HC Deb 21 December 1938 vol 342 cc2844-8
2. Mr. Price

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any information that further steps are being taken by the Nationalist Government of Spain to repatriate any contingent of foreign volunteers; and when this repatriation may be expected?

Mr. Butler

The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative and the second part does not, therefore, arise.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is there any truth in the report this morning that further contingents of volunteers are being sent back from Government Spain?

Mr. Butler

That is from the other side.

9. Mr. Mander

asked the Prime Minister what resignations have recently taken place from the membership of the Non-Intervention Committee, or any of its sub-committees; and what were the reasons given for these changes?

Mr. Butler

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given on 5th December to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chatham (Captain Plugge). The Swedish Government have, so far as I am aware, made no statement on the reasons for withdrawing their representative on the Chairman's Sub-Committee. The Belgian Prime Minister defined the attitude of his Government in a speech in the Senate on 29th November, in the course of which he stated that the whole character of the Spanish problem had changed.

Mr. Mander

In view of the fact that the Committee has not met since 5th July can the hon. Gentleman say whether it is proposed to continue the functions of this remarkable body?

Mr. Butler

That raises a broader question than the question on the Paper.

Mr. James Griffiths

May we take it that the Non-Intervention Committee is now ceasing to intervene?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir.

14. Sir Percy Harris

asked the Prime Minister when the Non-Intervention Committee last met; and what countries are still represented thereon?

Mr. Butler

The Non-Intervention Committee last met on 5th July. I will, with the hon. Baronet's permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of the countries represented on the Committee.

Sir P. Harris

Can the hon. Gentleman say when this Committee is likely to meet again?

Mr. Butler

I would require notice of that question.

Captain Cazalet

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether any of these countries have failed in paying their contributions?

Mr. Butler

I should have notice of that question also.

Following is the list:

Albania. Italy.
Belgium. Latvia.
United Kingdom Lithuania.
of Great Britain Luxemburg.
and Northern Netherlands.
Ireland. Norway.
Bulgaria. Poland.
Czechoslovakia. Portugal.
Denmark. Rumania.
Eire. Sweden.
Estonia. Turkey.
Finland. Union of Soviet
France. Socialist Republics.
Greece. Yugoslavia.

16. Mr. Arthur Henderson

asked the Prime Minister what action His Majesty's Government propose to take to despatch supplies of food to the civilian population of Spain, as recommended in the League Commission Report?

Mr. Butler

His Majesty's Government are at present in consultation with the United States and French Governments on this question.

Mr. Henderson

Will His Majesty's Government bear in mind the recommendation of the League Commissioners that food should be sent by any Government in a position to do it, in order to relieve the 3,000,000 refugees from the danger of starvation?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. His Majesty's Government realise the gravity of this problem. That is why they are in touch with other Governments, in the hope of dealing with this matter on international lines.

Mr. Shinwell

Then will the hon. Member do something to expedite a decision in this matter, because of its gravity?

Mr. Butler

Certainly, Sir.

Mr. Pethick-Lawrence

Will the hon. Gentleman consider the possibility of making use of the excess of potatoes over 1 lb. in weight which the Minister of Agriculture is keeping off the British market, because these could be used to great advantage in this connection?

Mr. Butler

I will certainly look into that point.

Mr. Mander

Will the hon. Gentleman see that the British Fleet is available to protect the ships when they go there?

Mr. Butler

The British Navy always gives protection to British ships on the high seas.

Mr. Robert Gibson

Can the hon. Gentleman see that if this food is carried in British ships those ships will be free from attack from General Franco's ships?

Mr. Butler

The whole question of the transport of food is under consideration with the Burgos authorities, as I have already informed the House on previous occasions.

Lieut.-Commander Agnew

Is it not the best way for the food to go in over the French frontier, where no question of shipping can arise?

17. Mr. Noel-Baker

asked the Prime Minister what reply His Majesty's Government have received from General Franco concerning the compensation to be paid for British ships sunk and damaged by General Franco's forces in Spanish waters?

Mr. Butler

The reply of the British Agent has been delayed owing to the illness of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, but it has now been delivered to our acting agent and a telegraphic summary was received by my Noble Friend yesterday. This is necessarily much abbreviated and certain points need to be clarified. The full text will be communicated to the shipping interests concerned directly it arrives.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Have any practical results yet been achieved from the agreement made with General Franco last July?

Mr. Butler

I hope that when we get the full report we shall see that something has been achieved.

Mr. Day

Does the report give the names of British persons who have been killed and injured?

Mr. Butler

It does not exactly deal with that question.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

Have the Government taken into consideration the situation which will arise about this compensation in the event of General Franco being defeated? Who will then pay the compensation, if General Franco is not able to do so?

19. Mr. Noel-Baker

asked the Prime Minister whether it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to protest to the Italian Government against the continued presence of Italian troops and armaments in Spain as constituting a breach of the Non-Intervention Agreements of August, 1936, and February, 1937?

Mr. Butler

While the statements of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the course of Monday's Debate have made perfectly clear the attitude of His Majesty's Government on the whole subject of foreign intervention in Spain, the continued presence of foreign troops and material in that country is not in itself a breach of the Non-Intervention Agreement since it was precisely to obtain their removal by international agreement that the plan of the Non-Intervention Committee was devised.

Mr. Noel-Baker

In view of the fact that the presence of Italian troops and material must be a breach of the agreements of August, 1936, and February, 1937, concerning men and material, and in view of the fact that the Prime Minister's speech is widely interpreted as legitimising the presence of those troops in Spain, would it not be very desirable that we should now make a protest in Rome against their continued presence?

Mr. Butler

I could not accept the interpretation of my right hon. Friend's speech given by the hon. Member. The first part of his supplementary question is answered by my original reply.

Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft

In view of the fact that since the withdrawal of the Italian troops 65 pilots from Russia arrived in November, and 60 on 3rd December, will my hon. Friend see that if any protest is made, it is made to all parties?

Mr. W. Roberts

Has the hon. Member any evidence in his possession whatever of the truth of such a statement?

Mr. Butler rose

Mr. Speaker

We cannot debate the matter now.

Sir Archibald Sinclair

Surely, Mr. Speaker, if an hon. Member makes a statement like that across the Floor of the House and the Tinder-Secretary is willing to answer a question as to whether the Government have any information on that point, the House is entitled to receive an answer?

Mr. Speaker

If all questions are to be debated, we shall never get anywhere. There are 129 questions on the Paper today.

Mr. Thorne

Do you recognise, Mr. Speaker, the very serious nature of the allegation made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman against another country, and should it not be answered somewhere?

Mr. Speaker

So many allegations are made on this subject that it is impossible to distinguish the merits of one over another.