§ Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 10.41 p.m.
I do not know whether this is the first time in our history that we are proposing to pass legislation to enable a foreign warship to stop an English vessel on the high seas. I want to know for how long it can make it stop. Although it is not actually in the Bill, we have to remember that similar legislation to this is to be passed by other countries which will enable ships which are not ours to be stopped by foreign war- 2398 ships. I should like to point out how dangerous this will be. A ship may be steaming towards the coast of Catalonia, for example, trying to evade a rebel ship which is seeking to interfere with her, and she is stopped by a warship and deliberately delayed until a rebel ship comes up. It might be an Italian warship, which would communicate by wireless with a rebel ship over the horizon and delay the trader, which might be captured and perhaps sunk when the rebel ship came up. Is there any guarantee given to ships which obey this order that they shall not be put in the position of being captured or sunk? If a British ship. 2399 fails to comply with the requirement to stop, what can be done? Is the warship allowed to fire across her bows and, if she takes no notice, fire at her? What would happen in the case of a British ship fired at in that way by an Italian or German warship?
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I would like to support what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks), and also to urge again upon the Government the point which I raised yesterday and to which again no answer has been made, namely, whether it is not still possible to ask that the Non-Intervention Committee should make an arrangement that these ships on patrol duty shall carry neutral naval officers as observers. It is open to the very grave objection that fleets which are belligerents, German and Italian, should be patrolling the coasts of the party against whom they are fighting on the field and in the air, and some guarantee should be given that this system should not be used to extend and increase the opportunities of these belligerent fleets to carry out their disloyal, covenant-breaking operations. We hope some measures will be proposed as quickly as possible for neutral observers, Dutch or Swedish officers, to be on board every one of these vessels. There is another point which I hope will be in order. It is concerned with the vessel "Spring-wear" to which reference was made last night. The President of the Board of Trade could not tell us last night whether this vessel will be allowed to carry its cargo of wheat to Alicante, to which it is bound, and have protection.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
This deals with the powers and duties of Naval officers, but if I am not in order, I shall have to find some other opportunity of raising it. It was mentioned yesterday, and I thought that it could be mentioned now.
§ 10.47 p.m.
§ Sir S. Cripps
What is the position as regards the territorial waters of the Spanish Government? They, of course, come within the 10 miles, which is the limit within which these patrols will largely operate. This Clause purports 2400 to give powers for a foreign warship within those territorial waters to stop, for instance, a British vessel. I should have thought that that was a very grave breach of international law unless the consent of the Spanish Government was first obtained for that invasion of their waters by hostile craft. I am particularly thinking of the Eastern coast of Spain. This Clause authorises the German and Italian officers to board British vessels in those circumstances, and it is giving an implied authority to those German and Italian war vessels to come within the Spanish territorial waters in order that they may carry out these functions which are to be performed on the Eastern coast of Spain. I can appreciate that, in view of what has happened or what, anyway, is rumoured to have happened, on the Eastern coast of Spain, the Spanish Government may have the very strongest objection to these war vessels being impliedly authorised by the passage of this Act to investigate the circumstances on board a British vessel in those waters.
I should like to know from the learned Attorney-General what communication has passed with regard to the permission of the Spanish Government to operate this scheme within all these waters? I should like to emphasise what these two hon. Gentlemen have said, that the Clause authorises an Italian warship to hold up or stop a British vessel proceeding into Spanish waters, apparently more or less indefinitely. It can stop a vessel, and then, by making various requirements and negotiations and inspections, enable the observing officer to hold a vessel up for a considerable period of time, during which that vessel may be exposed to a very serious danger from hostile craft either coming from the Spanish Government or from the Spanish rebel forces.
What is to happen in that event, if in these circumstances such a vessel is sunk? Suppose that while a ship is being held up a torpedo is fired or a bomb dropped from a hostile craft or aeroplane, is the International Commission to take the responsibility for the lives of the seamen on board, and is some compensation to be provided out of the International Fund for the seamen or their dependants? In view of what has been happening with regard to certain vessels which have been in Spanish territorial waters, there is a 2401 great risk that anything interfering with the speedy passage of a vessel through those waters may very much increase the dangers to which those vessels are exposed. What steps, if any, have been taken to discuss that problem, and what decision, if any, has been reached?
§ 10.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Suppose a ship is carrying a cargo of food or grain to Spain, and receives a wireless message that it is no use her calling at a particular administrative port because there is no observer there, but she can go on her journey to a Spanish port. If such a ship is stopped by German or Italian warships, will they have power to examine that ship, to take it into port and examine its cargo? How can they tell whether there are munitions on board if there is no observer? If they board the ship and want to examine the cargo, and there is no observer there, they will take the ship to some other port and the cargo will never get to Spain.
§ 10.53 p.m.
