HC Deb 06 July 1938 vol 338 cc353-6
7. Mr. Arthur Henderson

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any statement to make on yesterday's full meeting of the Non-Intervention Committee?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)

A plenary meeting of the committee was held yesterday, under the chairmanship of my Noble Friend. The committee had before them the text, prepared by the Chairman's Sub-Committee, of a proposed resolution reaffirming and extending the Non-Intervention Agreement, and providing for the withdrawal of foreign volunteers from Spain, for the grant in certain circumstances of belligerent rights to the two parties in Spain, and for the observation of the Spanish frontiers by land and sea. I am glad to be able to report that the committee agreed to adopt the plan proposed and requested the United Kingdom Government to transmit it at once on their behalf to the two Spanish parties for their approval. In consequence of the foregoing decision, the Governments of the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy yesterday paid to the International Board contributions amounting to £12,500 each, to enable the next stage of the preparatory work to be undertaken. The committee further agreed to ask the United Kingdom Government to arrange for the publication of the text of the plan immediately after it has been communicated to the two Spanish parties. Arrangements have been made for the transmission as rapidly as possible of the plan to His Majesty's Minister at Barcelona and to the Acting-British Agent at Burgos, and it is hoped that it will be handed to the two Spanish parties on Friday. If so the text will be made available to hon. Members on Monday.

Mr. Henderson

Is it expected that some time will elapse before the replies are received from both parties in Spain?

The Prime Minister

Some time, I suppose, must elapse before the replies are received, but I hope it will not be long.

Mr. Thorne

Now that you have got 28 countries together and the machinery working, is it not possible to try to get an arrangement for the abolition of bombing planes altogether?

Mr. G. Strauss

Is it not possible for the Prime Minister to say whether the scheme for sea control provides for observation of goods and men going to Spain by way of Morocco?

The Prime Minister

The best thing would be for the hon. Member to await the text of the plan.

3. Mr. G. Strauss

asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government made any representations to the French Government suggesting the desirability of closing the Franco-Spanish frontier?

The Prime Minister

In the course of normal interchanges of view with the French Government, His Majesty's Government have stressed the desirability of avoiding action calculated to prejudice the execution of the Non-Intervention Committee's plan. They never suggested that, in present circumstances, the French Government should take unilateral action in closing their frontier.

Mr. Strauss

May we take it that the action of the French Government in closing their frontier was taken quite independently, and that there was no pressure or representation whatever by the British Government upon the French Government?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. It was independent action by the French Government.

Mr. Morgan Jones

Was an intimation given about the Portuguese frontier on this occasion?

Mr. Gallacher

Instead of executing the plans of the committee——[Interruption.]

6. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Prime Minister whether an international commission of inquiry is to be sent to investigate the bombing of Blanes, in Spain, as requested by the Spanish Government?

Mr. Butler

His Majesty's Government are making every effort to arrange for an international commission to be formed which will proceed, at the request of the competent Spanish authorities, to any town which has suffered aerial bombardment.

Mr. Henderson

Is it not possible to expedite the sending of this commission in view of the fact that every day Franco's aeroplanes are destroying civilian lives and property?

Mr. Butler

His Majesty's Government realise the importance of expediting the formation of the commission, but the action to be taken depends upon the replies to be received from certain foreign Governments and we hope that those replies will soon arrive.

Sir Nairne Stewart Sandeman

What about the towns in the Franco part of the country that have been bombed?

Mr. Thorne

Does the hon. Member know that Signor Mussolini has sent 28,000 troops?

8. Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft

asked the Prime Minister whether, if the international commission proceeds to Republican Spain to inquire into the nature of bombing objectives, the commission will also visit Majorca and the numerous open towns and villages in that part of Spain held by General Franco which have suffered severe casualties from air raids?

Mr. Butler

The commission will be at the disposal of both parties in Spain and will be prepared, at the request of the competent Spanish authorities, to visit any town which has suffered aerial bombardment.

Mr. Gallacher

Has any request been made by the rebel authorities for a visit by the commission?

9. Sir H. Croft

asked the Prime Minister whether, in the event of the international commission proceeding to Spain to inquire into the effects of air raids, the commission will also visit any towns conquered by the armies of General Franco where assassinations and massacres of inhabitants are alleged, and, report thereon?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. Its activities will be restricted to the purpose originally proposed.

Sir H. Croft

If I hand to my hon. Friend an unsolicited cable from the mayor and every corporation, practically, in Castellon, confirming the massacres that have taken place, will he receive it and give the matter further consideration?

Mr. Butler

I will certainly consider any material sent me by my hon. and gallant Friend.

Mr. James Griffiths

What is the reason that private Members cannot get replies from the Government on this matter?