HC Deb 14 March 1938 vol 333 cc3-9
4. Mr. James Griffiths

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the declaration made by Senor Negrin, Spanish Prime Minister, on 26th February, to the effect that prior to the insurgent offensive at Teruel numerous shiploads of aeroplanes and artillery arrived in the insurgent zone from German and Italian ports; and whether he can make any statement on the matter?

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

I am aware that Senor Negrin is reported to have made such a statement, but I have received no reports of this nature.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Have the Government called for reports from British agents in Spain, and is it not the fact that there has been a great deal more intervention by Germany and Italy in the last few months than ever before?

Mr. Butler

Naturally, reports come to us, but on this particular question, as the hon. Gentleman will see from my reply, I am aware that Senor Negrin is reported to have made such a statement, but I have received no report of this nature.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Have the Government called for such reports from British agents in Italy and in Spain?

Mr. Butler

No reports of this nature have been brought before the Non-intervention Committee.

Mr. Wedgwood Benn

In that case, will the Government asked Lord Perth to inquire whether there is any truth in this statement?

5. Sir Archibald Sinclair

asked the Prime Minister whether the acceptance by the Italian Government of His Majesty's Government's formula for the withdrawal of foreign combatants from Spain included acceptance of the principle that the withdrawal should be in proportion to the numbers engaged on either side; and whether the reimposition of control at the frontiers of Spain was a condition of the Italian Government's acceptance of the formula?

Mr. Butler

I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that both the conditions which he mentions formed part of the British plan of 14th July and have already been accepted by all the Governments represented on the Non-intervention Committee in their Resolution of 4th November.

Sir A. Sinclair

Are we in a position to control when the volunteers are withdrawn? My question is, will the immediate reimposition of control be a condition of the acceptance by the Italian Government of the British Government's formula?

Mr. Butler

The word "immediate" was not in the right hon. Gentleman's question, and I am referring to the question that was put upon the Paper.

Miss Wilkinson

Can we have a guarantee from the Minister that no control will be reimposed on the legal Government of Spain until the control of General Franco's forces and supplies is made effective?

Mr. Butler

That is just one of the questions which is being discussed at the present moment.

6. Sir A. Sinclair

asked the Prime Minister what answers have been received from the Spanish Government and from General Franco, respectively, to His Majesty's Government's representations that the bombardment of open towns ought to be stopped; on how many occasions since those representations were made bombardments of open towns have been carried out by the Spanish Government air forces and by those of General Franco, respectively; and, in view of the recent repeated bombardments of Barcelona by General Franco's air force, what further action he proposes to take?

Mr. Butler

As the Prime Minister informed the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) on 28th February, the Spanish Government have accepted in principle the good offices of His Majesty's Government, but the Salamanca authorities have replied that, while they deeply regret the bombardment of open towns, and have avoided on every occasion causing useless ravages, and while they take good note of the intiative of His Majesty's Government, they must nevertheless reserve proper freedom of action in so far as the free development of the campaign is concerned, which necessitates striking at military objectives wherever they may be found. I regret that I have not sufficient information to give an answer to the second part of the question. As regards the last part, as the Prime Minister stated on 9th March, His Majesty's Government and the French Government are still in consultation.

Sir A. Sinclair

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether any further action is to be taken, seeing that his representations have been agreed to by one side and rejected by the other?

Mr. Butler

We are still in consultation with the French Government on this important matter.

Miss Wilkinson

In view of the fact that the Government side have accepted the proposal and that General Franco has refused it, is it not only fair that the Government should at least be allowed anti-aircraft guns in order to protect their own positions?

Major-General Sir Alfred Knox

Is not the Spanish Government's acceptance absolutely due to the fact that they are weaker in the air?

7. Mr. Leach

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the announcement of the Spanish Minister of Defence that German submarines are operating on behalf of General Franco; and will he instruct the British representatives on the Non-intervention Committee to bring this matter up for investigation?

Mr. Butler

I have received no information regarding such an announcement; nor have I any confirmation whatever of the facts alleged. In these circumstances, the second part of the question does not arise.

Mr. Leach

May I have the honour to supply the information on this matter so as to make up the deficiencies of the hon. Gentleman's own inquiries?

Mr. Butler

While I do not accept the inference of the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I will certainly consider any definite evidence he may be able to give me.

8. Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

asked the Prime Minister when he expects to be at liberty to make a statement regarding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Spain in accordance with the British formula which has been accepted by the Powers concerned; on what date the formula was accepted by the Powers, respectively; and whether he can make a statement as to the number of troops to be withdrawn in the first instance and the estimated expense of such a withdrawal?

