanish territory, she shall proceed to the prescribed place taking the shortest available route thereto unless otherwise agreed.Paragraph 18 of the White Paper says that the administrator at an observation port will have the right to require the master of a ship which has embarked observing officers:To disembark them at any port which would not entail an unreasonable deviation after the vessel has finally quitted Spanish waters. To this end the master of such a ship will be put under an obligation to disembark the observing officers (at the discretion of the administrator or deputy administrator at the port of embarkation) either at the observation port nearest to the route that the master intends to follow after leaving Spanish waters or at any other port which does not entail more than 50 sea miles additional steaming.So far as I can see, the wording of the Bill might entail a journey of considerably more than 50 miles; but again I hope that I shall be reassured by my right hon. Friend, whose knowledge on this subject is much greater than my own.
Lieut.-Colonel Sandeman Allen
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that suggestion. I had overlooked it. Another point on which I should like information is what is to happen in case one of the countries concerned should retire from this work. Is our sphere of operations to be extended, is our coast watch to be lengthened? Is there any possibility that at some time ours may be the only country carrying out this work? Is there any provision to meet the situation after a certain number of nations have dropped 2183 out, so that we shall not be left holding this rather difficult and costly baby? Further, I should like to know just as a matter of curiosity on the part of a back bencher, why our Government have made themselves responsible for payment of 80 per cent. of the cost of the special arrangements in Portugal, the remaining 20 per cent. being paid by the Portuguese Government? Why are not France, Germany, Italy and other nations paying their quota? Why should we be the only ones to pay? I have asked a number of questions on this Bill, but I hope it will be interpreted only as an indication of my anxiety that the Bill shall prove to be a really useful one. Those questions have not been put by reason of any hostility to the Bill. I should like to give my assurance to my right hon. Friend who is in charge of the Bill that I consider that he is on the right track, but we ought to make the machine we are using as perfect as possible, and I wish to give him the strongest support for the passing of this Measure.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made us an extremely attractive speech in which he admirably carried out the mission with which he had obviously been charged, namely, to tell the House nothing at all. In the course of his remarks he said that hon. Members on these benches always attributed either the ignorance of a fool or the deceit of a knave to the Foreign Office. I must confess that in the past I have entertained both those dark thoughts myself, but I do not really believe that either of them is true, though I believe that the Foreign Office under stress and strain often resort to taking on the protective colour of ignorance. The Bill which we are discussing and the variety of questions which are addressed to the Foreign Secretary on every day on which the Foreign Office is open to bombardment are an indication of the very great strain which is being borne at the present time, not only by those who speak for the Foreign Office in this House, but by the whole personnel of the Foreign Office as a result of the unprecedented complexity and anxiety of the international situation at this moment.
2184 I would most sincerely like to acknowledge the care and courtesy with which questions are answered, in spite of that strain. In reply to a question which I put to the Prime Minister the other day, he told me that we had not the benefit of the presence of the Air Minister in this House because of the strain to which the Air Minister is being subjected at the present time. On that analogy I should not be surprised to hear that our Foreign Secretary was going to another place. If Ministers discover that the way to get out of being heckled and cross-examined in this House is to tell a tale of strain to the Prime Minister, they will all be keeping strain charts over their beds in future, in order that they may get into a less exacting atmosphere.
The Minister who introduced the Bill has received a great many compliments to-night upon the clarity and lucidity with which he did it, but I thought that he spoke with what I have heard described as the "dull competence of a homely stenographer." When he was explaining the Bill it was obvious that he himself entertained very grave doubts as to its efficacy. During the War, I had at various times to consider a great many matters and problems analogous to those raised in the Bill. In my humble opinion, the Bill will not for technical reasons work unless there is complete good faith on the part of everybody concerned; and if there is good faith on the part of everybody concerned you do not want the Bill. As the scheme is not to come into force until 27 nations have come into line about it, I cannot help feeling that there is a chance that it may never come into force at all.
Lieut.-Commander Sandeman Allen
Is not that rather in contradiction of what the Bill is proposing to do? The major nations, in consultation with each other, are reducing the number to about seven. It does not matter about Latvia, for instance.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
If the hon. and gallant Member will look at the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow, he will see that my words have reproduced very faithfully the words of the Minister in introducing the Bill. I took them down at the time. The last thing I want to do is to misrepresent him. The real point of the Bill is this: Is Mussolini likely to watch his plans in Spain going wrong, 2185 if a few more men and some more munitions would enable him to achieve success? Will not that forceful, able and unscrupulous man be able to find some way of evading the provisions of the Bill? Matters of prestige may become involved. Suppose the Italian troops in Spain meet with defeats so that Italian prestige and honour become involved; will Signor Mussolini be deterred by the Bill, or by anything that the Non-Intervention Committee may do, from endeavouring to wipe out the stain from the Italian name? Let us remember also that the head of the Italian Government has declared that he will not tolerate the establishment of any government in Catalonia which is incompatible with Italian political ideas. In face of such considerations as those, how can we expect that the Bill would be effective? The Bill and the scheme in the White Paper obviously leave wide loopholes for evasion in every direction. This is a face-saving Bill, and the Minister has very little faith in it, but was obviously trying to put the best gloss on it that he could.
My hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) said that he felt "doubt and grave misgivings" about the Bill. I can share his grave misgivings, but I have no doubts about the Bill. It will not do what it is intended to do or give justice to the Spanish Government. That Government has been denied her rights in International Law from the beginning of this business. It has been left to the Ambassador of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics to expose the humbug of the Non-Intervention Committee. Our Government have burked all the issues which have been raised. Their conduct has been cringing and cowardly and as usual they have betrayed Democracy. Under the control arrangement outlined in the Bill, German and Italian warships will, I suppose, have a happy time leading double lives, stopping the arms of the Government of Spain by day and shelling the Government troops by night. Does anyone seriously imagine that German and Italian warships are going to assist at sea in undoing the work which their armies and their air forces are performing on shore? The idea is ridiculous.
The Fascist Powers have objected to air control. They have so handled matters that from 70,000 to 100,000 Italian troops were in Spain before they 2186 agreed to the ban on volunteers. In spite of what we have heard to-night, does the Under-Secretary of State deny the reports that Italian troops were landed in Spain after Italy had given her consent to a so-called ban? There are circumstantial reports of two landings of Italian troops in Spain since then. The Noble Lord asked us for proof about it; how can we prove it from these Opposition benches? We have not got access to official reports. Have the Government no information? Have they received no reports at all from their consular officers in Spain. Have they no intelligence service in Spain, and no Secret Service operating there?
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is putting before the House as a fact that Italian troops have landed in Spain after the signing of the Agreement, but if he has no proof of it, how can he put it forward as true?
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
Listening to the hon. and gallant Gentleman I have always felt that he has his thoughts wired for sound. I am dealing with the very point he raises. Have the Government received no reports at all from the Commanding Officers of His Majesty's ships in Spanish waters? Have they issued any orders to Commanding Officers of those ships to look out for the landing of foreign troops in Spain; if so, have they had any reports? Of course, the Government have had plenty of information. I have no doubt that some of it has been true and some of it has been false, and they seem to make it a practice to act on the false information and ignore the true. Do the Government seriously deny all these circumstantial reports of the landing of Italian and German men and munitions? I know all about the Press. The Noble Lord was very contemptuous about the Press, but do papers of the reputation of the "Times" and the "Manchester Guardian" commit themselves to publishing such information unless they are satisfied about it? They know that, as responsible newspapers, they would be damned for ever, if it were proved, in the long run, that they had been deceived into publishing and giving prominence to false reports.