§ Dr. Burgin
A number of questions have been raised on this Clause, and it is necessary to preface such observations as I want to make by pointing out that this is a system of international naval control, that we have given our signature to an international agreement dated 8th March, 1937, which provides for the establishment of a system of naval observation of the coasts of Spain. I will refer hon. Members, and particularly the last hon. Member, who obviously has not read it, to the provisions of the White Paper which set out exactly what this system of naval control is intended to do. They are contained in paragraph 33 onwards, and particularly paragraph 37. There is the system of naval observation, four Powers to do it—the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy—the establishment of zones, the allocation of the zones to different Navies, the establishment of a special regime in the territorial waters of countries adjacent to Spain, the duties of the countries undertaking this naval observation, the method that that observation is to adopt, and the distance from the coast at which this naval observation is to be conducted. There follows the use of special flags, and the establishment of certain areas through which merchant vessels shall pass in order that the control shall be effective. 2402 We then come to paragraph 37 of the scheme, which contains what the naval officers of these four maritime Powers are to do.
Obviously the White Paper is not part of the Bill, but it is a fairly common practice to issue a White Paper in explanation of a Bill.
§ Mr. Bevan
This is not an explanation. What we are having from the Parliamentary Secretary at the moment is an interpretation of what is meant by the Bill. Surely what is meant by the Bill is what the Bill contains, and I respectfully submit that it is not competent for the Parliamentary Secretary to ask the Committee to accept any part of a White Paper which is, in fact, not included in the terms of the Bill.
§ Dr. Burgin
May I point out that the Bill is to implement the observation agreement; that the observation agreement is the White Paper; and that the White Paper is referred to in the preamble of the Bill.
There is nothing out of order in the Parliamentary Secretary quoting from the White Paper as to what may be the intentions of the Clause. Whether the Committee accepts his contention is another matter.
§ Dr. Burgin
The whole Bill is to implement the observation agreement referred to at length in the Preamble of the Bill, and I am at the moment calling the attention of the Committee to the undertaking which the United Kingdom Government has entered into with regard to conferring powers on the officers of ships of war of certain navies. Those are obligations which have been accepted by the executive Government.
§ Mr. Bevan
In what part of the Bill are they? I most respectfully submit that the Committee is being put in a very difficult position. What undertakings have been entered into by His Majesty's Government with any other Governments which are not contained in the Bill? I submit that it is not competent for His Majesty's Government to enter into any undertakings with any other Governments except those which are, in fact, being implemented by the Bill itself. I submit that if the Parliamentary Secretary is not prepared to quote from the Bill in order to justify his contentions, it is not competent for him to use the White Paper as the instrument.
§ Dr. Burgin
The Government of the United Kingdom signed the Observation Agreement of 8th March, 1937, and by signing that agreement undertook on behalf of the United Kingdom to confer certain powers upon the Governments of other countries. Clause 37 of the Observation Agreement sets out what powers are conferred upon the Governments of 27 countries who were signatories to the Observation Agreement. The Governments which are parties to the Non-Intervention Agreement expressly undertake that they will confer upon the officers in command of the naval vessels engaged in naval observation certain rights, and those rights are to verify the identity of the ship, to order the ship to stop, to board the ship, to examine the certificate of registry and the clearance documents, to ascertain whether there are observation officers on board, whether the ship has called at an observation port, whether she has taken on board observation officers or has been furnished with an exemption, and, if and when a special plan has been agreed with regard to focal areas, to require ships to pass through those areas. No right of search is given to the naval vessels engaged in this system of naval control. If a ship fails to comply when the officer in charge of a naval vessel requires certain things to be done, the officer of that naval vessel reports back, preumably to his own Government in the first place, and then to the Non-Intervention Committee. Therefore, a great many of the problems which hon. Members have suggested may come before British or other vessels are not likely to arise.
2404 We have entered into an international agreement with a number of countries, and we cannot, except by a further international agreement, alter, amend or vary the terms of the international agreement that we have made. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) asked a question about having neutral naval officers upon these naval vessels. That may or may not be a point of substance. It is a matter which would have to be considered by the Non-Intervention Committee. It is a matter which cannot be agreed except by an international agreement. That international agreement could only be worked for and could only be procured if at all through the Non-Intervention Committee. The stage to which it can be taken as a result of the discussions in this Committee is that His Majesty's Government can call the attention of their representatives on the Non-Intervention Committee to the points which have been made in this discussion. Further than that it is not possible to go at this stage.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I understand that the Parliamentary Secretary cannot give us an assurance that the Government will try to secure this system of neutral observers. I am bound to say that fills us with some misgivings, the more so because, in the original proceedings of the Non-Intervention Committee, it was in their power, as we pointed out yesterday, to support the Franco-Russian proposals for mixed patrols, and they joined with Italy and Germany in resisting those proposals, instead of lending them support. For that reason, the more welcome would be a declaration by the Government that they are going to work for this end and the more bitterly we regret that they cannot make it.
