HC Deb 16 February 1938 vol 331 cc1856-9
2. Mr. Noel-Baker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any information has been received from Mr. Peter Drysdale, the British non-intervention officer who was on board the steamship "Alcira," when it was sunk by aircraft bombing on 4th February, concerning the make or nationality of the aircraft which made the attack?

Mr. Eden

No, Sir. I understand that Mr. Peter Drysdale was not on deck when the aircraft appeared, and was not, therefore, able to give any clear description of them. The information available regarding the nature of the aircraft was given in my statement to the House on 14th February.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is there any reasonable doubt that these were Italian aircraft?

Mr. Eden

I prefer to stand by my definition, which was that they formed part of the insurgent forces.

4. Mr. Noel-Baker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the Spanish Government's decisions to make no reprisals against General Franco's bombing attacks on the civilian population, he will propose to the Non-intervention Committee that the Spanish Government shall be allowed to purchase from other countries the antiaircraft guns, fighting aircraft, balloon barrages, and other means necessary for the defence of their open cities and towns?

Mr. Eden

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave on Monday last to a similar question by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for New-castle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). I have nothing to add at present.

Mr. Noel-Baker

In view of the pledge of the Spanish Government not to bomb any civil population, is it not plain that non-intervention will work very unfairly?

Mr. Eden

I have taken note of that pledge, and it is a matter of importance in assessing a difficult situation.

Colonel Wedgwood

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman how that compares with his answer to previous questions?

Mr. Eden

I would ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to look at my answer.

Mr. Cocks

Following the principle of Nyon, will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Italian Government to send antiaircraft guns to Barcelona?

5. Duchess of Atholl

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether a document which came into the hands of His Majesty's Government prior to 17th July, 1936, and which purported to give instructions for a general Communist rising and revolution in Spain, was regarded by them as authentic; and was it communicated to the Spanish Government of that date?

Mr. Eden

A report of the nature referred to reached the Foreign Office after and not before 17th July, 1936. I am not prepared to express an opinion of its authenticity. No communication was made to the Spanish Government.

Duchess of Atholl

Is it not the case that the document in question stated that a month or two prior to the rising the Communists in Spain had an organised militia of 250,000 men; and if so, does not that throw some doubt on the authenticity of the document, because when it came to military action the Government was dependent on absolutely untrained people for its defence?

Mr. Eden

Clearly, I cannot enter into details of a report from which I am not quoting. I think I indicated to the House that it reached us after 17th July, and that no communication was made to the Spanish Government. The House will draw their own conclusions from that.

Mr. Wedgwood Benn

Has the right hon. Gentleman observed that the discovery of this Communist plot occurred exactly on the date when, owing to the Austrian agreement, Italy was free to invade Spain?

7. Wing-Commander James

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that certain ships belonging to persons who do not live under or recognise the authority of the Government at Barcelona are being detained in British ports; and in the circumstances, whether he is prepared to accord to the Government at Salamanca such measure of recognition as will enable the Spaniards in question to resume the possession of their property now under arrest by the British Government?

Mr. Eden

The ships to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers are detained as a result of legal proceedings instituted by the persons referred to in the question as owners. These proceedings were taken because the officers or crews had delivered up possession of the vessels to the consuls of the Spanish Government. It is, therefore, inaccurate to suggest that it is this detention of the ships which prevents the owners from resuming possession. No additional measure of recognition of General Franco would assist the claimants to regain these ships, of which the Spanish Government have obtained actual possession. The question of ownership is in any case not one for His Majesty's Government to decide. I would point out that, by the agreement for an exchange of agents between His Majesty's Government and the Salamanca authorities General Franco's agents in this country are already free to exercise normal consular functions in connection with commerce and navigation, and the facilities given to these agents with regard to Spanish shipping are the same as those accorded to the Spanish consuls.

12. Major-General Sir Alfred Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many prisoners of British nationality are at present in the hands of the National forces in Spain; and how many are still serving in the forces of the Barcelona Government?

Mr. Montague

On a point of Order. Is it in order for questions to be put in this House in prejudicial or propagandist terms?

Mr. Speaker

It may not be desirable, but it is often done.

Mr. Eden

Following inquiries addressed by His Majesty's Ambassador at Hendaye to the authorities at Salamanca, the latter released about three months ago the last of the British prisoners-of-war held by them. I am not aware that any British subjects have been captured since then. I regret that it would not be possible to obtain the information requested by my hon. and gallant Friend in the second part of the question.

Sir A. Knox

Has my right hon. Friend any information about the Major Attlee Battalion? Is it still defending democracy?

Lieut.-Commander Agnew

Will my right hon. Friend consider asking General Franco to hand over these British prisoners to this country so that they may be dealt with here according to law for infringement of the Foreign Enlistment Act?

Mr. Eden

I think my hon. and gallant Friend has not quite heard my answer, which was that General Franco has already released all the British prisoners that he held.

14. Mr. Vyvyan Adams

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs "Whether he is aware that the correspondent of the "Illustrated London News" in Spain recently went up in an insurgent aeroplane during one of the insurgent bombing raids and was for a time permitted to work the controls, thus actually helping to direct a bomber towards its objective; and whether he has any statement to make on the matter?

Mr. Eden

No report of any such incident has been made to me.

Mr. Adams

Was not this admission made in a caption underneath the illustration in the "Illustrated London News"?

Mr. Eden

I am afraid that that is outside the ordinary range of my literature, but if my hon. Friend will show it to me, I will gladly consider it

Mr. Adams

Could not one of my right hon. Friend's officials in the Foreign Office have looked up these matters, as they have had two days' notice?

17. Mr. Arthur Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is now in a position to make a statement with reference to the constitution of the commissions of inquiry to be sent to both sides in Spain to organise the withdrawal of foreigners and the mandates to be given to them?

Mr. Eden

I am not able to give any information on this subject in advance of a statement by the Non-intervention Committee.