Mr. Butler

I regret that it is not possible for me at present to make a statement regarding any of these questions, in view of the fact that there has been no decision by the Non-intervention Committee to publish this information.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether his inability to make any statement arises from the fact that the Powers that have accepted the British formula have no intention whatever of removing any of their troops from Spain? May I have an answer?

10. Colonel Wedgwood

asked the Prime Minister whether information as to men and materials sent from Italy to Spain is one of those questions which are communicated to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs by our Ambassador in Rome?

Mr. Butler

It is the function of His Majesty's Representatives abroad to report as far as possible on all matters concerning the countries in which they reside which may be of interest to His Majesty's Government.

Colonel Wedgwood

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether, during the last year and a half, the Government have had any information at all from our Ambassador as to the despatch of troops or munitions to Spain?

Mr. Butler

On a question such as this, we have had reports.

Colonel Wedgwood

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether such a report comes from British consuls at Italian ports direct to our Government or whether it goes to our Ambassador at Rome?

Mr. Butler

His Majesty's Government are well informed through many channels.

Mr. Benn

In view of the importance of this question, can the Under-Secretary see that Lord Perth inquires definitely in these conversations whether they are true or not? Will he kindly answer that question?

Mr. Butler

I confine myself to answering the question on the Paper. It is the function of the representatives of His Majesty's Government to send such information as they can, and I am sure that they do so on every occasion.

Mr. Benn

Does that mean that it is impossible to instruct Lord Perth to make inquiries?

Mr. Maxton

If the hon. Gentleman says that the Government are well informed on these matters, does he not think that it is now about time the Government were candid in telling the House of Commons some of the information?

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

Can the Under-Secretary say whether the information which has been received by the Government from the Ambassador in Rome corresponds with the statements made by the Italian representative on the Non-intervention Committee?

13. Mr. Thurtle

asked the Prime Minister the nationality of the British Vice-Consul at La Linea?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. He is a British subject by birth.

14. Mr. Thurtle

asked the Prime Minister whether it is the intention of the Non-intervention Committee to make the reimposition of the international control of the Portuguese-Spanish frontier part of the new effort to make the non-intervention plan an effective reality?

Mr. Butler

Observation on the Portuguese-Spanish frontier is exercised not by international, but by British observers in pursuance of an agreement to this end between His Majesty's Government and the Portuguese Government. The British plan of 14th July and also the resolution which was adopted by the Non-Intervention Committee on 4th November last, provided for the restoration of observation on both the land frontiers of Spain.

31. Mr. W. Roberts

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the total number of survivors that were rescued by British destroyers from the "Baleares"; and whether he is now in a position to state how many of these were not of Spanish nationality and to what nationality they belonged?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Shakespeare)

The total number of survivors rescued by British destroyers from the Spanish cruiser "Baleares" was about 370, of whom three died of their wounds while on board. So far as it was possible to discover during the comparatively short time the survivors were on board, they were all Spaniards with the exception of one rating who stated that he was a German.

32. Mr. Thurtle

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether any protest was made to the insurgent authorities in Spain regarding the attack by an insurgent aeroplane on the "Royal Oak"; and, if so, what answer has been received?

Mr. Shakespeare

The only attack definitely directed at His Majesty's ship "Royal Oak" took place on 2nd February, 1937, when she was at sea in the vicinity of Gibraltar. Three bombs were dropped by Spanish Government aircraft near the ship, but no damage was caused. A protest was made to the Spanish Government authorities and an apology received, the explanation being given that the ship had been mistaken for insurgent warships. The other two occasions to which I referred in my reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) on 9th March, were incidents which occurred during air raids on Valencia on 23rd February, 1937, and on Palma on 2nd March, 1938, on occasions when His Majesty's ship "Royal Oak" happened to be present. In such circumstances no protest was called for or made.

Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft

Can the hon. Member say to whom the air raiders belonged which bombed His Majesty's ship "Royal Oak" while lying at Palma?

Mr. Shakespeare

Presumably to the Spanish Government.

Mr. Thurtle

Is it not the fact that the aeroplanes which dropped bombs near His Majesty's ship "Royal Oak" were insurgent planes from Valencia?

49. Mr. R. Acland

asked the Prime Minister whether the Italian Government attached any conditions to their acceptance of the British formula for the withdrawal of volunteers from Spain and kindred matters; and whether these conditions have been accepted by His Majesty's Government?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) on 3rd March, to which I have nothing to add.

Mr. Acland

Will the Prime Minister give an assurance that it is not a condition, and that we have not agreed, that there should be a closing of the French frontier at any time other than shortly preceding the actual withdrawal?

The Prime Minister

I would prefer to refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 3rd March.

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