§ Dr. Burgin
I think the hon. Member has gone a good deal further than any words of mine justified him in going. What I was at pains to point out was that, an international agreement having been made, it could not be varied except by a further international agreement, and I said that the points raised in this Committee and in the House yesterday would be called to the attention of His Majesty's Goverment's representatives on the Non-Intervention Committee. From that the hon. Member for Derby seeks to draw the conclusion that I am not prepared to recommend that course. That is 2405 quite an unjustified comment. I can give an immediate assurance that the matter will be considered and discussed. I cannot go further than that at this stage. I do not know the implications of carrying neutral naval officers on these naval vessels. I do not know whether that problem has been discussed in the Non-Intervention Committee. I take note of the point. I note the arguments that have been adduced in favour of it, and I say that it will be considered. But I would point out that, however much it might be considered or recommended, however much the Committee might want it, it could only be procured if all the nations were willing to agree, and if the agreement were procured in the form of the Non-Intervention Committee,
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I do not wish to misrepresent the Parliamentary Secretary. Our regret is that he cannot tell us that our representatives on that Committee will, on the instruction of the Government, make this proposal. If he could have told us that we should have been very glad. At this stage of the Bill—it was introduced some time ago—the Government might have been able to make up their minds. We are sorry that they cannot give us that assurance. It would have made a difference to our attitude. From all quarters attention was drawn to the matter yesterday, and there is widespread anxiety about it which is not confined to our benches.
§ Dr. Burgin
I cannot deal with a number of hypothetical possibilities. We have entered into an agreement with a number of countries that the navies of four countries should have certain powers. It is impossible to assume that those powers are going to be exercised in some manner which is improper. It would be quite wrong for a Government spokesman in anything he might say during the passage of a Measure of this kind through Committee to give the slightest colour to the suggestion that His Majesty's Government credit those Governments with whom an international agreement has been made as being capable of conduct which would not mean the full imple- 2406 menting of their obligations under the Agreement.
Hon Members opposite are pressing for an additional international agreement to be made. They are asking that there should be variations made in this scheme, that there should be revisions and that there should be additions to it. The speech of the hon. Member for Derby has been one continual suggestion that there should be further international agreements made. I ask the committee to realise how impossible it is at one moment to make the suggestion that there should be additional international agreements, and at the same time to suggest that the international agreement you make is no use. That is not possible.
The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) asked a question about territorial waters. His Majesty's Government do not assume that because these powers are conferred at 10 miles distance from the coast of Spain—
§ Dr. Burgin
They begin at the 10 miles distance, but they are no doubt capable of being operated within. It is pure assumption that they are going to be utilised within what would be Spanish territorial waters. His Majesty's Government are not prepared to contemplate that possibility. There is no reason to assume that these powers will not be exercised within waters adjacent to Spain that are not Spanish territorial waters. That is the basis upon which the Government ask the Committee to deal with the Bill.
§ 11.9 p.m.
Sir S. Griggs
The hon. Member has made two most amazing statements. He says that he does not wish to deal with hypothetical questions. What is the object of this Non-Intervention Committee? If all these nations are so trustworthy and so honest, why go to all this trouble? The whole basis of the agreement is that they are not; that somebody is going to try to run munitions and men into Spain. That is well known, and, with all respect, it would be stupid to imagine that the Italian Government, when they have large numbers of men fighting in Spain, are not going to be tempted to try and get supplies to those who are there.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I was referring to the hon. Gentleman's statement that the stopping or holding up of a ship was a hypothetical matter which he would not contemplate. I was pointing out that, in the circumstances in which this Bill was brought forward, it was a very likely event and that one of the ways of guarding against that was the one suggested by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker), to have neutral observers on board. As the Clause stands at present, it gives no sort of protection against such an event happening. As to ships going into Spanish waters, the hon. Gentleman says that is hypothetical. If he means that it is not the intention of the British Government that these ships should go into Spanish territorial waters, why does not the Bill say so? Why does it give these powers of boarding ships in Spanish territorial waters?
He has not yet answered the question whether the Spanish Government has been consulted as regards the giving of these powers to foreign warships in Spanish territorial waters to search British vessels. If he really means that this is not intended to operate in Spanish territorial waters, will he alter the definition so that it does not read "the area within ten miles" but the area between three and ten miles, in order to make clear what I understand is an undertaking given to the House to-night, that it does not operate in Spanish territorial waters.
