HC Deb 02 February 1938 vol 331 cc232-4
Mr. Attlee

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what action he proposes to take relative to the sinking of the "Endymion"?

Mr. Eden

His Majesty's Government are deeply concerned at the attack on the Steamship "Endymion," which was an ordinary British commercial vessel, flying the British flag, lawfully engaged in sailing the high seas, and upon which no attack could in any circumstances be justified. In view of this revival of piracy, they have taken steps to arrange for a meeting with the representatives of the French and Italian Governments, as being the two Powers jointly concerned with them in carrying out the naval patrols in the Mediterranean, under the terms of the Nyon Agreement and the further Agreement concluded at Paris on 30th September last. This meeting will take place at the Foreign Office this afternoon. The House will appreciate that in the meanwhile it will not be possible for me to give details of any proposals which His Majesty's Government may think it desirable to put forward at that meeting with a view to preventing a recurrence of further incidents of this kind. Steps are also being taken to obtain a full report of events in relation to the sinking of the Steamship "Endymion." When this report is received, they will then consider the action to be taken with the authorities responsible for this entirely unwarranted attack upon a British merchant ship.

Mr. Attlee

Will the Government consider, with a view to preventing these outrages, notifying General Franco that any further outrages on British subjects will be met by the confiscation of one or more of his ships?

Mr. Kirkwood

Take the lot from him.

Mr. Eden

I have told the House that His Majesty's Government have certain proposals to make in this connection to two foreign Powers this afternoon, and I think the House would prefer that I make no further statement.

Sir Archibald Sinclair

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that, in advance of general agreement with the other Powers concerned in the Nyon patrol, the Government will take effective steps to give protection to British ships on the high seas off the coast of Spain?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir. The steps for strengthening the patrol have already been taken.

Mr. A. Henderson

Have definite instructions been given to British naval commanders in the Mediterranean to counter-attack, and, if possible, destroy, any pirate submarine, as provided for in the Nyon Agreement?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir. That is part of the Agreement, and they have instructions to carry out the Agreement.

Mr. Henderson

Have the instructions been given?

Mr. A. V. Alexander

Will the Foreign Secretary ascertain, for the information of the House and the public, whether it is true that extra destroyers and submarines have been supplied by the Italian Government to the Franco authority?

Mr. Eden

That has nothing to do with the immediate question before the House. I have to deal with a particular incident connected with a submarine.

Mr. Herbert Morrison

Does the right hon. Gentleman not understand the cynical humour of the situation, in which we are going to co-operate with the Italian Government with a view to sinking submarines which everybody knows they have supplied to Franco?

Mr. Mander

Will the pirates be represented at the Conference this afternoon?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is it not a fact that when the civil war began there were none of these submarines in the possession of General Franco, that they were all in the possession of the Spanish Government, and that none have passed since, so that they must have come from another Power?

Mr. Speaker

That is going beyond the question.