Speaking on this question of men and munitions, the Noble Lord made a most 2187 absurd remark. He said that because of non-intervention only a trickle had got through to Franco. Every schoolboy knows that Franco has been saturated with munitions, and that he has more at the present time than he can find men to use them. I repeat, are these reports to be denied? What about the reports of what happened at Malaga? Will the Government deny that the bombardment of Malaga was directed by a German staff on board the "Graf von Spee"? Do they deny that Malaga was taken by a force estimated to number 20,000 Italians, thousands of Germans, and thousands of Moors, and that that victory was hailed in the Italian Press as an Italian victory? If they have no information, have the Government examined the Spanish Note of last Saturday? Have they any observations to offer upon the statements, quoted in that Note, obtained from captured Italian soldiers and officers? Do they deny those statements? Do they deny the statement that an attack by Italian and German warships on Barcelona is foreshadowed, under the pretext of watching the coast? Why should Spain be made the victim of such a scandalous violation of international law as the presence of this Italian army in Spain represents? This Bill depends upon good faith and how can one believe in the good faith of a country which is perpetrating such breaches of international law in Abyssinia and in Spain at the same time? What are our Government waiting for in order to accept the invitation of the Spanish Government in that Note to examine what are described as clear and categorical proofs of the allegations put forward by the Spanish Government?
I pass to another point. Why has the question of the removal of foreign troops from Spain suddenly become mixed up with the question of Spanish gold sent abroad by the Spanish Government? The Italian and German Notes of 25th January about the withdrawal of foreign troops said nothing at all about this gold. Have we reminded those Governments of that fact, and pointed out to them that there is no connection whatsoever between this question of Spanish gold and the removal of foreign troops? Have we reminded the Italian Government of their Note of 7th January on this subject, in which they said: 2188If the Governments concerned should agree, the Italian Government would be ready to give its support to the initiative.If the foreign troops and military advisers are left in Spain to determine the result of this Spanish war, then the work of the Non-Intervention Committee, and all the control which this Bill proposes to set up, are worth exactly and precisely nothing at all.
We see in Spain the new technique of war that has been invented by the totalitarian States. There is no declaration of war and you go on talking about nonintervention while you carry the war on. It is all very well for the Government to talk about the Anglo-Italian Mediterranean Agreement, and about the status quo being protected in the Mediterranean, but I see that Franco has assured Mussolini in these words, that he "would not forget the friendly Italian hand which shook their own." I wonder how that augurs in the future for maintaining the status quo in the Mediterranean. There are powerful elements in this country which consider a victory for Franco to be the lesser of two evils, and I remember a very remarkable leading article in the "Manchester Guardian" which pointed out that opinion in this country was divided strictly along class lines, and went on to say that Franco was a type of man with whom the military and hunting set in this country would instinctively feel at home, while they would feel slightly uncomfortable with Senor Caballero. These powerful interests would sacrifice our Imperial interests in the Mediterranean to their class prejudices.
Having first of all deprived the Spanish Government of their right to buy arms, and having winked at Italian and German procrastination while Germany and Italy were pouring arms into Spain, the Government have now agreed in effect to blockade the Government of Spain, in order to remove the last possible chance of a victory for the Spanish Government. I, for one, cannot support a Bill which is only eye-wash, and which can mean nothing except harm to the Spanish Government so long as the foreign troops remain in Spain. Non-intervention, although they may deny it, was sponsored by our own Government. It has broken down, like most of our attempts in foreign affairs. It has broken down, and the responsibility lies on our Government to 2189 show whether Hitler and Mussolini are to rule the roost in Europe, and to do as they like, or not. If we are always to beat this retreat before the dictators—this retreat which has been going on ever since the Manchuria incident—if we are to go on beating this retreat interminably before the dictators, we shall fade away as a Great Power in Europe, then, indeed, war will be inevitable.
§ 9.23 p.m.
Duchess of Atholl
I should like to dissociate myself emphatically from the suggestion made by the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher), and by the hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) before him, that the Government have been biased against the Government in Spain. In saying this, I speak as the wife of a soldier who has felt quite clearly for many months past that a victory for the insurgent forces in Spain would be very much more disadvantageous to this country than a victory of the Government forces. I am certain that our Government have been most anxious, and have done their best, to hold the balance fairly and to be really neutral as between the two parties; but they have been faced with a terribly difficult task, and I am afraid I do not feel that I can acquit them of having been too ready—perhaps it was an intelligible mistake—to accept at its face value the assurance given them by the German Government on 8th August that they had not sent, and did not intend to send, any help to either side in Spain. I think it was probably on account of that assurance that our Government put into force the measures necessary for nonintervention—and, as I understand it, the Russian Government followed their example—at a date considerably before the date which, at least nominally, was accepted by the Governments of Italy and Germany, which already by that time were definitely sending out help to the insurgents. A day or two ago my heart was really wrung to hear, from someone who had seen it when he was in Spain, how British volunteers in the international brigade had had to face German and Italian machine guns with rifles of the 90's, and even the 80's, of the last century.
If they go and fight for either side in Spain they are doing something which they ought not to do.
Duchess of Atholl
Free men, anyhow before the Government made any announcement about the foreign Enlistment Act, had a perfect right to leave this country to fight on either side, and I greatly admire the men who are ready to go and sacrifice their lives for some cause in which they believe.
With regard to these nationals, of whom the Noble Lady is so proud, going to fight with the Government forces, does she not know that many of these men went over there completely under false pretences?
Duchess of Atholl
It is possible that some may have gone to Spain under false pretences, but not all, and I am ready, to give anybody the benefit of the doubt. It is true, as my Noble Friend said, that our own shortage of arms and equipment would not have made it possible for us to send any very considerable, supply of rifles or anything else, but I think it would have been possible for us to have sent a supply that might have, saved a good many lives, and British lives among them, and if we had not put our non-intervention measures into operation quite so early it is possible that_ Russia would not have done so and she might have sent considerable supplies to, the Spanish Government. As it is, I have no evidence to show that she sent. any supplies until October. Coming to the Bill, I was very glad to hear my Noble Friend candidly admit that he: thought this Bill only half a loaf. That gives me real hope that the Government will be vigilantly watching its operations; and will be ready to make it more watertight if they see that that is necessary.
I cannot speak with any of the expert. knowledge which has been shown by some other hon. Members, notably the 2191 hon. and gallant Member who sat down a few minutes ago, but I cannot help feeling anxious about many parts of the Bill. Take the exclusion of the Canaries, for instance. One has heard for some time that these islands are in the hands of the insurgents and one has heard of considerable German activity there. I cannot help sharing the fears expressed by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) that it may be possible that men and supplies will be accumulated there, which may in course of time be sent to the insurgents.
I feel moreover real anxiety about the fact that it is Italian and German ships which will be patrolling the Catalan coast. The hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) referred to the statements made by Italian prisoners and reported in the "Times," that arrangements have been made for a bombardment of that coast. The hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley) pooh-poohed the idea that any bombardment by the ships of Germany and Italy had taken place. It is terribly difficult for any of us to know. One can only pick up a grain of fact here and there, but I feel bound to say that a few days ago I met someone who had been in Spain during most of the war, and he told us that his own car had been bombarded by a German submarine on the Catalan coast. He spoke also of bombardment by German cruisers but he said that he regarded the passive control exercised by Italian ships as something more serious even than these occasional bombardments. By passive control he meant that when a Government warship tried to attack an insurgent warship an Italian warship came in between and so the Government warship was unable to do anything. Early in the civil war the German cruiser "Deutschland" steamed backwards and forwards across the bay between a Government ship and Ceuta.
Thus there seems to be real danger of a bombardment of the Catalan coast, and I should like to ask the Government seriously to consider the proposal made by the hon. Member for Derby that there should be neutral observers on the German and Italian ships. I am sure that none of His Majesty's ships would object to neutral observers. It would be a tremendous relief to hon. Members here to 2192 know that there were going to be competent neutral observers on the German and Italian warships. I may add a note of great anxiety as to whether these ships may not attempt to prevent ships carrying food and other stores reaching Catalonia. I speak as chairman of a committee which exists to send relief to Spain. We have been despatching various things, milk for children, foodstuffs, clothing, and lorries to help to evacuate the civilian population. It is a terrible thought that there may be delay or even the impossibility of these supplies reaching the destination where they are so urgently needed.
I wish to associate myself with the anxiety expressed by the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) with regard to the laying of mines. I have had a little information on that subject in the last week or so. It seems to constitute a great danger to the supplies which are being sent to innocent populations, and to ships which are evacuating refugees. Would not the Government consider sweeping up these mines? That is a task which His Majesty's Navy are thoroughly competent to perform. They have had great experience and if they could do anything of that kind it would be a very real service to the Spanish people on both sides.