§ 10.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The explanation given by the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary makes it clear that the Clause is an absurdity. If a British vessel is sailing with observers who are responsible to an administrator, and a warship stops it, what can the officers from the warship do? They can ask to see the registration papers and interview the observers. Of what value is that? The observers can themselves give the information to the administrator and the Non-Intervention Committee. What reason in the world is there for an Italian or German warship to stop a British ship in order to get from the observers information that the observers can give to the Non-Intervention Committee. Is it sensible? But suppose there are no observers on board, the ship may be carrying all sorts of material 2408 and the officers from the warship can do nothing beyond asking for the registry. So the ship is stopped for no purpose whatever. Well, there is a purpose, but it is not a purpose which has been expressed by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. If a ship is going with material or food to Spanish Government ports it will be stopped, but there is no real legitimate purpose as regards what is called non-intervention, to be served by the Clause. The explanation of the Under-Secretary proved that the Clause is an absurdity. We have heard about observers taking ships into ports and seeing the cargoes unloaded to ascertain whether any contraband is hidden in them or not. I am certain that once the Bill is passed, we shall have German and Italian warships stopping British ships which are carrying material to the Spanish Government and taking them into these ports and it is no use saying that they have no power to do so. They will take the power out of what is in this Clause.
The Clause has no other object but that of harrying and harassing any ships that may be carrying material to the Spanish Government. I do not know how any hon. Member who has any regard for the old, great traditions of Britain can support the Clause. I have done a bit of sailing myself and when I was at sea if there had been any suggestion of Italians or Germans having power to stop British ships and interfere with British captains and crews, it would have been regarded as horrible. I can imagine what some of the old sea-dogs will say if German or Italian officers come aboard their ships under this legislation. You say you want to prevent a war in Europe—you are asking for a war in Europe. I ask the old Tories here to think of the traditions of the past and to repudiate this Clause, which can only bring about all kinds of nagging difficulties and trouble which is of no value for any real purposes of non-intervention and which may create a situation in which British ships can be held up and even sunk by armoured trawlers or vessels of that sort.
§ 11.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Bevan
We have often had opportunities of discussing Bills accompanied by White Papers and the issue of a White Paper has always been regarded as a valuable facility, to enable Members to 2409 gain information about the background of the Bill to which it refers. But this is the first time I have known the terms of a White Paper to be used in order to interpret the language of the Bill itself. It has been the custom and indeed the rule in the past that when a Bill is being considered in Committee, it is examined with a view to finding out what interpretation can be placed upon the language of the Bill itself. From time to time we have had the benefit of the views of hon. and learned Members who have placed different constructions upon the wording of Bills, but this evening we are being asked to accept the interpretation contained in the White Paper which is not part of the Bill. I will not pursue that point, but as this one of the occasions on which we are discussing a Bill which implements an international agreement, it is necessary to examine its terms closely. The Parliamentary Secretary did not reply to the question of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), who asked him whether the consent of the Spanish Government had been obtained for this intrusion into Spanish territorial waters. As we understand it, Italian and German fleets are given power to ply within Spanish territorial waters and to board English vessels. As I understand it—and it has not been contradicted—the allocation of areas contained in the White Paper is such that the coast of Spain in the region of Almeria to the French boarder is to be handed over for supervision to the German and Italian Navies, and all English ships plying within those waters and entering the Spanish zone are open to be boarded by officers and men of those fleets.
I want to know whether the Spanish Government have been asked to agree to that invasion of their sovereign powers, because the Spanish Government are entitled to be considered on an equality with the other 27 countries which are asked to be signatories to this agreement. The Parliamentary Secretary has not yet replied to that question, and we must have a reply before we proceed to a Division on this issue because I am sure that my hon. Friends on this side will not agree to such an abrogation of Spanish sovereign powers. The Spanish Government have sovereign rights in these waters, and their consent should be obtained before we agree to such an 2410 invasion of their rights. If the Spanish Government were not embarrassed by the rebellion of General Franco and had a large fleet, we would not dare to interfere in such a way, but we are solemnly sitting in the House of Commons taking advantage of the weakness of the Spanish Government to deprive her of sovereign rights. I would like to know whether the consent of the Council of the League of Nations has been obtained to justify—[Laughter.] Hon. Members smile, but they did not smile last time when the First Lord of the Admiralty, after he resigned as Foreign Secretary, apologised from that bench because he dare not carry out the policy of this House because he was afraid of the Italian Navy. If we had equal fear of the Spanish Navy, we would not be carrying these powers this evening because they are a direct violation of the Spanish Government's rights.
I am entitled to ask whether the Council of the League have been asked to agree to this intrusion upon the rights of Spain. Spain has, under the Covenant of the League, full rights within her own territorial waters, and here we are agreeing to an act of aggression. We are agreeing to handing over the territorial waters of a member of the League to alien Powers. We are handing over the territorial waters of a member of the League to a country which has withdrawn from the League. We are full of suspicion as to how these powers will be exercised. We have not the slightest confidence in the pledged word of Italy or Germany, nor have the Government themselves. If they had confidence in their pledged word this Bill would not be necessary. We have already agreed to the policy of non-intervention and it is because some Powers, and we know who they are—Italy and Germany—have not honoured that pledge that we are called upon to discuss this Bill.
