HC Deb 29 November 1937 vol 329 cc1663-8
7. Sir A. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many refugees were evacuated from Gijon in British ships before the occupation of that town by the Nationalist forces; how many of these were combatants; and whether these were sent on to Barcelona by the French Government?

Viscount Cranborne

While I have no figures covering the whole period previous to the fall of Gijon, I am informed that 24,849 Spanish refugees were evacuated from the Asturian coast by British merchant vessels between 17th August and 8th October, and 1,350 refugees were picked up outside Gijon by His Majesty's ships. It had been agreed between His Majesty's Government and the French Government last July that Spanish refugees fit for military service should not be allowed to land in France. Every effort was made to ensure that this arrangement was carried out. At the same time, I understand that in the chaotic situation exsiting on the Asturian coast 2,598 Spanish men of military age were embarked by British merchant vessels between 25th August and 25th October, of whom approximately one-half were wounded, and landed at Pauillac. I have no precise information as to what has subsequentiy happened to these men.

Sir A. Knox

Has the Noble Lord seen the report in the Press to the effect that about half of these people were sent to fight in Catalonia against the Nationalist forces?

Viscount Cranborne

I have already pointed out that it was intended that no men of military age should be disembarked, but, as my hon. and gallant Friend will realise, the situation on that coast has been exceedingly confused.

Mr. Noel-Baker

How many Germans and Italians were taken in German and Italian ships to assist General Franco?

Vice-Admiral Taylor

Has that anything to do with it?

9. Mr. Arthur Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the appointment of a Minister Plenipotentiary at Barcelona, he will say if any change is to take place in the diplomatic representation of His Majesty's Government in Spain; whether His Majesty's Ambassador at Hendaye is to be withdrawn; and whether any alternative arrangements are being made?

21. Sir Percy Harris

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether arrangements have been or are being made for the British Ambassador to Spain to take up his residence in Barcelona; and, if so, when will these arrangements be effective?

Viscount Cranborne

No, Sir. His Majesty's Government are not at present contemplating any change in their diplomatic representation in Spain as a result of the promotion of His Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires at Barcelona to the rank of Minister Plenipotentiary.

Mr. Dalton

What is the British Ambassador doing at Hendaye? Is it not the case that we have at Barcelona a Minister Plenipotentiary, and officially have we not diplomatic and business relations with General Franco? What, then, is the Ambassador at Hendaye doing?

Viscount Cranborne

The Ambassador at Hendaye is accredited to Spain. At present there are two authorities in Spain, one of whom we recognise and the other of whom we do not recognise. At Barcelona, therefore, we have a Minister Plenipotentiary and in the other case we have commercial agents to protect our commercial interests.

Mr. Dalton

May I have an answer to my question? What is the Ambassador at Hendaye doing?

Viscount Cranborne

Both the minister and the agents I have mentioned are subordinate to the Ambassador at Hendaye.

Mr. A. Henderson

Is the French Ambassador carrying out his duties at Barcelona?

11. Mr. Vyvyan Adams

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the French Embassy to Barcelona include naval, military, and air attaches; and whether His Majesty's Government have similar officials who can observe the military situation on the Government side in the Spanish civil war?

Viscount Cranborne

I cannot undertake to give official information concerning the staffs of foreign missions abroad. So far as His Majesty's Government are concerned, assistant military and air attaches have been serving at His Majesty's Embassy at Madrid and subsequently at Valencia since last December, and are still attached. No occasion has yet arisen for the appointment of a separate naval attaché.

Miss Rathbone

Is it not desirable to have a naval attaché, in view of the importance of affairs in the Mediterranean just now?

Viscount Cranborne

There is a naval attaché for the countries—France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands—whose services are available when necessary, and as far as naval liaison arrangements are concerned, up to now they have been satisfactorily made through His Majesty's diplomatic and consular representatives and His Majesty's ships that are available.

Mr. A. V. Alexander

Is it not because of the absence of a naval attaché that our naval information has been so unreliable?

Viscount Cranborne

I do not believe that our naval information has been unreliable.

Mr. V. Adams

Is the Noble Lord satisfied that His Majesty's Government can get fully adequate information about the military and naval situation on the Government side?

Viscount Cranborne

Yes, otherwise we should make other arrangements.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

Can the Noble Lord say when a naval attaché last visited Spain?

15. Captain Arthur Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the British trade agents in all parts of Spain are now in a position to furnish regular reports upon commercial developments and prospects for trade relations with Great Britain; and whether, in that case, it is proposed to publish them?

Viscount Cranborne

The Commercial Counsellor to His Majesty's Embassy at Hendaye and various Consular officers in Spain have been, since the present troubles began, continuously at their posts. As regards the territories under the control of General Franco, no new appointments have, with the exception of the Chief Agent, yet been made in pursuance of the recent arrangement made between His Majesty's Government and General Franco. The question of the publication of reports received from His Majesty's Consular and Commercial Diplomatic Officers abroad is a matter for decision by the competent Department of His Majesty's Government, in the light of the circumstances obtaining when the reports are received.

Captain Evans

Are any reports available to commercial interests in this country through the Department of Overseas Trade?

Viscount Cranborne

I should like notice of that question.

26. Mr. Thurtle

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will cause to be published a statement giving details of the zones allotted to the various Powers taking part in the naval patrol under the Nyon Agreement?

Viscount Cranborne

I regret that I am not yet in a position to make a statement on this subject.

Mr. Thurtle

Will the Noble Lord make inquiries with a view to making the statement asked for?

Viscount Cranborne

I cannot say any more than that, but I can assure the hon. Member that there will be no avoidable delay.

Mr. Thurtle

Is the Noble Lord aware that he is singularly uncommunicative?

Mr. Alexander

As we understand that these zones have been in operation now for several weeks, why cannot the House be informed as to what they are?

Viscount Cranborne

It is a question not only for us, but for the other signatories of the Treaty as well.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is it not of great importance for British shipping to know where the Italian zone is in order that they may avoid it?

75. Sir George Mitcheson

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many ships belonging to individual Spaniards or to Spanish companies are now in British ports; and whether any of these have been seized by persons acting on the authority of the Spanish Government?

The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)

I have been asked to reply. As regards the first part of the question, according to information published in the shipping Press, 41 vessels flying the Spanish flag were in British ports on 24th November. As regards the second part of the question, I am informed by the Admiralty Marshal that an examination of the actions which have been started in the Admiralty Division in the course of this year in respect of Spanish vessels now in ports in this country reveals that in the case of 19 vessels persons claiming to be the owners have instituted proceedings causing the vessels to be arrested in order to obtain possession of the vessels from persons who had taken them over, claiming to be acting in accordance with a requisitioning Decree of the Spanish Government, and the Spanish Government have entered conditional appearances claiming that they were in possession and were entitled thereto under the Decree of requisition, and further claiming that as a Sovereign State in the above circumstances the Writs should be set aside. Some of these cases have been before the Court and are now under appeal. Pending the decision of the Court, the vessels concerned are now in the custody of the Admiralty Marshal.

Mr. R. Gibson

Does "this country" include Scotland?

The Attorney-General

I am afraid I cannot say. I will look into it and let the hon. Gentleman know.

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