Then I come to the question of the foreign troops. When I heard my Noble Friend say there was no evidence of Italian troops having been sent to Spain since 20th February, I could not help remembering that it was on 1st December that we heard of the landing of 5,000 or 6,000 German troops, and that it was as long ago as Christmas Eve that the Foreign Secretary addressed a note to the German and Italian Gevernments on this very question of sending troops. Therefore, my Noble Friend's admission, in spite of all the discussions that have taken place since Christmas Eve and the hopes that were being held out early in January that this matter would be dealt with, and the assurances given that the German and Italian Governments would stop these so-called volunteers, that they were going into Spain freely and in considerable numbers, particularly from Italy, down to 20th February, is a very serious matter.
I was very glad to hear him speak of the withdrawal of these foreign troops as 2193 a most urgent question, and I am extremely glad to know that the Government are evidently going to address themselves most seriously to it. It is bound to be a very difficult question. I would ask the Government if they do not feel that the information which has lately reached us on the evidence of Italian prisoners, that not merely individual Italians but actually whole Italian divisions with divisional commanders are there, does not constitute something new and even more outrageous. It seems to me a clear case of aggression with which the League of Nations might well be called upon to deal. I wish to remind the Government that they and the French jointly sent a very strong Note, I believe, to the German Government when there was an anticipation of German troops being landed in Spanish Morocco and, as a result, the German troops were not sent. We have also more recently heard that a good deal of public feeling has been able to show itself actually in Germany over the losses that have been incurred by German troops in Spain, and that is said to have made the German Government rather less interested in the Spanish situation than they may have been before. That gives us some hope that by firm pressure either from the Non-Intervention Committee or through the League, it may be possible to get these foreigners withdrawn. I believe that if the peace-loving Governments show themselves resolute and united, they can do a great deal more than they sometimes fear they can. So I hope my right hon. Friend will give most serious consideration to the proposals that have been made to-night from the benches opposite and will vigilantly be on his guard to do his utmost to turn what has been called half a loaf into a complete one.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Cocks
I congratulate the Noble Lady on her speech. We know that she has taken a very great interest in the Spanish question, and has been for some time engaged in very valuable work on behalf of the women and children there. I was pleased to hear her tribute to the gallant Englishmen of the International Brigade who are driving the Italians like a lot of sheep before them, and have added a new lustre to the fighting traditions of our race. It was a reference in quite a different style to that which was, unfortunately, made about them by the 2194 Foreign Secretary some time ago. The Noble Lord who spoke for the Foreign Office started to suggest, as has become rather fashionable lately on the Government benches, that there is very little difference between the Opposition and the Government, and that there is a big measure of agreement between them, but in vain is the net spread in sight of the bird. I do not agree with anything that the Government has done, is doing or is likely to do in the future and I am particularly opposed to this elaborate, artificial, mischievous and malignant piece of make-believe that they have produced this evening.
I should like to say a few words about the history of non-intervention. In the first place, the phrase itself is a very misleading on, deliberately invented to suggest that anyone who is opposed to the Government's policy is in favour of intervention. As a matter of fact, we are the true non-interventionists because it is the Government, by preventing the Spanish Government having the right to purchase the arms they need for their own defence, who are intervening on the side of the rebels. When the rebellion took place last summer and General Franco and his generals seized the principal arsenals, the Spanish Government was left without the weapons it needed to maintain order and defend itself against the rebellion and, as any other Government would do, it sought to purchase those arms, with its own money, from manufacturers in foreign countries, a right which I do not think has ever been disputed before except, perhaps, in the case of Abyssinia. I am certain that, if it had been a Royalist Government faced by a rebellion of the workers, no obstacle would have been placed in their way. As it is not a Royalist but a democratic Government, every obstacle has been placed in its way. On 19th August, without waiting for the assent of Germany or Italy to the agreement, although they knew that Germany and Italy had been supplying arms continuously to the rebels, the British Government placed an embargo on all arms going from this country into Spain, with the result that no arms have gone to the Spanish Government from this country and the embargo has aided the rebels, has helped to strangle the legitimate Government, and, 2195 in my view, it has also had the effect of prolonging the period of civil strife.
Last December when I went to Spain for the first time, the position was that the rebels were a comparatively small body of men. The usual estimate was not more than 30,000 or 35,000 General Franco's army consisted of Moors, members of the Spanish Foreign Legion of the officer class, a few Carlists and Fascists, assisted by German and Italian artillerists and tanks and, above all, German and Italian aeroplanes. The Spanish Government, on the other hand, had an enormous reserve of marl-power. Signor Caballero told me himself that, if they could be supplied with arms, they could raise an army of 500,000 men which would sweep Franco into the sea in three weeks, and I believe they could have done it then. The whole population of Spain under the control of the Government was behind them, but they had hardly any arms. We saw men and women in Madrid marching to the front amid scenes of great enthusiasm, but only the first 20 or 30 were armed with rifles. The rest were armed with clubs, swords, hatchets, and weapons of that kind. The spirit of the people was magnificent, but as was once said of the Charge of the Light Brigade, it might be magnificent, but it was not war. To send people out to face a modern army with machine guns, rifles, aeroplanes and modern machines almost without arms at all was really inviting them to commit suicide. Thousands of these men and women are dead to-day who might have been alive and victorious were it not for the policy of His Majesty's Government. It is for the deaths of these men and women and the prolongation of the period of strife that I say the Government have a very heavy responsibility.
There has never been an embargo at all on General Franco's side. From the beginning arms have poured in continuously to the rebels from Germany and from Italy; they came even before the rebellion. If it had not been for the Italian and the Junker aeroplanes, Franco could not have got his Moors over the Straits of Gibraltar into Seville, because he had not then the command of the sea. It was because of these aeroplanes that he was able to bring the Moors over and mobilise them on the 2196 Spanish front. It was because of these weapons coming in that he was able to make his celebrated march up to the walls of Madrid. To illustrate how the embargo has worked and to answer the Noble Lord's suggestion that the embargo would be a help to the Valencia Government rather than to the rebels—and I think it is a very striking instance—when the rebellion started, 75 per cent. of the Spanish Air Force remained loyal to the Government. They had a majority in the air at the beginning, and when we were there in September that had passed away and we were told by the commander of one of the airports at Madrid that it was 13 to one in favour of the rebels in the air. Every time a Spanish aeroplane came down—the machines were somewhat old and antiquated—it was a dead loss and could not be replaced, whereas the rebels were being supported by a continuous supply of the latest aeroplanes from Germany and Italy. Senor Prieto, Minister of Marine, said that the policy of the embargo was bringing the Spanish Government fatally to disaster. When I saw these things happening in Madrid, I felt ashamed of seeing the result of the British policy, but I could say, as the Foreign Secretary could not say, in the words of A. E. Housman:My hand, although my knuckles bleed,I never shamed with such a deed.It was at that moment when darkness seemed to be falling over Spain and the hopes of the Spanish Government that two things happened. First of all, there was the arrival in Madrid of the first contingent of the International Brigade, and, secondly, the arrival of a very large supply of arms of every kind, machine guns, field guns, heavy guns, rifles, ammunition and tanks, and, above all, aeroplanes from, I think, Soviet Russia. I was under the impression last December that they all came from Soviet Russia, although I have heard lately that some of them may have come from Mexico or Czechoslovakia. Anyhow, I am content to say that they came from Soviet Russia because M. Maisky the Ambassador, told the Non-Intervention Committee that the Russians intended to keep the non-intervention agreement in exactly the same way as the Italians and Germans were doing. But these arms came, and if it had not been for this breach in the agreement and the help which the Spanish 2197 Government obtained, perhaps the British Government would have been satisfied with the results of their policy, because the Spanish Government might have been defeated and General Franco might have been the victor. It was because it was broken by Russia, after it had been broken by Italy and Germany, that the Spanish Government were saved. There was a change in the situation in December. Mussolini and Hitler being unable to obtain a victory for Franco simply by supplying him with munitions and aeroplanes began to supply him with regular troops. The troops began to arrive in large numbers in Spain in December, and all that the British Government could do was to make exactly the same mistake on the question of volunteers that they made on the question of arms. Without waiting for Italy and Germany to agree they placed a ban on volunteers to Spain from this country and the Foreign Secretary had the meanness to get up in this House and suggest that the brave Englishmen who recently saved the Valencia Road at a cost of half their numbers and who were fighting in a most heroic manner for Spain—he had the meanness to suggest that they were going out with the hope of large monetary rewards or that they had enlisted under the influence of drink. I should not be likely to be of much value myself from the military point of view, but I would much rather be a member of that gallant band fighting for liberty which knows frontiers under the walls of Madrid than be a Foreign Secretary standing up at that Box and uttering cheap sneers at poorer and braver men than himself.