§ Mr. Bevan
That is certainly true, but I have been carried away by a number of irrelevant interruptions, and I do not propose to follow them up further. If the hon. Member wishes to do so he will have an opportunity of making his case on the Third Reading of the Bill, and then we shall be able to hear what evidence he can bring forward. The issue is that the Government hold that the undertakings have not been carried out. Does the hon. Member agree with that? It is because they have not been carried out that we are being asked to give away the traditional rights of the British mercantile marine, to expose them to the obligation to submit to being boarded by the officers of foreign fleets, and we on this side have the gravest suspicion of how those powers will be exercised, because if the nations which have broken their undertakings are the nations which are to be given the right to board British vessels, then the question of the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) becomes very pertinent. What guarantee have we that the fleets of Italy and Germany will not hold up British vessels going to Spanish ports with food for Spain, perhaps hold them up indefinitely and expose them to the risk of being sunk by Franco's fleet? Surely it is fantastic that the Committee should be asked to put such powers into the hands of nations which have been declared by His Majesty's Government to be so untrustworthy that they have to ask for legislation of this kind. I see that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade now has the support of the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, so that perhaps the insularities which are inevitable under the specialisation of the Board of Trade will be assisted by the cosmopolitanism of the Foreign Office. Perhaps the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will tell us whether the permission of the Council of the League has been obtained for this abrogation of Spanish sovereign powers. If he cannot do so, we shall divide the Committee against this Clause.
§ 11.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen
There is a very substantial point on which the Committee should have further information. Would not the 2412 Parliamentary Secretary agree to insert the words "outside Spanish territorial waters"? If the master of a British ship inside Spanish territorial waters is called upon to stop, but does not do so, is he guilty of a misdemeanour or not? As a lawyer, I would have great doubt about his position, in those conditions. Clause 4 defines what is adjacent to Spanish territory as 10 miles from the Spanish coast. Under International Law I would say that the master would have a real defence, because he would say that he was in Spanish territorial waters and that this sub-section did not apply to him, and that therefore he was under no compulsion to stop. I hope that I have made plain to the Parliamentary Secretary the difficulty that I feel in this matter. He will not deny that under International Law the master of a ship would be under no necessity to stop, and would have a good defence for not stopping when called upon.
The Committee are entitled to know whether the Clause proposes to over-ride International Law. The Parliamentary Secretary said, when he replied, that he was not denying or asserting whether International Law would apply to Spanish territorial waters in connection with this sanction. The Committee should insist on getting clearly what the views of the Government are on this matter, in view of the rights of the master of a ship, and so that our sailors will know what their position is. If the Government intend that International Law shall be overridden they should make that intention plainer than it is at present, so that individuals shall not be put to a great deal of expense because of this Measure.
§ 11.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Cocks
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade said he was not going to impute bad faith to any of the nations that were signatories of this agreement. There is no necessity for the purposes of my point, to impute bad faith to any nation; but is there anything in this Measure to prevent a rebel warship from sailing in company with one of the patrol warships and so being able, immediately a ship is stopped and the patrol warship has done its duty, to pounce upon the ship and seize it? If there is nothing in the Bill to stop that, I can only suggest the Government have either fallen into a Fascist trap or are themselves a party to an agreement to handicap the Spanish Government and assist the rebels.
2413 My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) has clearly shown that by this Measure the House of Commons is being invited deliberately to infringe the Covenant of the League of Nations. I think most Members of this Committee have been under the impression that the right to search would be exercised within, say, 10 miles of the Spanish coast; but there is nothing in the Bill to prevent warships from following ships right into the territorial waters, into the harbours themselves, into the harbours of Barcelona or Valencia or even up rivers—as long as they are tidal rivers—almost into the interior of the country. I am sure the Government have not considered this matter. The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is a strong advocate of the Covenant of the League of Nations, and his chief has said over and over again that British foreign policy is founded on the Covenant of the League of Nations. So has the Prime Minister; so has the Home Secretary; so have all sorts of Members of the Government who, while giving lip service to the League, have done their best to see it broken in many respects. Surely they cannot mean to come down to the House and ask us to legislate to commit a breach of the Covenant of the League of Nations. I suggest that they have overlooked this point. Now that it has been brought to their notice, I suggest that they should adjourn this discussion and reconsider the Bill. Because of the extraordinary position which has now shown itself to the Committee, I desire to move to report Progress.
§ 11.38 p.m.
§ The Chairman
We are now dealing with the question of a Motion to report Progress, and I have ruled that I cannot accept it. It cannot be discussed.
§ Mr. Bevan
I was not addressing myself to my hon. Friend's proposal, but to the fact that on two occasions the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, flanked by the President of the Board of Trade and the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, has been asked a perfectly proper question— 2414 whether the Spanish Government did not object to this invasion of its sovereign rights. We have been told on a number of occasions that it is the policy of the Government to protect, in co-operation with other members of the League, the sovereign rights of any member of the League. It is hardly consistent with that policy that we should be asked to discuss a Bill which delegates those rights to a nation not a member of the League. I should like to know what is the position of the front Opposition Bench on the matter. It is rather astonishing that we have no statement of any kind. Are they conniving at this abrogation of Spanish sovereign powers? [Interruption.] I have had enough experience to know that hon. Members are like Mussolini. They will violate their pledges whenever they have an opportunity. A large number of them hold their seats because at the last Election they stood for the League of Nations.
