HC Deb 22 March 1937 vol 321 cc2538-42
S. Mr. Arthur Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is now in a position to make a statement with regard to the note received from the insurgent authorities referring to the situation on the borders of Spanish Morocco?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir. I have received through His Majesty's Ambassador at Hendaye an informal communication from General Franco's Administration alleging that intrigues are being carried on by the French authorities in the frontier area of the French and Spanish zones of Morocco which are calculated to produce disturbances in Spanish Morocco in violation of existing treaties, and proposing that, by agreement between His Majesty's Government and other Powers parties to the Act of Algeciras, together with the other Powers parties to that Act at the time of its signature, an international commission should be appointed to carry out an investigation in the Spanish zone. I have caused the authorities at Salamanca to be informed that His Majesty's Government do not consider that a situation exists as between the French and Spanish zones of Morocco which justified diplomatic steps being taken by the Powers parties to the Act of Algeciras, and that the question of infringement, if any, of the Franco-Spanish Convention of 27th November, 1912, would be a matter between France and Spain.

Mr. Henderson

Is it not a fact that there is not a word of truth in the allegations contained in this note, and is it not another example of the mischievous and misleading propaganda for which the Spanish insurgent authorities are responsible?

Mr. Eden

The hon. Member will appreciate that I would rather not make any comment. I would rather that my answer stood.

Major-General Sir Alfred Knox

Do not such questions in themselves represent mischievous propaganda?

7. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is now in a position to make a statement on the Note received from the Spanish Government with reference to the four Italian divisions in Spain?

16. Miss Rathbone

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether full inquiry has been made by the Non-Intervention Committee into the charges of the Spanish Government concerning the invasion of Spain by German troops, and with what result; and what action it is proposed to take in the matter if the charges are found to be true?

Mr. Eden

I would refer the hon. Members to the reply given on Wednesday last to the hon. Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson) to which I have at present nothing to add.

Mr. Henderson

Will the Foreign Secretary bear in mind that if the delay is too long, the present retreat of the Italian divisions now in Spain may bring them back to their own country before he replies?

9. Mr. Day

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Council of the League of Nations has received a report from the three delegates of the health organisation of the League who recently visited Spain at the request of the Spanish Government for the purpose of drawing up a report and furnishing necessities for the relief of the Spanish civilian population; and will he give particulars?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir. I am arranging to place a copy of the report in the Library of the House.

Mr. Day

Can the Minister say whether the Secretary-General of the League has submitted any names of any experts to the Spanish Government?

Mr. Eden

Yes, I think so.

11. Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether all the countries represented on the Non-Intervention Committee have been formally asked to agree to the withdrawal of all foreign troops and volunteers from Spain; and, if so, which countries have not so far assented to the proposal?

17. Mr. Noel-Baker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether His Majesty's Government have yet laid before the Non-Intervention Committee proposals for the immediate evacuation of foreign troops from Spain and for the organisation of an adequate system of supervision and control over this evacuation?

Mr. Eden

The question of the withdrawal of foreign combatants from Spain was, as the House is aware, raised by my Noble Friend Lord Plymouth in the Non-Intervention Committee on the basis of suggestions made by the German and Italian Governments in their replies to the notes which were addressed to them by His Majesty's Government regarding the prohibition of the despatch to Spain of foreigners for the purpose of taking part in the civil war. This matter is, I understand, now under discussion in the Committee.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Are we to understand that the Government have put forward a plan for evacuation and supervision?

Mr. Eden

No, Sir, not a detailed plan.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is it not desirable to have the details as soon as possible, as it is a situation of great urgency?

Mr. Eden

Yes, but what we are concentrating on is to get the actual machinery of the present scheme going, and I have been kept busy on that during the week-end.

18. Mr. Noel-Baker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, the landing of Italian troops, with arms and munitions, in Spain for the purpose of making war on the constitutional Government of the country before 20th February, 1937, did or did not constitute a violation of the Non-Intervention Agreement, signed by Italy on 28th August, 1936, of the Briand-Kellogg pact for the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy and of the Covenant of the League of Nations?

Mr. Eden

If by Italian troops the hon. Member means units of the Italian army, I have no evidence which establishes the landing of such units in Spain. In any event, the question of a violation of the Non-Intervention Agreement is one for consideration by the Non-Intervention Committee itself. I do not feel called upon to express an opinion with regard to the remaining parts of the question.

Mr. A. Henderson

May I ask whether, in the view of the right hon. Gentleman, the fact that the Spanish Government have received large supplies of arms from Italy during the past week just outside Madrid constitutes a breach of the Non-Intervention Agreement?

21. Captain Ramsay

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any information regarding recent landings of Russian aeroplanes in Spain?

Mr. Eden

I have no official information on this subject.

Captain Ramsay

May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is in order to congratulate the French and Russians on the manner in which they manage to keep the landing of men and munitions in Spain out of the news?

Mr. Henderson

Will the right hon. Gentleman inquire of the Italian Government whether they have any official information?

57. Mr. Noel-Baker

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether the steamship "Springwear," which was chased into Gibraltar by General Franco's warships and there obliged to unload its cargo of wheat, will now be allowed to deliver this cargo to Alicante and will receive the protection of His Majesty's Navy against any further piratical acts that may be attempted?

The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Kenneth Lindsay)

The cargo of the steamship "Springwear" has been examined by the authorities at Gibraltar, acting under the powers conferred by the Merchant Shipping (Carriage of Munitions to Spain) Act, and it has been found to consist entirely of grain. In pursuing her voyage the vessel will be entitled to the protection of His Majesty's Navy in precisely the same way as any other British ship.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is it not a fact that the steamer was chased into Gibraltar by General Franco's trawlers, while the whole British Navy looked on, and was it not the purpose of the Merchant Shipping (Carriage of Munitions to Spain) Act to prevent such an occurrence?

Mr. Lindsay

I do not want to pursue the matter by way of question and answer, but it is not true to say that she was chased.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

Will commanding-officers of His Majesty's ships be informed in accordance with the Minister's answer to-day?

Mr. Lindsay

I do not think there is any necessity to inform the Navy because no extra information has been given.

Mr. Noel-Baker

In view of the unhappy experience of several of these ships, would it not be possible to organise convoys as the Dutch Navy do?

Mr. Lindsay

I do not think it would be possible to provide escorts for every ship without doubling the size of the Navy.

Sir Archibald Sinclair

Is it clear that commanders of British ships have been informed that interference with British cargo vessels by General Franco's ships is not to be tolerated?

Mr. Lindsay

That is a separate question, but it is also true that they have been informed.