The Foreign Secretary did more than that. concluded what is called a gentleman's agreement with Signor Mussolini, but made no stipulation apparently when the agreement was made regarding the Mediterranean last December that Italy should refrain from sending troops to Spain. It was exactly the same mistake as that made before at the Stresa Conference when another agreement was made with Signor Mussolini and nothing was said to him about Abyssinia. That same mistake was repeated this year in the Mediterranean Agreement, and as no stipulation or suggestion was made that as a result of signing that agreement Italy should stop sending troops to Spain Mussolini naturally considered that he 2198 had carte blanche to send as many troops as he liked. From that time to the present Italian troops have been sent not in single spies nor in battalions but in whole divisions, and it is estimated that there are over 100,000 Italian troops in Spain, and I have even heard it suggested that it is double that number, in addition to 30,000 Germans. That is an estimate that is given by many authorities and the Foreign Secretary to-day, in answer to a question put by me, admitted that he had reports from Gibraltar that Italian troops have landed in Cadiz since the agreement was signed on 20th February.
It appears that there is no longer civil war in Spain at all. What is happening is the invasion of Spain by the Fascist countries. I saw in an American paper that Malaga was captured by a force consisting of 15,000 Italians, 10,000 Germans, 5,000 Moors and 5,000 of the Spanish Foreign Legion, so that it was not captured by a Spanish Army at all. After Malaga was captured an Italian warship came to the quay, in the open light of day and disembarked 1,000 Italian soldiers. No doubt the Spanish people are beginning to feel that like the Abyssinians, they are being deserted by the democratic powers of Europe. In my view this particular Measure and its system of supervision will be a miserable farce. The ban on so-called volunteers was first suggested by the British Government on Christmas Eve. There were interminable delays in the discussions caused by Germany and Italy. Italy eventually agreed to the ban but continued sending in troops. The ban was actually fixed for 20th February, after she had got a huge army into Spain, and it is said now that there are more on the way. The Spanish Government have sent a note alleging that two more Italian divisions are on their way to Spain.
How will this agreement work? Some people seem to think that because fleets from four nations are to encircle the coast of Spain they will be able to stop ships going in with munitions and men. All that they are entitled to do is to observe whether or not they are going in with munitions and men. They have no right to stop them and say: "You shall not go in." Ships can go in loaded with men or guns and all that the British Admiral can do is to report to the International 2199 Board, which in turn will report to the Non-Intervention Committee, which will perhaps discuss it for weeks. Meanwhile, the troops and the munitions will have been landed, they will have gone up to the front and perhaps they will have been responsible for the winning of a victory for the rebels. That is what may well happen under this control by the Fleet. Troops will be able to go in to the assistance of the rebels. If the ships are Italian ships, transferred to General Franco, and flying his flag, they can steam in under the guns of the British Fleet, and there will be no right of inspection or observation so far as their cargoes are concerned. They can steam past our Fleet, as they did at Alexandria, making obscene gestures at the impotent and powerless British Navy.
With regard to the coast held by the Government of Spain, that is to be patrolled by German and Italian warships which have been actually bombarding Spanish towns and taking part in the Civil War in a scarcely veiled way on the side of the rebels. Suppose ships go in with munitions or men presumably for the Spanish Government? The Italian or the German Fleet can stop them and inspect them, and while they are stopped perhaps one of the rebel cruisers, like the "Canarius," with German or Italian gun-layers on board, will come along and either capture or sink the ships, or an Italian or German submarine, disguised as a Spanish war vessel, may come along and do the sinking. Or under the guns of the German or the Italian warships a fleet of Italian transports may come up and disembark an invading army on the coast of Catalonia. The Italians have sent 100,000 men to Spain, and they are not going to allow them to be defeated for lack of munitions or reinforcements. There would be a revolution in Italy if that were allowed. It would be said: "Our men have been sent into the centre of Spain, and under this agreement, although they are short of munitions, no help is to be sent to them." No Italian Government, let alone a Government under Signor Mussolini, would allow such a thing to happen.
This scheme, like the previous scheme, is deliberately designed to handicap the Spanish Government to prevent anything being done, to quieten the public conscience and to damp down any agita- 2200 tion hostile to the Government's policy, until General Franco, Mussolini and Hitler have blotted out Spanish liberty in blood and with poison gas. The scheme is a farce and a sham, brought in in pursuit of a shameful and fraudulent plan, and I ask the House to reject it by a large majority.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft
Having listened to a series of speeches which I can only describe as of a dangerous character, I desire, without, I hope, offending the susceptibilities of any hon. Member, to make my protest. I have had the great privilege of being in this House for 27 years, and I have never heard a Debate which has filled me with so much fear for the future peace of the world than that which has been proceeding this evening. We have had so many speeches and day after day we have so many questions which are reported in the papers of many countries, that I cannot help saying, as one who perhaps has been for a long time with the British Tommy in the front-line trenches, that I beg this House to consider whether we are really pursuing a peaceful policy in the attacks which have been made this evening not on one but on three or four of the great nations of the world.
I know that hon. Members above the Gangway feel very strongly on this question. We had an honest speech from their leading speaker, who said quite definitely that he was out to support the Spanish Government side. There was no doubt about it. He said that he was biased. We have heard again and again in speeches from hon. Members the phrase: "This is what the Spanish people and the Spanish Government are standing for." Let us hold the scales fairly. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad that we have had those cheers. I presume it will now be admitted that at least half of Spain is in General Franco's territory. If the people in that territory are not behind General Franco, how is it that he can leave the whole of his line of communication without defence for hundreds of miles.[An HON. MEMBER: "He is supported by Italians."] I thought from what has been stated that "50,000 Italians" were on the Madrid front!
I receive information, not from Spaniards but from the British colony in 2201 Spain. I have been receiving hundreds of letters for the past four months, and I learn that the people behind General Franco are happy and contented and pursuing their usual avocations. When General Franco made his attack on Malaga there may have been many people there who sympathised with the Red forces, but it has to be realised that very large numbers of young Spaniards are training as volunteers for General Franco. They have not been used yet. They have been training for six months. General Franco and his supporters do not persuade their people to go into the line before they are trained. [Interruption.] If I am giving offence I am very sorry, but I want hon. Members to realise that a large number of people in this country have seen their fellow Christians butchered in vast numbers in the first days of the revolution. There may have been cruelties on both sides, that may be true, but are we going to help things by making enemies of half of the Spanish people?
Surely the policy of His Majesty's Government in trying to be absolutely independent is right. Surely we ought to do what we can to assist His Majesty's Government to work with other democratic Governments to localise the conflict. An hon. Member has told us of a Spaniard whose motor car was bombarded by a German submarine. How could he know that it was a German submarine? I do not think we should take for granted all the reports which come over the wireless. We must try to keep calm. After all, it is a pretty big combination which hon. Members opposite have been attacking this afternoon—Germany, Italy, Japan, and Portugal. Ought we not to try to set an example to the whole world to preserve peace? Hon. Members opposite will agree that no Italians or Germans could have taken part in the conflict but for the fact that they had the active leave of their Governments. But is it not the case that there were thousands of French volunteers passing day after day through the railways into Spain, that Britons who were also serving with General Franco came hack saying how these men were streaming through day after day? It stands to reason that Italy and Germany would do something to alter the balance.
Do not let us throw stones. This is a tragic happening, and it is an explosive 2202 situation. We do not want to add fuel to the flames. We do not want to attack anyone with all the adjectives that have been used in the course of the Debate, and with accusations of double dealing and how these foreign Powers, after they have come into this agreement, will for certain start bombarding the coasts. Do not let us make any mistake, the peoples of Germany and Italy are behind their Governments, and if these attacks are made on the leaders of these countries you are going to inflict an injury which they will not forget. I hope the House will do what it can to help His Majesty's Government to strengthen the Bill if there are weaknesses, but at the same time we must do our utmost to show that if the world is mad we at least are trying to keep sane.