§ The Chairman
I must again ask the hon. Member when he is addressing the Committee to keep to the Motion before the Committee.
§ The Chairman
That has nothing to do with how hon. Members did or did not gain their seats at the last Election.
§ Mr. Bevan
I submit, with all respect, that it is rather difficult to rule until the point of Order has been submitted. We are discussing Clause 2, under which, as it has been explained by the Parliamentary Secretary, powers are being given to other countries to use their fleets in Spanish waters to board vessels of the British Mercantile Marine. The country whose powers are being given away in that regard is a member of the League of Nations. Is it not competent for me to argue that it is inconsistent with the declared foreign policy of the Government and with their pledges at the last Election that they should give away to a non-member of the League the sovereign powers of a member of the League?
§ The Chairman
I did not stop the hon. Member for arguing that point. He may proceed with the argument on the question before the Committee. I shall not interrupt him except when I think he is going outside the question before the Committee.
§ The Chairman
I must ask the hon. Member to address himself to the Question before the Committee, and not to argue the ruling that I have given.
§ Mr. Bevan
I ask hon. Members opposite whether it is not a fact that it is the declared policy of the Government to stand by the League of Nations? I accept their silence as assent. Is it not a fact that Spain has equal rights with any other Member of the League? I again accept their silence as assent. The waters within 10 miles of the Spanish shores are Spanish territorial waters. I ask the hon. Members—it is obviously necessary to use Socratic methods with them—is it not the fact that this Bill confers upon the Italian and the German navies the power to go within Spanish territorial waters? If that be so, is it not a violation of Spanish sovereign rights? I cannot get any reply. If that is so, is it not an invitation to an aggression against Spain? The reason why the aggression is agreed to, is because Spain is not strong enough to resist the aggression. I ask the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—and I shall continue to ask until I get a reply—whether the consent of the Spanish Government has been obtained to this proposal? If the consent of the Spanish Government has not been obtained to this proposal, is it consistent with the attitude of His Majesty's Government upon foreign policy to persist in this proposal? If, indeed, the Under-Secretary answers that the consent of the Spanish Government has not been obtained, I submit that, in accordance with Parliamentary practice, it is competent for the Opposition to move to report Progress. It is really an outrage that we should have from the Government Front Bench no reply at all to a first-class question of this kind. If we are to connive at this violation of the sovereign rights of members of the League, even if those members are weak, we are making it possible for all other nations, who have any mind or desire so to do, to violate the League. We are entitled to ask for an answer to that question.
§ 11.47 p.m.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I asked a perfectly simple question of the Front Bench three-quarters 2416 of an hour ago.—[Interruption.] I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. Will he get up and make the remark he desires?
§ Sir S. Cripps
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is wrong. I had to rise when I did because the Chairman had risen to put the Question, and if I had not done so, it would have been out of order and I should have lost the opportunity. I am glad to know that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman agrees with me that they should have answered, and I am giving them a further opportunity. I asked the question—quite a simple one—Have the Spanish Government been consulted as regards the use of these powers in territorial waters? If the Board of Trade cannot answer that question, the noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, if he is still awake, can probably do so. May I ask another question? Perhaps they will be better able to answer it? I understand that the Board of Trade have recently sent a representative to interview General Franco at Burgos, a thing of which I do not understand the propriety, when, in the circumstances which are ruling in Spain at the present time, he is an enemy of a friendly Government? Did that gentleman who went there ask General Franco as to what his observations would be about the exercise of these powers within the waters adjacent to that part of Spain over which he has at present no control?
These are two simple questions, and if none of the occupants of the Front Bench is able to answer them, we can only assume that the reason they do not answer is because they have not consulted the Spanish Government, and they know that this is a violation of their international obligations.
§ 11.51 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Viscount Cranborne)
The Spanish Government have been informed of all the provisions of this scheme, and so far they have made no objection of any kind. I do not see why the hon. and learned Gentleman should take the place of the Spanish Government in this affair. He might leave them to conduct their own business.
§ 11.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen
In the interests of the Masters of British ships I am entitled to an answer to the question I am asking—whether the Solicitor-General agrees that if the master of a ship is ordered to stop in Spanish territorial waters, and does not stop, he will have a perfectly good defence under the law of nations because Clause 4 will not apply? The question is simply and courteously put, and I am entitled to an answer. The captains in the British Mercantile Marine are entitled to know what is their position.
