HC Deb 01 November 1937 vol 328 cc511-3
5. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can make a statement on the Far Eastern situation; and whether it is the policy of His Majesty's Government to support an armistice between China and Japan and that negotiations shall proceed on the basis of Article X of the Covenant and Article I of the Nine-Power Treaty?

Mr. Eden

I hope to have an opportunity to speak of the general situation in the Far East in the course of the Debate this afternoon. It is of course the policy of His Majesty's Government to do all they can to assist in bringing to a close the hostilities between China and Japan. The Brussels Conference has now been convened to seek to realise this on the basis of the Nine-Power Treaty with a view to seeking a method of putting an end to the conflict by agreement.

6. Mr. Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what attitude was adopted by the representative of the Government towards the proposal that the League of Nations should provide antiepidemic and medical aid to the civilian population of China; and what was the policy of the Government towards the suggestion for the opening of a League voluntary fund for the purpose of providing the Chinese civilian population with anti-epidemic and medical aid?

Mr. Eden

At the meeting of the Council of the League of Nations held on 1st October, the representative of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom agreed that the League's Health Committee should be asked to prepare a plan to advise and assist the Government of China in dealing with this problem. He further agreed that not only should the existing fund for technical collaboration with China at once be made available for the purpose, but that the Assembly should be invited to augment their annual grant under this category in order to meet the present special situation. Resolutions to the above effect were adopted by the Council and Assembly of the League respectively. His Majesty's Government expressed general sympathy with the suggestion to open a voluntary fund but reserved their position as regards Government contributions thereto.

Mr. Smith

Is it not a fact that the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland looked very favourably on this proposal when it was first made, and that afterwards a representative of the Foreign Office interviewed the permanent delegate of Japan, after which instructions were received from home that the British representatives were not to support the proposal?

Mr. Eden

I am sure that that is utterly inaccurate. As I say in my answer, we have not only supported but actually voted for an increased contribution by the League. The only outstanding question is the voluntary contribution, and our attitude is quite clear, namely, that we will join with others provided everybody pays in proportion to their means.

Mr. Smith

May I ask the Foreign Secretary to note that that was just the point in my supplementary question? Should not the policy of Britain have been to take the initiative in order to weld together the peace-loving countries?

Mr. Eden

There is a misunderstanding about this. I was not there, but I am told that no definite proposal of any kind was put forward. We supported—or proposed, for all I know—the two definite proposals that were put forward, and our position is quite clear, that we will join in voluntary contributions with others. It is only fair that everybody should contribute.

Mr. Wedgwood Benn

Is it not a fact that of the 2,000,000 Swiss francs voted, China is paying 1,600,000, and that the rest is coming from League reserves?

Mr. Eden

The League reserves are the property of the members of the League, and we all agreed in this resolution to increase our contributions in order to increase the sum available.

Mr. Benn

Is it a fact that the Chairman of the Committee—I heard him with my own ears—said that it involved no increase of contributions?

Mr. Noel-Baker

In view of our great interests in China, would it not be wiser and more in accordance with tradition to follow the precedent set by Lord Balfour to make a voluntary gift in league with the others?

Mr. Eden

It is quite clear that His Majesty's Government have played their full part in this. It is clear that we are willing to join with others in an international voluntary contribution, and we are also doing quite a good bit.

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