§ 10.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Grenfell
The hon. and gallant Member who has urged that we should not offend half the people of Spain does not mind if he offends the other half. I would ask the hon. and gallant Member not to allow himself to be influenced solely by class feeling. There is a much bigger thing involved than that. I have been to Spain, and I have seen the attacks on the Spanish people. I am filled with sympathy for them in their plight. I have not the slightest bit of hatred towards anybody in Spain. The Debate this afternoon has certainly disclosed strong feelings on the part of all hon. Members; and that is not to be wondered at. I have listened with as much calmness as I can to the Debate, and the impression it has made upon me is that we should try to realise the situation in Spain. We are not concerned with a piece of domestic legislation but with a piece of business affecting in the long run the lives of our own people. We are, in fact, intervening. This is intervention by legislative means, calling upon the people to translate into legislation what we think should be done in the supposed interests of the Spanish people. This is intervention, but it would be wrong to assume that only military intervention has taken place.
For the last three years there has been political propaganda of a very intense nature in Spain. Hon. Members opposite will mislead themselves if they assume that it was political propaganda by the Russian Bolshevik party. Spain was 2203 honeycombed with Nazi propaganda a long time before the actual military clash took place, long before the two sides had actually taken up their lines and long before there appeared the military material and personnel sent by the Italian Government to take part in the struggle. From the beeginning this has not been a civil war. It has been an invasion of Spain in the interests of those countries who are now carrying on the task of helping General Franco. Intervention began in a small way when a number of people went in July, August and September as volunteers filled with enthusiasm for the cause of liberty. Some went as volunteers by land from France and England, and some went overseas by air from Germany and Italy, but it must be remembered that in the former instance this was intervention by the individual who was prepared to make his sacrifice. Government intervention has been confined to the Governments of Italy, Germany and Portugal.
We have been told that we must not offend Italy, Germany and Portugal, but it is no use being mealy-mouthed about this. The legislation before the House is necessary only because we are not able to trust the pledged word of certain countries, and because intervention has been found to he a fact. I believed last July and August that non-intervention was a sound policy, but when intervention under government auspices began to take place and governments permitted intervention for their own advantage, it would have been just as well if non-intervention had become the policy of all the nations in Europe. I believe that eventually nonintervention would have secured peace.
There has never been a scheme of nonintervention. After nine months of waiting, this is our first opportunity of discussing a plan for securing non-intervention. Hitherto we have relied on the good word of various Governments, we have kept up the pretence of the Non-Intervention Committee and of trusting one another; but it was all a farce. It was a great offence to this House to lead it to believe that there was a bona fide attempt by the 27 nations to carry out the pledge which they signed in August last not to intervene in Spain. I do not believe a single nation has carried out that pledge quite properly, although I believe this country has been closest to 2204 perfection in that respect. Non-intervention has never been a fact, and there has been intervention by almost every one of the signatories.
If there had not been violations of the agreement, which were partly in the interests of the Spanish Government, that Government would have ceased to function long ago. Happily it exists, it has not ceased to function, and it has carried out its responsibilities to the Spanish people and its responsibilities abroad to this day. It is the de facto Government of Spain and there is no reason for not recognising that. From the beginning we have claimed, as I have no doubt many hon. Members opposite also have felt, that a Government elected as recently as the Spanish Government had been had the unqualified right to arm itself in order to be able to assert its authority.
Hon. Members opposite ought to try to get rid of the idea—as one or two have done this evening—that because only a small majority of the Spanish people was in favour of the Government, it was not the elected Government. Very often in this country we have been governed by a Government which represented a minority of the electorate. The Spanish Government had a perfect right to go into the markets of the world to secure a sufficient supply of arms with which to defend its interests against those people who disagreed with it and revolted. But no Government should be expected to have to defend itself against foreign invaders interfering in quarrels on its own soil. There can be no justification in any circumstances for the appearance of German and Italian troops in Spain. No hon. Member should ever think of attempting to justify that.
Time after time evasive replies on this matter have been made by the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State. Probably he made those evasive replies in the interests of diplomacy, but I do not believe that evasions and concealments pay in the long run. It would have been much better if we had taken official notice of the breaches of the non-intervention pact, to which I believe this country and France were committed in good faith. We ought to have taken official note of those breaches long ago. Now we have come to the point that there is in Spain an expeditionary force almost as large as that 2205 which was sent from this country to the Continent in 1914. There can be no doubt at all about the fact that there is a substantial body of trained Italian troops in Spain. I am consoling myself with the view that the Italians have sent so many people to Spain that they may yet regret it. I believe it possible that the Italians who are already in Spain may refuse to fight. There is no good reason why they should fight. They are deluded victims who were brought to Spain under the pretence that they were going to Abyssinia or somewhere else. I have spoken to some of them and from what I have heard I think that the Italian people when they find how they have been tricked may revolt, and that that revolt may begin on the soil of Spain. Should that take place it will be the signal for very serious consequences to the internal security of Italy itself.
I beg the House not to assume that intervention is a new thing which is going to be dealt with by this Bill. This is a miserable Bill which has no substance at all, no authority behind it and no penalties within it. It provides for nothing but the sending of a few retired naval officers on joy trips with notebooks, to take note of what they see on vessels going from English ports or any of these other ports, to Spanish ports. These men are expected to look round on these ships, to see what kind of packages are in the holds, to watch the goods when they are being discharged and to report on what they see being discharged. Then their duties are finished. There is no real authority anywhere, and no power even to stop the discharge of military material. They have only the power to make notes and to submit a report in a very round-about way to somebody higher up, who, again has no authority, but considers the matter and reports, in turn, to somebody who is further up still. The Bill only carries on a pretence which has cost Spain a great deal already, and is involving Europe deeper and deeper in the possibilities of a conflict from which we shall find no escape unless we take some more definite step than this.
German and Italian aggression is becoming more and more open. It is not confined to the fighting fronts in Spain. Spanish Morocco is now occupied. 2206 I do not think that can be denied. The last explanation I saw of the position there was that certain light guns had been mounted under the direction of German experts. If the German experts are there, I believe that Germans will be using those guns should the opportunity arise. The House will be adopting a ve ry dangerous course if they accept the view that this Bill is going to do anything to bring the Germans and Italians out of Spain. Does anybody believe that if the Germans and the Italians have deemed it worth while to send 100,000 men there, with a large amount of material and many tanks and guns, they are simply going to go away when this little row is over and forget that they ever had anything to do with Spain? No, they are in Spain staking their claim, and probably the price has been determined beforehand. Germany and Italy are not going to go empty-handed from this adventure. General Franco knows quite well that he cannot win without their assistance, and with that knowledge he is relying more and more, in the prosecution of this military adventure, on the assistance given by Germany and Italy. The Bill does nothing to stop it, and I would like this House to consider quite a different kind of proposal.
I do not know whether I should be in order on the Second Reading of a Bill to suggest that what the House should be doing would be to devise means, and to express, in terms agreed on all sides of this House, our determination that we shall not look with favour upon, that we shall be no party in any way to, the invasion of Spain which we are witnessing. It is in the interests of Spain, of humanity, of European peace, of justice, and certainly in British interests, that this thing should be stopped. It would be very nice if we on this side of the House were to be left to teach the British Imperialists where their interest lies, and no one can deny that there is a very great danger to British interests. Germany and Italy are already intervening in Spain, and they will not give up their intervention because of the fear of anything in this Bill. They will, therefore, continue, and I would much prefer that a statement should be made in this House to-night that we think the time has come for a genuine non-intervention, for the ending of all intervention on the part of 2207 these Governments, and for the institution of an immediate plan to that end. Anybody could fashion that plan. I believe that I could fashion it.
