HC Deb 18 July 1938 vol 338 cc1777-85
7. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Prime Minister what reply he has made to the Note received from the Spanish Government giving details of the landing of Italian troops and arms in Spain in the past three months and alleging that plans have been made for retaining large numbers of Italian troops as members of the Nationalist Foreign Legion?

10. Miss Rathbone

asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government have reported to the Non-Intervention Committee the Note sent to them by the Spanish Government charging Italy with sending additional war material and technicians to the aid of the Spanish insurgents during the past three months and with a plan to defeat the purpose of the Non-Intervention Committee's proposal for the withdrawal of foreign combatants; whether, and when, the Non-Intervention Committee will meet to consider these charges; and whether the Spanish Government's Note will be made available to Members of the House?

19. Mr. G. Strauss

asked the Prime Minister, whether he has now considered the communication sent to him from the Spanish Government alleging a large number of breaches of the Non-Intervention Agreement by Italy during April, May and June and that instructions have been given to General Franco by the Italian Government how to evade the aims of the Agreement for the withdrawal of volunteers; and what action His Majesty's Government are taking in the matter?

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

In the Note referred to the Spanish Government drew the attention of His Majesty's Government to a report to the effect that, when the plan of withdrawal is put into effect, it was intended that only sick and incapacitated Italian volunteers should be evacuated and that the remainder should be incorporated in the Spanish Foreign Legion. His Majesty's representative at Barcelona was at once instructed, in reply, to point out that great care was taken by the Non-Intervention Committee, when drawing up the plan, to provide against the possibility of evasions of the kind suggested, and to invite the Spanish Government's attention to the relevant provisions of the plan. It is expressly stated therein that no sick and incapacitated volunteers are to be transferred to the Commissioners until all the able-bodied volunteers have been handed over.

As regards the Spanish Foreign Legion, the Spanish Government have been referred to the chapters of the plan in which the terms "foreign volunteer" and "persons engaged either directly or indirectly in the present conflict" are defined. As His Majesty's Government are not prepared to take responsibility for the statements made in the Note, they are unable, under the recognised procedure, to bring it to the attention of the Non-Intervention Committee. Nor can they publish it for similar reasons.

Further consideration is being given to the statements of alleged breaches of the Non-Intervention Agreement.

Mr. Henderson

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind the fact that the Spanish Government have repeatedly made charges in respect of breaches of the Non-Intervention Pact which have subsequently been found to be quite correct, and will he not bring these charges before the Non-Intervention Committee?

Miss Rathbone

How is proof of the statement to be investigated if His Majesty's Government will not investigate it themselves and will not refer it to the Non-Intervention Committee to investigate?

Mr. Butler

If the hon. Lady had listened to my reply, she would have heard me say that further consideration is being given to the statement of alleged breaches, and further consideration of action must depend on the consideration which we are now giving it.

Mr. G. Strauss

What does the hon. Gentleman mean when he says that further consideration is being given to it? Will he give an undertaking that, pending these investigations and pending satisfying himself that they are untrue, no further steps will be taken in regard to the Anglo-Italian Agreement?

Mr. Butler

I can give no such assurance to the hon. Member, but I can give an assurance that I shall investigate these cases, as I have informed the House.

Mr. Strauss

Does that mean that if these charges are found to be true, the Anglo-Italian Annexes will nevertheless be brought into force?

Mr. Butler

We must investigate the cases first, before we decide.

Mr. Thorne

Will the hon. Gentleman find time to read the supplementary report in the "Daily Chronicle," which gives all the details for the last two years?

Mr. Butler

I am always ready to read any information which is brought to my notice.

8. Mr. Vyvyan Adams

asked the Prime Minister what is the result of His Majesty's Government's inquiry of General Franco for an explanation of his denial that ships flying the red ensign had been deliberately bombed and machine-gunned by his aircraft?

Mr. Butler

I have nothing to add at present in amplification of the full statement made by the Prime Minister on 13th July.

