HC Deb 03 May 1937 vol 323 cc767-74
12. Mr. Day

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reports he has received from His Majesty's representatives in Spain concerning the bombing by air of Guernica, the capital of the Basques, on 26th to 27th April, 1937; and whether any British subjects lost their lives or were injured in these air raids?

21. Captain Ramsay

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the importance of ascertaining who was in fact responsible for the destruction of Guernica, he will give to the House any information received from His Majesty's representatives in Spain?

23. Mr. Dalton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has received any information which throws light upon the question-whether the destruction of Guernica and the massacre of its civil population was carried out by German aircraft manned by German pilots and crews?

29. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will initiate immediately proposals for an international commission to investigate the circumstances of the recent air attack on Guernica and, in particular, the charges made by the Basque Government?

Mr. Eden

A telegram was sent on Friday last to His Majesty's Ambassador and to His Majesty's Consul at Bilbao requesting them to forward as soon as possible any information which might assist in establishing the facts regarding the destruction of Guernica. Replies are still being received and my information is not yet complete. I am, therefore, not in a position to make a considered statement on this subject to-day. His Majesty's Government have, however, already expressed their views on the general question of the bombardment of civilian populations, of which the destruction of Guernica furnishes so deplorable an example. As I intimated to the House on Friday last, His Majesty's Government are considering what steps can be taken in co-operation with other Powers to prevent recurrence of such happenings.

Mr. Dalton

So far as the question of German responsibility for this outrage is concerned, has the hon. Gentleman seen a definite statement by the Dean of Valladolid, who is now proceeding to Rome to lay before the Pope an account by eye-witnesses, including himself, that German planes were involved?

Mr. Eden

I am not sure that I have actually seen the statement, but I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for drawing my attention to it.

Mr. Sorensen

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the possibility of an international commission after he has made his investigation?

Mr. Eden

I would rather not go further than I have gone in the last part of my answer.

Mr. Day

Were any British lives lost, and have arrangements been made for evacuation?

Mr. Eden

No British lives have been lost, as far as I am aware, and authority has been given to the British Consul at Bilbao to come away and evacuate the British community when he considers it necessary.

Sir Nairne Stewart Sandeman

Is it not the case that Guernica is the centre of the small arms manufacture in the Basque country?

Mr. Sorensen

Can we have a statement before the Whitsuntide Adjournment?

Mr. Eden

Certainly, I hope so.

13. Captain Cazalet

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in connection with non-intervention, the transfer of Spanish Government merchant vessels to foreign flags has been considered, in view of its effect upon such non-intervention, and seeing that transfers of this nature give such vessels immunity at sea which they would not otherwise possess?

Mr. Eden

The problem raised by the transfer of flag is, I understand, already under consideration by the Non-Intervention Committee, but the particular ques- tion which is engaging its attention is that of the transfer from the flag of one of the non-intervention countries to the Spanish flag in order to avoid the necessity of complying with the arrangements under the scheme of observation, and not vice versa. As far as transfer to British ownership is concerned, my information is that no merchant ship belonging to the Spanish Government has been transferred to British ownership since 1st January last. I have no information as regards transfer to foreign owners.

Sir N. Stewart Sandeman

Who charters these ships?

Mr. Eden

That is another question for the Board of Trade.

15. Captain Alan Graham

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the fact that we are employing ships of the British Navy to safeguard food ships for the Spanish Government, he will inquire from the British diplomatic and consular representatives in Spain whether these ships have been bought on behalf of, or are being financed by, the Spanish Government?

Mr. Eden

Such information as is available regarding the ownership of these ships is, I understand, obtainable from the files of the companies concerned in the Register at Somerset House.

17. Sir N. Stewart Sandeman

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether Mr. T. D. McEwen, now connected with the despatch of food ships to Spanish Government ports, is a born British subject or a naturalised subject and, in the latter case, when his naturalisation papers were taken out; and whether, in view of his activities on behalf of the Spanish Government in Spain, the Government will consider the withdrawal of his passport?

Mr. Eden

So far as I am aware, Mr. McEwen is a natural born British subject. I have no evidence to show that his activities on behalf of the Spanish Government have exceeded legitimate commercial transactions or that he has been concerned with breaches of the Non-Intervention Agreement. The answer to the last part of the question is, therefore, in the negative.

Sir N. Stewart Sandeman

Will my right hon. Friend make further inquiries?

Mr. Eden

I do not think that that is really a question for me.

19. Mr. Logan

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been drawn to the intended evacuation of thousands of Basque children to this country; is he prepared to offer the services of the British Navy for convoy; and, owing to the faith of these children, will he consult with the ecclesiastical authorities in London regarding their destination?

20. Mr. Harvey

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Government will offer its assistance to secure the evacuation of the civilian population, and especially the women and children, from Basque towns now threatened by indiscriminate bombardment; and whether special facilities will be afforded for the evacuation of children?

26. Mr. W. Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will offer the services of the British Navy to carry refugee women and children from Bermeo to France at the request of the Basque Government to do so?

27. Miss Rathbone

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether His Majesty's Government have asked, or have requested the Basque Government to ask, the agreement of General Franco before consenting to assist in the evacuation of children from Bilbao?