I believe that any serious, sincere man, any man keen on securing peace in Europe, could devise means by which you could withdraw the volunteers on both sides in Spain. They are not difficult to find. I saw the volunteers on the Government side, and the House may be surprised to know that there were no more than 2,500 of them on the Madrid front when I was there in November—a small body. I, who am not a soldier, honour them very much for the tremendous gallantry which they displayed in the face of abnormal odds, defending Madrid day in and day out, days on end, in inclement weather and under very hard circumstances—Englishmen, Germans, Frenchmen, and Italians. I honour and respect them very much indeed, but I feel sure that it would be better in the interests of Spain if they were removed from Spain. I believe that the Spanish people can settle this quarrel by themselves. After all, they have to live with each other again. When an hon. Member opposite said that we must not do anything to endanger our own relations with the people of Spain, can we, by allowing intervention, hope to make peace with the people of Spain, who are to be butchered and exterminated by the armies of these interventionists? I do not think you can get peace in Spain on those terms.
I feel sure that General Franco will never rule the people in Spain. I am convinced that there will be so much resentment against the mode of his attempt to capture power that the people of Spain will never forget it. If we can get nonintervention and withdraw the people who are now fighting in Spain, on our side, and give assistance to the Spanish people to settle their own affairs, I think we can assist in those later conditions which we may hope to bring about. In those conditions I think we ought to be able to help the Spanish people.
§ Captain Dower
When the hon. Member was in Spain, did he see any Russians there? Were there any Russians there?
§ Mr. Grenfell
I made particularly close inquiries on that point, and I want the 2208 House to believe me when I say that I was just as anxious to find out the truth about that matter as anybody in this House. I never, and my colleagues with me, turned away from anything because I found that it did not suit my book. We went right through them and looked for everything. We interviewed the head of the International Brigade in Madrid, who gave us details and figures of Germans, French, Italians, Czechs, Poles, English, and Belgians. We had the figures of all the nationalities which composed the international column and brigade, and there was no reason why we should be deceived. We went to the fighting fronts and saw the people there. I happen to know Russian when it is spoken, and I did not hear one word of Russian spoken among the companies of the international brigade whom we met night after night. I heard German, French, Italian, and English spoken, but never a word of Russian. I assure the House there were no Russians fighting on the Madrid front in November and December last. It is said that there are Russian aeroplanes. I saw some aeroplanes which I believed to be Russian. I was told they were flown by Russian aviators, but that the number was not large. I was told that on the authority of an English flyer who was flying for the Spanish Government, and he knew the details in regard to aviation in Madrid. I do not think that any Russians have been seen, unless they have been such Russians as those which went from Aberdeen to London in 1914. I am sure there are no Russian soldiers in Spain. I am sure that the trouble in Spain is not due to intervention by Russia. If I may express my personal view, it is that it is much more due to intervention from Germany in the form of insidious propaganda long before the revolution started.
I would like the House to take a much more definite attitude towards this question of non-intervention. We have assumed a form of responsibility for it, but let us take a much more real responsibility, a responsibility affecting our influence and prestige in the world. I am sure we shall help Spain if we come out definitely on the side of non-intervention and of the withdrawal of those people who have gone to Spain with aggression in their mind and who are committing acts of aggression every day. I was led by curiosity to-day to look up the De- 2209 bates in this House nearly 100 years ago, and there I found the words of a well known statesman, Lord Palmerston. Speaking in the House on 19th April, 1837, he used these words:The opinion which this House will to-night pronounce will decide not simply between conflicting parties in England, but between antagonistic principles struggling for ascendancy in the other countries of Europe, and on that decision may depend the peace, the welfare and the happiness of nations.I ask the House to take a real responsibility in this matter, and I am sure it will be a much more effective piece of legislation than that which is offered to the House in this Bill.
§ 10.33 p.m.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Runciman)
The Debate to-day has not followed the usual Rules of our Procedure, for in every part of the House there has been more freedom from the technical restrictions of debate than usual. The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) was one devoted mainly to the general lines of policy as expressed by our actions in Spain and with regard to Spain, whereas the Motion before the House is the Second Reading of a Bill which does no! of itself express any opinion on general policy, but is the mere machine by which that policy is to be executed. I make no complaint of the wide range of the Debate, but I should like before I come to the larger topics which have attracted our attention so profoundly—and, may I say, in some respects so painfully?—to get the technical problems out of the way.
I was asked by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Birkenhead (Lieut.-Colonel Sandeman Allen) a question with regard to the "Springwear," which was arrested outside Gibraltar. The "Spring-wear" appears to have fled from an armed trawler belonging to the insurgents. She made her way to Gibraltar and there, under the Act passed last year, the Carriage of Munitions to Spain Act, the authorities proceeded to examine her cargo. I do not think my hon. and gallant Friend knew what had been the result of that examination. We have today received a telegram to say that the whole of her grain cargo had been discharged, and that there are no munitions of war and no arms anywhere in her hold, so that she has now a clean sheet. I 2210 cannot say what arrangements have definitely been made on the spot, but I presume that her cargo will now be reloaded. In a case of that kind it is obvious that it would be wrong to place the whole burden of the loss of, probably, a fortnight of the ship's time and any consequences of deviation, on the shipowner's shoulders. Neither the shipowner nor the master of the ship is in any way blameworthy, and I hope that when consideration of that case comes on it will be one of the cases dealt with under the financial provisions which are being made.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
And will that ship receive protection in delivering its cargo to where it was consigned?
§ Mr. Runciman
I express no opinion as to the course that ought to be taken by the authorities. I am only giving my hon. and gallant Friend the information for which he asked, and the latest information is that the ship has been found to be entirely free from anything in the way of arms. If she is carrying food to other countries there may be other reasons for her not going on there, but they will not arise out of her cargo or the kind of traffic in which it has been engaged. I was also asked by him whether vessels which were taken to a port or went in for observation purposes would have to pay port dues. The two ports with which we are mainly concerned are Dover and Gibraltar, and in neither case will the dues be a very serious matter, but it is just as well to say that if dues are to be paid in respect of these observation calls, they must of course be a charge upon the non-intervention fund. They ought not to be a burden on the shipowner because of the ramifications of our national policy. He also wished to know on what grounds the observing officers were to be carried—whether on the same conditions in regard to life and property as passengers in ships. I think that is the least we can do for these men who have to discharge these extraordinarily disagreeable duties. One of the very few things on which I differed profoundly from my hon. Friend opposite was a remark he made with regard to the observation officers being on "joy 2211 rides." I cannot think that he imagines that going backwards and forwards across the Bay of Biscay at this time of the year is a joy ride, and I think he must realise the wisdom of the Board in selecting for this service, when the time comes, some of the old salts who are really hardened to that kind of joy ride.
Lieut.-Colonel Sandeman Allen
If there is a claim on the shipowner for such a liability, will the shipowner have to pay or will the fund meet that claim?
§ Mr. Runciman
In the first place it will be paid by the ship, and then the ship will have the right to collect from an insurance fund. I will deal with another point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend. I hope the House will forgive me for dealing with so many points in his speech, but really his was the only speech which was strictly in order.
§ Mr. Runciman
I make the fullest possible acknowledgment of the generosity. May I now deal with the last point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend. It was with regard to diversion of ships. If he will turn to paragraph 20 of the White Paper on page 12 he will note under (a) that provision is to be made for a limit of four hours. It is only a small amount and will not be very serious, but it does deal justly with those who otherwise might be aggrieved because they were complying with the law of the land. May I now come to that part of the subject which has excited our interest from the beginning to the end of this Debate? Non-intervention is obviously the best line of policy that we could pursue.
§ Miss Wilkinson
May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is leaving technicalities now, because I was promised a reply on my question about change of flag?
§ Mr. Runciman
I did not know that the hon. Lady had raised that question. I must have been out of the House at the time. There is no reason why there should not be purchase and sale of ships. We cannot prevent that. I think that covers the case which she had in mind. May I now come to the main question? I listened with the very greatest care to the speeches made by those Members of the House who went to Spain to obtain information first hand. I respect their assiduity and their courage, but I would point out how extraordinarily difficult it is for several individuals to obtain an impression of a whole country. We know that sort of thing happens again and again in our own country and abroad. It is a very common experience. I hope, therefore, that we shall not attach overdue authority to the travellers who, in all good faith, and with very great perseverance and at the cost of their comfort and even of their health, did their best to find out. Whatever they found out is, I am sure, no better than the worst. Everything one hears of the conduct of the war in Spain makes one feel more and more disappointed that, in this stage of our civilisation, there should be going on in Europe the kind of atrocity on both sides that really is deplorable. I have no desire whatever to be associated with either one side or the other.