§ The Chairman rose—
§ Mr. Stephen
I do not know why the Under-Secretary or the Solicitor-General, or the President of the Board of Trade will not give me an answer. The question is worthy of an answer. I do not want to take up any additional time of the Committee in connection with this matter, but surely the people who will have to face the dangers and difficulties are entitled to know what is the position. I cannot make out whether it is, that the Government have no one sufficiently acquainted with the law present, but I should have thought that the Solicitor-General would have been able to give an answer to such a simple question. I can only assume that there is no member of the Government able to answer it. Yet the masters of ships will have to find an answer when they are in these circumstances. The many hon. Members who claim to be so interested in the welfare of masters of ships should give me their support in getting an answer from the Government. I have made my protest, and I shall hope that I may get an answer. I do not want to get unduly excited. If it is an offence already let us know what the position is.
§ 11.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I had no intention of asking my hon. Friend behind me to divide against this Clause, but the Government have behaved in such an extraordinary way that we shall have to reconsider the position. Their behaviour is perfectly ridiculous. Quite a simple question has been put and has remained unanswered. Hon. Members opposite cannot defend that. The right hon. Gentleman member for Ripon (Major Hills) could not believe that the Government would not answer the ques- 2418 tion and said that they had not been given an opportunity to reply. No attempt was made by any hon. Member on the Government bench to rise to make a reply. The President of the Board of Trade has not made a single attempt to clear up the effects of the Bill, and while the Parliamentary Secretary has made a number of attempts to give an explanation within the limits of his knowledge, there are still important matters upon which no reply has been given. After all, we are considering an entirely new principle of sea law, and it is not unreasonable to ask that the position should be made clear. The fact is that the Government do not know. The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made a statement just now. I should like to know in what form the Spanish Government was given to understand the effect of these measures and what precisely was their attitude. The Committee is being treated with the utmost discourtesy, and unless we get an adaquate reply, I shall certainly ask my hon Friends to vote against the Clause.
§ 11.58 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Terence O'Connor)
I can assure hon. Members that there is no desire to be discourteous. I can assure the hon. and learned Member for Bristol East (Sir S. Cripps) that I should find no difficulty in answering his question but for the fact that it might create possible embarrassment in our relations with Spain. My difficulty arises from this fact. Anyone who is acquainted with the history of Spain is aware that ever since the war of the Spanish Succession the question of what are the territorial waters of Spain has been the subject of discussion, and when a question is put to the Government the answer to which involves some pronouncement as to what we recognise as the territorial waters in Spain this is the worst of tall moments to discuss it. I can assure the hon. and learned Member that that is a candid statement, and the only embarrassment we feel. Subject to that, let me say that there is no intention, by Clause 2, to abrogate existing international law.
Without making any statement as to what we recognise as the territorial limits of Spanish waters I can say that existing international law is not abrogated in any way; that is to say, ships within 2419 Spanish territorial waters will in future be in the same position as they would be if this Bill were not passed. Those who have studied the White Paper closely will have seen that it does suggest provisions which go a good deal further and which provide for pursuit in Spanish waters, but they will not find that in the Bill. I am correct in saying that we have endeavoured not to abrogate the principle of international law, and I hope, with that explanation, I shall not be pressed to say what particular limit of mileage we should recognise as Spanish territorial waters.
§ 12.2 a.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Are we to understand from the hon. and learned Gentleman's answer and from the answer of the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that the Spanish Government have been consulted and have agreed to a right of pursuit by foreign vessels into their territorial waters?
§ The Solicitor-General
That is not to be understood. What my noble Friend told the Committee was that they had been informed of the provisions of the Agreement. They have not notified their acceptance or otherwise of those provisions. If I may say so, that is not the question that is before the Committee in regard to this Bill, because, as I have been trying to explain, the Bill does tot go as far in this respect as the Agreement itself.
§ 12.3 a.m.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I must controvert what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said to the Committee. This Bill deals with British ships and the masters of what are known as British ships, and it imposes penalties upon them if they fail to do certain things. Now, the war vessels we are discussing at the moment are not British ships, and therefore we have no jurisdiction or control over them. At this stage, if a British vessel does not permit a German officer to board it two miles from the Spanish coast, the master is guilty of a misdemeanour. I know the discussion has been about the territorial waters of Spain, but no one would dispute that a mile in Valencia harbour or Barcelona harbour is the territorial waters of Spain. This Bill is creating a new statutory offence, the refusal of a British vessel at Barcelona harbour to permit a 2420 German officer to go on board. That is the offence.
