HC Deb 13 July 1938 vol 338 cc1291-4
2. Mr. Mander

asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider the advisability of suggesting to the French Government that the Franco-Spanish frontier should be re-opened until such time as the Portuguese frontier of Spain and the sea inspection scheme are in operation, with a view to securing equality of treatment to both sides and in order to avoid the possibility of intervention working to the advantage of one side only?

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Butler)

My Noble Friend's information is that the land frontier between Spain and Portugal, like the land frontier between Spain and France, is closed to the transit of goods, the export of which is forbidden by the Non-Intervention Agreement. The Sea Observation Scheme, as the hon. Member is aware, has been and still is in operation with respect to both sides in Spain. His Majesty's Government are not, therefore, prepared to accept the hon. Member's suggestion.

Mr. Mander

In view of the fact that the French Government took the decision to close the frontier entirely on their own initiative, would it not be entirely within their discretion to open them again until such time as the whole scheme of the Non-Intervention Committee is in operation?

Mr. Butler

We must leave such a decision to the French Government.

Duchess of Atholl

Is it not notorious that the present sea scheme is extremely ineffective as there are certain deficiencies in it?

Mr. Butler

The Noble Lady is right in saying that there are certain deficiencies in the present sea scheme and that is why a new scheme has been put forward, to enable the deficiencies to be repaired.

Duchess of Atholl

But is it not unfair that the control of the land frontier, which means so much to the Spanish Government, should be effective while the sea control scheme is so deficient because there is so very little control?

Mr. Butler

I cannot accept the suggestion that there is very little control. There is a good sea observation in existence which is now to be improved.

Colonel Wedgwood

Is the hon. Member aware that Mussolini is boasting of the number of bombs he has dropped?

6. Mr. Arthur Henderson

asked the Prime Minister whether he is now in a position to make a statement with regard to the sending of an international commission to Spain to investigate the bombing of civilian populations?

13. Miss Rathbone

asked the Prime Minister whether the commission of inquiry into the bombing of civilian populations in Spain is yet complete; and when it is likely to start for Spain?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)

The House will be aware that during the last few weeks His Majesty's Government have been endeavouring to form an International Commission which would he prepared to proceed to the scene of an aerial bombardment in Spain and report on the facts, at the request of the competent Spanish authorities concerned. I regret to say that it has, for various reasons, been found impossible to arrange the formation of such a Commission on an International basis. His Majesty's Government propose, therefore, in the hope that that may be acceptable to the two parties in Spain, to despatch to France a Commission consisting of two British nationals for the purpose in view, at as early a date as possible.

Mr. Henderson

After this Commission has been despatched to France will it be a question of their being invited by either party in Spain to make an inquiry, or will they be able to make their inquiry as soon as possible?

The Prime Minister

They will only proceed on the invitation of one or other of the parties in Spain.

Miss Rathbone

As it is nearly two months since this commission was first mooted, has the influence of the British Government been unable to secure the co-operation of at least two or three other European Governments?

The Prime Minister

That is clearly the case.

Mr. Mander

Can the Prime Minister say what Governments were prepared to co-operate?

The Prime Minister

Not without notice.

12. Mr. Mander

asked the Prime Minister whether it is proposed that the Belgian non-intervention officer, who was wounded on board the British ship "Yorkbrook," at Valencia, on 10th July, by the bombing of hostile aircraft, shall be compensated; and whether he has any statement to make on this further attack on the officers of the Non-Intervention Board?

Mr. Butler

I am informed that the Non-Intervention Board provide compensation in a case of this kind. As regards the second part of the question, the question of any injuries sustained by inter- national observers in the course of air raids on Spanish ports is one for the Non-Intervention Committee.

Mr. Mander

Is it not really intolerable that non-intervention officers should be continually bombed by the members of the Non-Intervention Committee itself?

14. Miss Rathbone

asked the Prime Minister whether he can assure the House that Sir Robert Hodgson will not return to his post until His Majesty's Government have received satisfactory assurances that the bombing of British ships will not be resumed?

Mr. Butler

Perhaps the hon. Lady will be good enough to await the statement which will be made by the Prime Minister at the end of Question Time.