Mr. Adams

Can my hon. Friend say what is being done in the matter of compensation?

Mr. Butler

If the hon. Gentleman will refer to the Prime Minister's statement, he will see that there are certain questions being considered between His Majesty's Government and the Burgos authorities. Pending that consideration, I can give no further reply.

9. Mr. W. Roberts

asked the Prime Minister whether he has now completed his inquiries with regard to the military mission of Spanish insurgent officers, under General Orgay, which arrived in Berlin on 10th June; and whether he will inform the House of the result?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. I understand that the visit was purely complimentary, and was made for the purpose of attending military manoeuvres.

Mr. Roberts

May I ask whether the Under-Secretary of State has no reason to think that the intensification of assistance, whether by men or materials, may arise out of this complimentary visit?

Mr. Butler

I can only give the hon. Gentleman the information in my possession.

15. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware of the preface written by Signor Mussolini to a collection of the minutes of the Grand Fascist Council, in which he stated that troops sent by the Italian Government to Spain were taking part in an ideological war in Spain between Bolshevism and Fascism; and whether, in view of this admission that the Italian Government is officially intervening in Spain, he will instruct His Majesty's Ambassador in Rome to inform the Italian Government that His Majesty's Government cannot agree to expedite the date of the operation of the Anglo-Italian Agreement until the Italian Government has ceased to intervene in Spain?

The Prime Minister

I am aware of the preface to which the hon. Member refers. As has been repeatedly stated in this House, His Majesty's Government are not in a position to give full effect to the Anglo-Italian Agreement of 16th April until they can regard the Spanish question as settled. It is our sincere hope that the acceptance of the plan for the withdrawal of volunteers may accelerate such a settlement.

Mr. Henderson

Is it not a fact that the Italian Government have it within their power to expedite the operation of this Agreement without waiting for a settlement if they were to withdraw their troops at once?

The Prime Minister

That does not say that the Italian Government are the only Government concerned.

Sir Patrick Hannon

Is it not a fact that these questions are put on the Paper to embarrass His Majesty's Government?

16. Mr. Noel-Baker

asked the Prime Minister what reports have been received from His Majesty's agents in Italy and Spain concerning the activity of the Italian air force in the Spanish war during the months of April, May, and June, 1938?

Mr. Butler

My Noble Friend receives regular reports from His Majesty's Representatives in Spain on all aspects of the civil war. All aircraft operating on behalf of General Franco are held by His Majesty's Government to form part of his forces.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Has the hon. Gentleman's attention been called to the Italian statement that Italian aircraft had dropped 1,400 tons of bombs in the last three months, and does he consider these operations consistent with Signor Mussolini's pledge to make no material alteration in the situation in Spain?

Mr. Butler

As I have said in my answer, all aircraft operating on behalf of General Franco must be held to take their orders from General Franco.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Do not the Italian Government officially announce the results achieved by their own air force in Spain?

Mr. Gallacher

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Count Ciano has said that when a settlement is arrived at they will withdraw their forces from Spain? Does not that mean that these forces are under the control of the Italian Government?

Mr. Butler

I have never denied that there are Italians and Italian aircraft in Spain, but I have said in my answer that we must regard all the aircraft in General Franco's forces as being under General Franco's control.

Sir Percy Harris

Are not these airmen subjects of Italy and responsible to the Italian Government?

Mr. Butler

I have said that they must be held to take their orders from General Franco.

23. Mr. Acland

asked the Prime Minister whether he will give an assurance that the policy of the British Government is not to count the withdrawal of even 10,000 volunteers from Spain as constituting sufficient grounds for bringing the Italian Agreement into force, but to insist upon the complete execution of the whole of the withdrawal plan before ratifying the agreement?

The Prime Minister

I cannot prejudge the circumstances in which it may be possible for the two Governments concerned to determine the date of the entry into force of the instruments in question.

