HC Deb 25 July 1938 vol 338 cc2693-5
32. Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

asked the Prime Minister whether, during the conversations which resulted in the Anglo-Italian Agreement, the British and Italian representatives came to an understanding as to what is implied by the phrase "a settlement in Spain"?

The Prime Minister

The answer is in the negative.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

Does that mean that negotiations of this importance were started and brought to a conclusion without the two parties to them ever arriving at any agreement as to the premises which formed the basis of the agreement?

The Prime Minister

That would appear to be the effect of my answer.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

Is there any precedent for negotiations of this nature and an agreement being concluded without any agreement between the two parties on such a matter?

The Prime Minister

I have not made a search.

33. Mr. Cocks

asked the Prime Minister whether any information has been given to the Italian Government as to the meaning His Majesty's Government attaches to the phrase relating to a settlement in Spain?

The Prime Minister

Since the conclusion of the Anglo-Italian Agreement there have been confidential exchanges of views between the two Governments on the subject. But, as I stated in answer to a supplementary question by the Leader of the Opposition on 20th July, I have never committed myself to a complete, or even a partial, definition of this phrase.

Mr. Cocks

Does that mean that the Italian Government is just as much in the dark as to His Majesty's Government's intentions as the House of Commons?

The Prime Minister

I do not know whether that is so or not. I do not know their state of mind.

Mr. Wedgwood Benn

Does it mean that in the Recess the Prime Minister will be at liberty to implement the agreement by putting his own interpretation on what is meant by the term "a settlement"?

The Prime Minister

There is no change in the situation.

Mr. Benn

That is not an answer to my question. I asked whether the Prime Minister considers himself at liberty to put his own interpretation on the phrase "a settlement"?

The Prime Minister

The Government are entitled to put their interpretation upon it.

Mr. A. V. Alexander

What about the House of Commons?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Do the Government consider themselves at liberty to bring into force an agreement of this importance without informing the House of Commons as to the meaning of an essential clause in it?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Member will remember that, in answer to a supplementary question a few days ago, I said that I did not exclude the possibility that the House of Commons might have to be called together to consider the matter.