HC Deb 09 March 1938 vol 332 cc1863-7
4. Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

asked the Prime Minister what is the position in regard to the withdrawal of foreign troops concerned now that the Powers concerned have agreed in principle to the British formula; and whether there is yet any proposal or agreement as to the number of troops to be withdrawn in the first instance and the method by which the expenses of such withdrawal are to be met?

Mr. Butler

I am not at liberty to make any statement at present on these questions, which are under the consideration of the Non-Intervention Committee.

Mr. Cocks

When will the next meeting of the Committee be held?

Mr. Butler

I cannot at present say.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is it proposed that the British taxpayer should pay for the withdrawal of Italian troops from Spain?

9. Mr. R. Acland

asked the Prime Minister whether he can give an assurance that His Majesty's Government will neither propose nor sanction any departure from the resolution of the Non-Intervention Committee adopted on 4th November, 1937, and particularly paragraph (3) of that resolution, which laid it down that reimposition of control over land frontiers should shortly precede the commencement of withdrawals of non-Spanish nationals from Spain and should be simultaneous with the reimposition of a reinforced system of sea control in accordance with the terms of the Van Dulm-Hemming report?

Mr. Butler

As I pointed out to the hon. Member on 7th March, this is a matter which is at present under the consideration of the Non-Intervention Committee. As has previously been made clear, the British proposals stand as a whole, and are a matter for decision by the Committee as a whole.

Mr. Acland

Can we have an assurance now that the British Government will not go back on the agreement which was previously reached on this very important matter?

Mr. Butler

Various questions are now being considered together, and I am not in a position at present to give an assurance.

10. Sir Nairne Stewart Sandeman

asked the Prime Minister whether he has considered an article recently published in "Dia Grafico," the official organ of the Barcelona Government, in which it is made clear that that Government, if successful in the present civil war, will obtain the return of Gibraltar to Spain; and what representations he has made to that Government?

Mr. Butler

I have not seen the article to which my hon. Friend refers, but I am making inquiries.

Sir N. Stewart Sandeman

Would the Minister like me to send him a copy of the article?

Mr. Hannah

Is there any doubt that we shall retain Gibraltar?

12. Colonel Wedgwood

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the increasing difficulties of the Spanish Government faced by unlimited Italian war material, he will include in the Italian conversations the cessation of such supplies in future and, further, that our Ambassador at Rome should be informed of what is being sent to Spain from Italy?

Mr. Butler

As the House will be aware, it is the policy of His Majesty's Government to secure general adherence to the Non-Intervention Agreement. There is the fullest interchange of information between my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and His Majesty's Ambassador at Rome over all questions relevant to the discharge of the Ambassador's duties.

Colonel Wedgwood

Is it relative to the Ambassador's duties to find out information from the Italian Government or elsewhere as to the shipping of munitions of war to Spain; and, if that is his duty, is he sending the information?

Mr. Butler

I think the right hon. Gentleman may be assured that His Majesty's Government have all the information that they can procure.

Major-General Sir Alfred Knox

Can our Ambassador in Paris be informed as to the amounts of munitions passing over the French frontier to Catalonia?

Mr. Wedgwood Benn

Does the hon. Gentleman consider that the continual import of Italian raw material into Spain is a matter relevant to the British-Italian conversations?

13. Colonel Wedgwood

asked the Prime Minister whether the French Government have yet approached the Vatican with a view to obtaining an authoritative condemnation of the bombing in Spain by either side of civilians; whether His Majesty's representative at the Vatican has been asked to make any such representations; and, if not, will he be told to do so?

17. Mr. Edmund Harvey

asked the Prime Minister whether any response has been received to the representations made by the French Government, with the support of His Majesty's Government, seeking the good offices of the Vatican in order to bring about an agreement between both sides engaged in the civil war in Spain to abandon the bombardment of open towns and other unfortified places; and whether any representations have yet been made by the British Minister to the Vatican on this subject?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)

His Majesty's Government and the French Government are still in consultation regarding the form of the proposed appeal to the contending Spanish parties. His Majesty's Government have consequently not yet made any approach to the Vatican, nor, so far as I am aware, have the French Government done so.

Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft

Is it possible to invite the Vatican to intervene in one part of Spain where there has been wholesale destruction of churches?

Colonel Wedgwood

Are any further steps in contemplation in this matter, seeing its importance for all the people of Spain, on both sides?

The Prime Minister

I have said that we are still in consultation on the matter with the French Government.

26. Sir H. Croft

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he can give particulars of the air attack upon His Majesty's Ships "Blanche" and "Brilliant"?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Shakespeare)

Yes, Sir. His Majesty's Ships "Blanche" and "Brilliant" were attacked about mid-day on Sunday last, 6th March, by five aircraft while they were proceeding to investigate bombing which had taken place in the vicinity of the British steamship "Shakespear." No damage was caused. His Majesty's Government take a serious view of attacks of this character upon His Majesty's ships of war. As they are of opinion, on the evidence available, that the aircraft in question was in the service of the Spanish Government, a suitable protest is being addressed to that Government.

27. Sir H. Croft

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether there have been any air operations in connection with the Spanish war in proximity to His Majesty's Ship "Royal Oak"; and whether every precaution is taken to keep capital ships of the Royal Navy in neutral waters removed from the possibilities of air attack?

Mr. Shakespeare

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. As regards the second part, my hon. and gallant Friend will appreciate that, while none of His Majesty's ships will be hazarded unnecessarily, the nature of the duties which they may be required to perform is such that, in the circumstances at present prevailing in Spanish waters, they must remain subject to a certain degree of risk of air attack.

Sir H. Croft

Cannot the capital ships of the British Navy be kept out of these possibilities? Can the hon. Member tell us what air operations took place in the neighbourhood of the "Royal Oak," as I asked him to do in the first part of the question?

Mr. Shakespeare

On the first part of the question, one can only say that a capital ship of this size is less vulnerable to air attack than a smaller ship. In reply to the second part, there have been three attacks in the vicinity of the "Royal Oak," and no damage has been done.

Sir H. Croft

Is the hon. Member aware by whom the attacks were made, and has any protest been made? Were they, in fact, five Russian aeroplanes?

Mr. Shakespeare

I am informed that one was presumably Nationalist, one believed to belong to the Spanish Government, and one doubtful.

Mr. Shinwell

Do the Admiralty think that these attacks were deliberate?

Mr. Shakespeare

It is very difficult sometimes to say, so inaccurate is the attack, what target is being aimed at.