Mr. Acland

Was there not a Press conference at the Foreign Office last Tuesday, at which the relation between the withdrawal of 10,000 volunteers and the coming into force of the Agreement was discussed; and if it was not referred to in the terms of my question, would it not be an advantage if we were told in what terms it was referred to?

The Prime Minister

I was not present at the conference. Perhaps the hon. Member will put the question down.

27. Miss Rathbone

asked the Prime Minister which were the States whose Governments were invited to take part in the international commission to report on the facts regarding aerial bombardment in Spain?

11. Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

asked the Prime Minister which of the Governments consulted agreed and which refused to be associated in sending a commission of inquiry to investigate the bombing of non-military objectives in Spain?

The Prime Minister

The United States and Swiss Governments felt unable to associate themselves with the despatch of the proposed commission. The Netherlands, Norwegian and Swedish Governments agreed to do so provided that no objection was raised by either party in Spain to the manner in which the commission was to be composed. This condition could not be fulfilled since the Burgos authorities were unwilling to agree to the appointment of a national of any country the government of which maintains no relations with themselves.

Miss Rathbone

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us why no invitation was sent to France or the U.S.S.R., and will he not consider sending such invitations?

The Prime Minister

We cannot go on asking people indefinitely. We want to avoid delay.

28. Miss Rathbone

asked the Prime Minister whether an opportunity will be given to the House before it adjourns to discuss the proposals of the Non-Intervention Committee embodied in Command Paper No. 5793?

The Prime Minister

I fear no special opportunity can be given at this period of the Session for such a discussion, but the matter could of course be raised in the normal course of business.

33. Mr. Noel-Baker

asked the Prime Minister what sources of information, other than the returns made to the Inland Revenue Department, are available to Members of the Government tending to show that excessive profits have been earned by shipowners trading with the eastern coast of Spain during the last six months?

Mr. Butler

I do not think that it has ever been denied that considerable profits have been made during the civil war by shipping companies trading to Spanish ports.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Will the hon. Gentleman answer the question which is on the Paper, and say, if he can, whether there is any other source of information?

Mr. Butler

I think that if the hon. Member would address himself to the quarters where the profits are made, he would find that it was not denied that profits have been made by these shipping companies.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is the Minister aware that I have addressed myself to those quarters and that is why I put down my question? Will he further note that if the freight rates are higher than to other ports that is entirely because His Majesty's Government have not given protection to British ships?

Mr. T. Johnston

Could the hon. Gentleman answer the question on the Paper: Is there any other sources open to His Majesty's Government from which to get information as to these profits other than the Inland Revenue authorities?

Mr. Butler

In his speech on 23rd June the Prime Minister read from an article in the "Daily Herald" what the profits were.

Mr. Johnston

Are we, then, to understand that the Government's public statements in the country and in this House are based solely upon the evidence in an article in the "Daily Herald"?

Mr. Butler

That is one of the many sources from which His Majesty's Government gets information.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Are there any other sources?

Mr. Butler

I have frequently informed the hon. Member that His Majesty's Government is exceptionally well informed.

Mr. Kirkwood

Is the "Daily Herald" the organ of the Government?

57. Mr. Gallacher

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the cost incurred in replacing damaged clothing, repairing damaged torpedo warhead, etc., arising out of the assistance rendered by His Majesty's ships "Boreas" and "Kempenfelt" to the cruiser of General Franco, the "Canarias," on 6th March; and whether any demand has been put in to General Franco for reimbursement of moneys so expended?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Shakespeare)

I presume that the hon. Member refers to the rescue of the survivors of the cruiser "Baleares." The cost of making good stores and clothing lost as the result of the participation of His Majesty's ships "Boreas" and "Kempenfelt" in that rescue is estimated as roughly £500. It would not be in accordance with the usual practice to make a claim in respect of humanitarian services of this character. Damage to the approximate value of £95 was caused to the torpedo warhead mentioned in the question by bombs dropped by aircraft presumably belonging to the Spanish Government, which delivered an attack while the survivors were being transferred to the cruiser "Canarias."