I personally hold the very same principles that are embodied in the scheme which has been under discussion in the Bill now before the House. I believe that non-intervention is the only course that we can properly take. I do so for this reason: Collective authority is, after all, a principle which is supported on both sides of the House. There is no monopoly of enthusiasm for collective authority. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) made a very strong and passionate appeal for support of collective action in some form or another, but he finds the Bill unsatisfactory. Yet he himself is pledged to the general policy which is embodied in this document. On 2nd March, he said:The principal fact is that at long last some system of control over the so-called nonintervention agreement is we hope, about to be introduced."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd March, '937; col. 304, Vol. 321.]It is that same degree and system of control which we are wishing to pass through 2213 the House to-night. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not wish to depart from his desire of 2nd March.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I did make a special appeal to the Government on that day—if the right hon. Gentleman will read a bit further—to make the system of control which they proposed really effective. We, unhappily, regard this Bill as extremely ineffective, particularly after what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the question of transfer of flags, which really knocks the bottom out of the whole thing.
§ Mr. Runciman
Transfer of flag is not such a simple thing as all that. I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that, if non-intervention is really the policy that he would support, what divides us at the present time is the means we adopt in order to reach non-intervention effectively. Let me remind the House of what we have done. I think it was as long ago as last autumn that we were pressed strongly by the present Prime Minister of France to support his non-intervention policy. We fell in with his desire, and have done our best to play our part in the creation of machinery by which non-intervention should become effective; and the scheme, whatever may be said about its ramifications, is a perfectly genuine attempt to frame machinery by which non-intervention can be supervised, observed and laid bare for public criticism. One of the great troubles that we have had all along is not only that we cannot get information covering the whole country completely, but we have found it extraordinarily difficult to obtain the necessary amount of accurate information with regard to the supply of arms and other munitions of war. This Measure goes a very long way towards laying bare the facts as they may be ascertained, and it covers such a wide area that I venture to prophesy that very little will get through the sieve.
The object we had in view was to attempt, so far as we could, to obtain international support, to draw with us the most influential Powers of the world; and it is no inconsiderable achievement to have got 27 of them to come to the same conference and to bind themselves to the same conditions. It may be very easy to sneer at them, and say that they will not keep their word, but in international agreements you must take for 2214 granted the honesty of the men with whom you are dealing. To adopt the Line of distrusting this man or the other man, or of not regarding international agreements with respect, is, I venture to say, a wrong way to proceed either to bring about collective authority or to maintain the peace of the world.
If the hon. Gentleman and his friends are really in favour of non-intervention, I think we can go a considerable way in agreement with them. I am not anxious to emphasise or exaggerate points on which we differ, but let us see on what points we are agreed. We are agreed that we do not wish to enter into this war on either the one side or the other. However strong feeling may be in favour of one side or the other, there is no considerable body of opinion in this country that would tolerate our going to war. That is one of the points on which we are agreed. Secondly, I am sure we are agreed that international agreements provide us with the only alternative, either to no agreement at all, which may lead to friction, or to a dangerous situation out of which war may spread.
I feel certain that hon. Gentlemen opposite, just as much as those who sit in other parts of the House, will agree that we are putting our Navy to good use in exercising a remarkable degree of naval vigilance. Those dangerous waters are being patrolled, thank God, by British ships. I only wish we had more of them to do it. The drawback from which we are suffering at the present time is that we have scarcely enough to go round. But I believe it will be agreed in every quarter of the House that that is the right way in which to proceed. We can operate our own ships with a greater sense of security than we can get through agreements outside. We know exactly what is happening. They have to obey orders which are issued from this side; they must conduct their several occasions in exactly the same way if they were within 20 miles of Whitehall, or 2,000.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman what power His Majesty's ships have to compel a ship to stop? It is easy to hoist false colours, or to alter the name of a ship at sea, and, if that ship will not stop, but intends to go through with a cargo of arms or whatever it may be, what power have His Majesty's ships to compel that ship to stop?
§ Mr. Runciman
If my hon. and gallant Friend will cast his memory back to last year, he will remember that we passed an Act which does provide that British ships may be subject to arrest, and we obtained statutory power for taking that action.
I have in view a foreign ship which hoists the British colour, paints out its name and paints in the name of a British ship with the deliberate intention of going through the patrol. What power is there to stop that ship?
§ Mr. Runciman
The hon. and gallant Member may have had occasion to order the hauling down of a flag. If a vessel does fly a wrong flag and attempts to disguise herself under the British flag she is liable to arrest under the Merchant Shipping Acts. He wants to go further, and says that why should we not do something to arrest foreign ships? Unless a ship breaks some of our domestic laws it is impossible to arrest a foreign ship, unless there is a blockade. On the whole we had better restrict our vigilance to the duties which have been described to-night, and not extend them as the hon. and gallant Member suggests.
The last two points on which we are agreed are these. I presume that both sides of the House realise that it is only by co-operative action, covering the largest possible number of people, that we can secure anything likely to be effective and permanent in the present conditions. I believe that the whole House is agreed that it is not right that these duties should fall on us alone. What is to be deduced from these various points of agreement? Surely this, that we must act together in so far as we can draw the nations together into one room, sign one document, and carry through one code; that to do that is far better than attempting to act alone, which cannot be effective and must inevitably be dangerous. The machinery has been devised to give a sense of fair play, and I would like to draw attention to the fact that two of the chief administrative officers will be Admiral Van Dulm, who is to be chairman of the board and Rear-Admiral Olivier who is to be chief administrator. Colonel Lunn is to be chief administrator in France. You will have at the head of this organisation men whose integrity 2216 we can rely on. There will be no partiality shown by them, and I am certain that when it comes to the appointment of observation officers there will be none of the irregular proceedings which have been suggested in some parts of the House. The chairman of the board and the chief administrator are both Dutchmen.
Having reached the stage where our objects are the same, what happens over the methods by which they are to be attained? They have been condemned in some quarters as inadequate, and the hon. Member who has just spoken did all he could to belittle the efforts expressed in this Bill. I can only say that this Bill embodies the findings of the authors of the scheme, that 27 peoples have given their names to it, and I am bound to believe that they did so in good faith. Unless we are to accept their good faith I do not know where we shall stand in the future. Of the 27 peoples involved in this undertaking, seven might be regarded as of first-class importance. We should be delighted to welcome any others who care to enter into the same bonds. We have not only used them, and intend to continue to use them, but we rely upon the assistance which comes from all independent opinion and from some of those who are themselves not given to entering into international obligations in Europe. I say nothing about what may be done by the trans-Atlantic Powers, but it is certain that sooner or later their attention will be so closely concentrated upon affairs in Europe that they will be expressing a view. When they do express a view, do not let us start off by describing to them a condition of things which is really far from the truth, namely, that you cannot trust those with whom you enter into international obligations in Europe. I am prepared to take in good faith any great Power which attaches its name to these international instruments.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Why are we setting up a patrol if it is not for the reason that they have shown that they cannot be trusted?
§ Mr. Runciman
I should not express it as crudely as that. We are setting up a patrol because we want the whole of the facts made known to the civilised world in the belief that that knowledge will do more to foster a peaceful atmosphere than almost anything else that we can 2217 undertake. I believe this war in Spain is likely to become a war of exhaustion, and in that dreadful process the suffering and loss of life will be almost incalculable. It, is for that reason that I regard this Debate as being one of really grave importance. I think we can make one contribution, at all events, toward international action, which appears to me to be the only way out, and that is to give authority to the executive Government to carry through the policy that is embodied in this scheme.
§ 10.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I want to draw attention to the fact that democracy is being tested in the struggle that is going on in Spain. It is the first occasion on which democracy has made a real stand against aggression, and that is important not only for the people of Spain but for the Members of this House and for the people of this country. The hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Pethrick) repeated to-night what has been said so often. "We want to isolate the conflict." In Manchuria our desire was to isolate the conflict, and when aggression was allowed to ruin Manchuria it brought about, as a natural consequence, aggression very much nearer, in Abyssinia. Then our whole desire was to isolate the conflict in Abyssinia. Once again aggression triumphed. Then it came from Abyssinia to Europe, and so Fascist aggression will go on if it is tolerated until this world lies in ruins, and out of the ruins will come our immaculate but hopelessly ineffective Foreign Secretary and he will address the other planets and inform them that we have isolated the conflict.