§ The Solicitor-General
I think that inadvertently the hon. and learned Gentleman is giving a construction to this Clause which it will not bear. He will see that under Sub-section (2), the provision that a ship of war must fulfil—that is to say, in the case he is putting, a foreign ship of war—must be that:the ship must be in such of the said waters as may be so declared to have been placed under the observation of the Power to which the ship belongs;and then, if he will look at Sub-section (3), it reads:Any order under this Section shall be made by the Secretary of State, and may be revoked or varied by a subsequent order made by the Secretary of State,so that the order of the Secretary of State will be valid in the area within which the ship of war goes.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Surely not. The Solicitor-General is now trying to say that the Secretary of State will not follow the White Paper. What the Secretary of State has to do, if he is an honest man, is to act in accordance with the international arrangement which covers the whole of the waters within f o miles of the Spanish coast, including the territorial waters of Spain. I do not presume that the Secretary of State will be so dishonest as to make out his Order under Sub-section (3) as to fail to include some parts of the waters he has agreed to include in the international agreement with 27 other nations. The position, therefore, is not at all as the hon. and learned Gentleman put it. The position is that this Clause creates a new statutory offence—a misdemeanour in one case, and in another case a statutory offence liable to a fine of £100 on any master or owner of a British vessel who refuses within Spanish territorial waters to allow a German or an Italian officer to board his ship and do the various matters which are detailed in this Clause. There has been no explanation as to how that is consistent with the obligations of this country to preserve the territorial integrity of Spain under the Covenant of the League. Of course, we know that the Government have not done that with regard to the civil war, but that is another matter. Here is another case where the sovereignty of 2421 the Spanish Government is being purposely infringed by this Government, and I hope that my hon. Friends will vote against such a course being adopted.
§ 12.7 a.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I want to take exception to the fact that the Parliamentary Secretary quoted the White Paper and said that the Bill expressed what was in it; and he used the White Paper with the greatest effect to justify his statement. The Solicitor-General told us that it is in the White Paper, but not in the Bill, and that therefore we do not have to trouble about it. Surely it is not permissible for two representatives of the Government to put two opposite points of view in regard to the relation of the While Paper to the Bill. With regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks), if a British ship is in the hands of a capable master, who has a knowledge of international law, and if he is sailing in Spanish territorial waters and refuse to stop if signalled by an Italian or German cruiser, can that cruiser fire on his ship?
§ Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
|Division No. 119.]||AYES.||[12.9 a.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||De Chair, S. S.||Keeling, E. H.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Denman, Ron, R. D.||Kimball, L.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Doland, G. F.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Donner, P. W.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Apsley, Lord||Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Leckie, J. A.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Dugdale, Major T. L.||Leech, Dr. J. W.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Duggan, H. J.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Duncan, J. A. L.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.|
|Balfour, Capl. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Loftus, P. C.|
|Beauohamp, Sir B. C.||Emery, J. F.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Everard, W. L.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.||Furness, S. N.||McKie, J. H.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Ganzoni, Sir J.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Grant-Ferris, R.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Granville, E. L. Gridiny, Sir A. B.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Bull, B. B.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Burghley, Lord||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.)|
|Burgin, Or. E. L.||Grimston, R. V.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Butler, R. A.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Guy, J. C. M.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hannah, I. C.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Patrick, C. M.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Hartington, Marquess of||Peaks, O.|
|Channon, H.||Haslam, H. C. (Hornoastle)||Penny, Sir G.|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Petherick, M.|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Plugge, Capt. L. F.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Crooke, J. S.||Holmes, J. S.||Radford, E. A.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.|
|Cross, R. H.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Hulbert, N. J.||Rayner, Major R. H.|
§ The Committee proceeded to a Division.
§ Mr. Cocks rose—
§ 12.10 a.m.
§ Mr. Bevan
(Seated and covered): On a point of order, Sir Dennis. I want to submit to you that, when you put the Question, there were two hon. Members on their feet desiring to continue the discussion. I submit that if those hon. Members had not caught your eye at that moment, you should now permit them to go on with the discussion without taking a Division at this time.
§ The Chairman
I had put the Question and started to collect the voices before the hon. Members rose.
§ The Commtitee divided: Ayes, 159; Noes. 62.
|Beed, A. C. (Exeter)||Somerset, T.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsand)|
|Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)||Southby, Commander A. R. J.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.||Waterhousa, Captain C.|
|Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Spans. W. P.||Wadderburn, H. J. S.|
|Ropner, Colonel L.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Ron Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Rowlands, G.||Tata, Mavis C.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Runciman, Rt. Hon. W.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)||Wintarton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Salt, E. W.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Samuel, M. R. A.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.||Wragg, H.|
|Seely, Sir H. M.||Turton, R. H.||Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.|
|Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Simmonds, O. E.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Mr. James Stuart and Sir Henry|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Adam son, W. M.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Ridley, G.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Griffiths, J. (Llanally)||Rowson, G.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Silkin, L.|
|Benson, G.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Simpson, F. B.|
|Bevan, A.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Buchanan, G.||John, W.||Stephen, C.|
|Cooks, F. S.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Kelly, W. T.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Daggar, G||Leach, W.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Dalton, H.||Lunn, W.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Westwood, J.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Messer, F.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Dobbie, W.||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Oliver, G. H.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Ede, J. C.||Paling, W.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Parker, J.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Gallacher, W.||Potts, J.||Mr. Charleton and Mr. Mathers.|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Price, M. P.|