Mr. Eden

The Basque Government have approached His Majesty's Government, stating that they desire to evacuate from Bilbao women, children and old people threatened by the approach of the war zone to the city, and requesting the protection of His Majesty's ships for the purpose of this evacuation. In reply, His Majesty's Government asked whether it was intended that the scheme of evacuation should apply to persons of all political creeds, and whether the Basque Government would consent that His Majesty's Consul in Bilbao should be kept in close touch with the arrangements in order that he might be in a position to ensure that impartiality was being strictly observed in the spirit and the letter. Assurances on these points have now been received from the Basque Government, and His Majesty's Government have accordingly agreed to instruct His Majesty's ships to afford all possible protection on the high seas to any ships leaving Bilbao with these non-combatant refugees on board. They have also informed the insurgent authorities of their intentions in regard to this matter. As regards the last part of the question put by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. Logan), I understand that no final arrangements have yet been made for the admission of Basque children; but that the point which the hon. Member makes has not been overlooked by the committee which is making itself responsible for their care in this country.

Mr. Logan

May I draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the fact that, as they have a special language and have their own teachers, it would be a very good thing for the children themselves if the Government would see that they were partitioned off instead of being used for propaganda purposes?

Miss Wilkinson

As I have a telegram here saying that 4,000 children are ready to sail, does the latter part of the answer of the right hon. Gentleman mean that, as far as the Foreign Office are concerned, arrangements are ready to admit them, provided the arrangements of the committee are carried through?

Mr. Eden

That is rather another point that the hon. Lady has raised. What I am concerned with is the protection of these ships on the high seas. The admission of these children to this country, of course, is not a matter for me.

Captain Heilgers

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the old people are to be above any particular age?

Mr. Eden

I should like to have notice of that question.

22. Mr. Rickards

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether there is anything in the Non-Intervention Agreement to prevent Russia or France sending food to Bilbao?

Mr. Eden

No, Sir.

Mr. Marcus Samuel

Is it not the fact that this country is the only country that is sending any food to Spain at present?

Mr. Eden

As far as I am aware, that is so.

24. Mr. Dalton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that a German bomber, of the type Heinkel III, was shot down over Bilbao two weeks ago; that the bodies of the crew of three carried German papers; that on one of the bodies there was a diary showing that the writer left Berlin with the aeroplane on 5th April and travelled via Rome to Seville, where he arrived on 6th April; and what action he proposes to take in view of this infraction of the Non-Intervention Agreement and of the volunteer agreement of 20th February?

Mr. Eden

I have no information regarding the particular incident to which the hon. Member refers, but if he will communicate to me such facts as may be in his possession, I will certainly consider them.

Mr. Dalton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these particulars have been furnished by a most trustworthy British observer in Bilbao and, if I furnish in confidence, his name and further particulars to the right hon. Gentleman will he follow up the matter?

Mr. Eden

I, of course, will examine anything the hon. Gentleman sends to me.

Mr. Bellenger

May we have an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that, if it is true, His Majesty's Government will take some action in the matter?

65. Mr. Gallacher

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the Marquis del Moral was asked to give any undertaking to refrain from political activities whilst in this country; and whether his attention has been drawn to the activities of the Marquis with a view to influencing the policy of His Majesty's Government in regard to nonintervention in Spanish affairs?

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

This gentleman, I understand, was born in Australia but acquired Spanish nationality in 1928. A great part of his life has been spent in this country where his children were born, and, according to his statement on registration with the police, he has seen several years' service in the British Army, including service during the Boer War and the last War. No restriction has been applied to his stay here. As explained in the reply to the question put on 11th February by the lion. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker), the policy of non-intervention is not regarded as extending to prohibiting any resident from expressing his sympathy with either side in the Spanish struggle.

Mr. Gallacher

I want to ask the Under-Secretary to answer my question: whether his attention has been drawn to the actual attempts on the part of the Marquis del Moral to influence Members of this House in connection with nonintervention in Spanish affairs?

Sir Patrick Hannon

Is it not a fact that this distinguished visitor simply came here to state facts to the House of Commons, as has been done on so many other occasions?

Mr. Thurtle

Is the Under-Secretary aware that one word from a marquis counts for more than a thousand from an ordinary man with members of the Tory party?

Mr. Gallacher

On a point of Order. I put down a question and sent material to the Home Office, and the Home Office have deliberately avoided the material I sent to them and have not answered my question. I want to know whether I am not entitled to have a reply.

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of Order. An answer has been given to the question.

Mr. Stephen

Cannot we put a supplementary question on this matter?

Mr. Speaker

Does the hon. Member rise to a point of Order?

Mr. Stephen

I rose in order to put a supplementary question.

Mr. Gallacher

On a point of Order. Has an agency representing another Government the right to write letters to Members of Parliament inviting them to attack other Members of Parliament?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of Order.

Mr. Stephen

On a point of Order. Are we riot allowed to put a supplementary question with regard to the question on the Paper?

Mr. Speaker

One or two supplementary questions have already been asked.

28. Mr. MacNeill Weir

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any agreement has been reached by the Non-Intervention Committee as to the withdrawal of foreign volunteers from Spain?

Mr. Eden

As stated by my Noble Friend on 26th April, the sub-committee which was appointed to prepare a scheme for the withdrawal of non-Spanish combatants from Spain held its first meeting on that day. It is meeting again this afternoon. I understand that progress is being made as rapidly as could be expected in view of the extremely complicated problems involved.

Sir Percy Harris

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that no more volunteers are entering Spain on either side?

Mr. Eden

I am satisfied that the scheme is at work.

Mr. Benn

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has received a reply from General Franco with reference to the scheme of evacuating women and children from Bilbao by sea?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir. A reply has been received from the insurgent authorities recognising the humanitarian and impartial motives of His Majesty's Government but rejecting the proposal for a number of reasons and making alternative proposals of their own for ensuring the safety of the civilian population. I would make it clear that His Majesty's Government intend, nevertheless, to give the assistance to which I have referred in previous answers on this subject to-day.