I have listened to-night to arguments of such an extraordinary character that they show their shallow support for democracy and their real support for Fascism. Why should anyone come to us and say that we must trust the word of the representatives of these other nations, when the representatives of those nations have not only deliberately and ruthlessly broken treaties, but have stated time after time that they are prepared to break their word at any time or to make promises in order to deceive? This sort of thing has been expressed on different occasions, but the speech that was the most remarkable was that of the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I do not know whether the Government put him up with 2218 any serious intentions or not, but, at any rate, it seems to be a very pitiful commentary on the intelligence of the Government when we get such a representative making such arguments as he made on this occasion. He told us that they strongly suspected that Arabs were going into Spain.
I would direct the attention of the House to the fact that Franco has half of the Spanish territory, but he has not half of the Spanish people in that territory. He has territory which is essentially sparsely populated and largely agricultural, but the great industrial centre of Spain is Barcelona. The great munitions factories are in Barcelona. Will any representative of the Government who suspects that arms are going into the country tell us where Franco's arms are being manufactured, if not in Italy and Germany? There is no other place for them. There are arms coming all the time from Barcelona. The great factories are working day and night producing guns and aeroplanes, but where are Franco's factories? They are in Germany and Italy. This is something to which sufficient attention has not been given.
The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs comes here and suggests that you see half-a-dozen Italians in one place, and that when you go to other places you see the same half-dozen, as if Franco was keeping half-a-dozen Italians to parade round his particular part of the country in order to create the impression that he has a lot of Italians on the job. This is the sort of argument we get from the Front Bench. The Italians and the Germans have an army there. That is clear, and nobody with any reputation to lose would dare to dispute that fact. The hon. Member who spoke from the Front Bench started off by exhorting the Members of the House not to listen to stories. The Noble Lady who spoke from the benches opposite said something about someone who had seen a German submarine. Do not listen to these stories, he said, and then he ended his speech in the most impassioned language by saying what were Italy and Germany to do when people whom he know, who were over in France, saw train load after train load of Frenchmen. His advice is that we should not listen to any stories against Franco, but that we, should listen to any amount of stories against the other 2219 side. If an hon. Member on the Government side puts a question, he has an inquiring mind, but if anyone from these benches puts a question he has a suspicious mind.
The important thing that has emerged from to-night's Debate is that there are Britishers in the International Brigade but they have not been sent by the British Government or are not paid for by the British Government. There are Frenchmen in the International Brigade, who have not been sent by and are not paid for by the French Government. There are Germans in the International Brigade not sent by or paid for by the German Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who pays for them?") But no one will deny that the Germans and the Italians who are on Franco's side are regular trained soldiers sent by the German and Italian Governments and paid for and maintained by those Governments.
There are many volunteers who have gone out to Spain and who have endured the greatest hardships in order to go there. Some of them have stowed away in trains and have slept by the hedge-side. They are young men who have volunteered because they believe in democracy. I wish hon. Members opposite believed in democracy as these young men do. Hon. Members opposite asked who pays for the International Brigade. There has been a campaign in this country organised by various people appealing for funds in order to help in the maintenance of the brigade. Hundreds of letters come in containing contributions large and small. I have seen letters with 10s. notes, £5 notes and cheques for £5 and £10, and so on. There was a meeting in the Albert Hall for medical aid for Spain, and £2,000 was taken in the collection. From every part of the country, towns and villages, help is forthcoming. In my own county of Fife, in mining villages, you can get a meeting and have a collection of £30 in aid of the International Brigade. That is where the money is coming from.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Yes. From such places as Buckhaven and St. Andrews. I was at St. Andrews the other night at the University, and I got a very good reception when pleading the cause of Spain. These young men who have volunteered have gone out because they believe in democracy, not for any fee or reward, and not because they have been deceived by anybody. The British battalion in the International Brigade has given service to the cause of democracy which is one of the finest episodes in the history of the working-class and progressive movement in this country. It is a record of which we ought to be proud.
I join with the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) in his remarks about the Foreign Secretary. How can the Foreign Secretary, talking about men who are in the trenches facing all the mechanised weapons of Germany and Italy with inadequate arms, heroically fighting, say that he has received a letter from someone in Paris, who apparently wanted to have his fare back home saying that somebody persuaded him when he was drunk to go to Spain? That is the story. He was drunk when he was in London, drunk when he got to Dover! What a story!
§ Mr. Gallacher
I accept your Ruling. I want to say that this House, representing, as it claims, the centre and stronghold of democracy, should gladly pay its tribute to these young men who have sacrificed their lives in the fight for democracy. I and my hon. Friends, at any rate, will pay this tribute and do our utmost to see that the cause for which they have died shall triumph and that the reactionaries, the Fascists, shall find their grave in Spain.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 192; Noes, 86.2223
|Division No. 114.]||AYES.||[11.12 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Aske, Sir R. W.||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col, G. J.||Attor, Hon. W. W. (Falham, E.)||Brocklebank, C. E. R.|
|Agnaw, Lieut.-Comdr, P. G.||Atholl, Duchess of||Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Bull, B. B.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Bernays, R. H.||Burgin, Dr. E. L.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Birchall, Sir J. D.||Butler, R. A.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Boulton, W. W.||Campbell, Sir E. T.|
|Apsley, Lord||Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.||Carver, Major W. H.|
|Cary, R. A.||Holdsworth, H.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Holmes, J. S.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Radford, E. A.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hopkinson, A.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Cazalat, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Channon, H.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Hulbert, N. J.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Hunter, T.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Raid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Keeling, E. H.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Kimball, L.||Rowlands, G.|
|Crooke, J. S.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Latham, Sir P.||Runciman, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Croom-Johnton, R. P.||Lackie, J. A.||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)|
|Cross, R. H.||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Lees-Jones, J.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Liddall, W. S.||Shakespeare, G. H|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Lloyd, G. W.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Loftus, P. C.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Doland, G. F.||Lyons, A. M.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Dower, Capt. A. V. G.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Duncan J. A. L.||McKie, J. H.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Emery, J. F.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Markham, S. F.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Errington, E.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Everard, W. L.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Touche, G. C.|
|Fildes, Sir H.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Foot, D. M.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Turton, R. H.|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Furness, S. N.||Munro, P.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Ganzoni, Sir J.||Novan-Spenee, Major B. H. H.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey and Otfey)||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Gluckstein, L. H.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G. A.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Palmer, G. E. H.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Guy, J. C. M.||Patrick, C. M.||Wragg, H.|
|Hannah, I. C.||Peake, O.||Wright, Squadron-Leador J. A. C.|
|Harbord, A.||Peal, C. U.|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Penny, Sir G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Petherick, M.||Mr. James Stuart and Lieut.-|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Colonel Llewellin.|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Pilkington, R.|
|Adams, D. (Consult)||Fletcher, Lt.-Cnmdr. R. T. H.||Maclean, N.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Gallacher, W.||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Gardner, B. W.||MacNeill, Weir, L.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Garro Jones, G. M.||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Marshall, F.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Mathers, G.|
|Batey, J.||Grenfell, D. R.||Maxton, J.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)|
|Bevan, A.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Muff, G.|
|Brooke, W.||Groves, T. E.||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Cape, T.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Paling, W.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Potts, J.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hopkin, D.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Jagger, J.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Cove, W. G.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Ridley, G.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||John, W.||Ritson, J.|
|Daggar, G.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Rowson, G.|
|Dalton, H.||Kelly, W. T.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Day, H.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Shinwell, E.|
|Dobbie, W.||Lathan, G.||Silkin, L.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Leach, W.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Ede, J. C.||McEntee, V. La T.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||McGovern, J.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Smith, E. (Stoke)||Watkins, F. C.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Smith, T. (Normanton)||Watson, W. McL.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Stewart, W. J. (H'ghf'n-le-Sp'ng)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)||Wettwood, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Whiteley, W.||Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Stephen.|
|Tinker, J. J.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House, for To-morrow.—[Captain Margesson.]