HC Deb 02 May 1938 vol 335 cc494-8
11. Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft

asked the Prime Minister whether he has received detailed information concerning the increasing supply of munitions of war and material passing the French frontier during the last two months to the Government of Barcelona; whether this information discloses the fact that 140 aeroplanes, 91 trucks of aviation parts, five trains and three trucks of artillery, tanks, armoured cars, machine guns, and small arms, 2,532 tons of explosives, and 4,893 tons of miscellaneous war material, all passed between 7th February and 2nd April; and whether this continuing breach of the Non-Intervention Agreement will be brought before the Committee?

Mr. Butler

I have received information regarding these alleged supplies, but I would remind my hon. and gallant Friend that it is not the practice of the Non-Intervention Committee to consider complaints of this nature emanating from one of the Spanish parties.

Duchess of Atholl

Have not the friends of Nationalist Spain circulated a statement in which they showed that since 16th March, the date on which the Republicans were pushed back owing to the large numbers of Italian and German aeroplanes, large consignments went through on the insurgent side?

Sir H. Croft

Arising out of the answer of the hon. Gentleman, is he not aware that those supplies have been going on consistently and have recently been largely increased?

Mr. Butler

A great many charges have been published by both sides in Spain, and, as I have said, there has been intervention on both sides.

12. Mr. R. Acland

asked the Prime Minister whether he has received any report on the bombing of the steamship "Stanland" and other British vessels in Valencia harbour on 25th April; and what action he proposes to take?

10. Mr. Graham White

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the continuance of attacks by the Spanish insurgent forces upon British merchant vessels, resulting in loss of life and injury to British seamen, notwithstanding the protests entered by His Majesty's Government through their agent at Burgos, he will demand an immediate investigation into the bombing of the steamship "Stan-land" and other British vessels in Valencia harbour on 25th April, and claim immediately full compensation for the damage to persons and property resulting from this and previous attacks?

Mr. Butler

His Majesty's Government have already received reports on the air raid against the harbour of Valencia, in the course of which I regret to say that certain British vessels were damaged and two British seamen injured. The raid was apparently aimed at a number of military objectives in the harbour and its vicinity, and the vessels concerned do not seem to have been the objects of deliberate attack. His Majesty's Government are considering the question of a claim for compensation.

Mr. Wedgwood Benn

Have His Majesty's Government made inquiries as to the nationality of the machines that made the attacks?

Mr. Butler

Our full information has not yet come in, but I will see whether that particular information has come through.

Mr. W. Roberts

Has any claim yet been made by the British Government for damage done to the "Stanland," by what was reported to be a deliberate and quite unjustifiable attack?

Mr. Butler

I shall want notice of that question.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

Can a claim lie, where a vessel—a British vessel—is in a harbour which is a direct military objective, and is damaged, because she is there, by bombing, which is quite a correct procedure?

Mr. Butler

I said that we were considering the claim for compensation, and that is precisely one of the questions for consideration.

Mr. A. V. Alexander

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the captain of the ship himself gave the information that it was a direct attack upon this ship, and is not the captain in the best position to judge?

Mr. Butler

That is another question which we are considering, in regard to the claim for damages. I cannot go beyond that.

15. Mr. Benn

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the aerial bombardment of Barcelona and Valencia which, after the Government protest, had been temporarily abandoned, has been renewed since the conclusion of the Italian Agreement; and whether, accordingly, the Government will repeat their protests after this fresh attack on civilian populations?

Mr. Butler

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. I have not yet received reports on the most recent raids on Barcelona, but my information regarding last week's raids on that city is to the effect that they were directed against a steam generating power station on the outskirts of the town, while the raid on Valencia was apparently aimed at a shell factory, the harbour and oilier adjacent military objectives. While, therefore, awaiting further evidence, I do not consider that we should be warranted at this stage in making a protest founded on the allegation that these attacks were aimed at the civilian population.

Mr. Thurtle

From what source has the hon. Gentleman's information come to the effect that these two attacks were directed against the objectives he has specified?

Mr. Butler

Our information comes from various sources, including our representative on the spot.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

In any case, are they not there at their own risk?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Has the hon. Gentleman seen the statement of the British captain of one of the vessels in Barcelona that there was a deliberate attack on these vessels by German and Italian aircraft?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir.

16. Brigadier-General Spears

asked the Prime Minister when the Non-Intervention Committee will meet to put into force the British formula for the withdrawal of volunteers from Spain?

Mr. Butler

I understand that no date has yet been fixed, but it is hoped that the Chairman will find it possible to call a further meeting very shortly.

21. Miss Rathbone

asked the Prime Minister what contributions have been promised, and on what conditions, by His Majesty's Government to any humanitarian organisations for the relief of child refugees in Spain; and what part of such contribution has been actually paid?

Mr. Butler

I would refer the hon. Lady to the reply which I gave to the junior Member for the English Universities (Mr. E. Harvey) on 11th April. An assurance has now been received from the International Commission for the Assistance of Child Refugees in Spain that the conditions attaching to His Majesty's Government's offer of a grant have been fulfilled, and the Commission has accordingly been informed that the grant will be at their disposal as soon as essential formalities have been complied with.

Miss Rathbone

Has not this grant been promised since November; and why is it that the sum has been cut down from £25,000, which was originally promised, to £10,000?

Mr. Butler

The matter is somewhat complicated. As the hon. Lady will remember, originally the grant was conditional. The present grant has in fact been given in order that it may be given more quickly, and the conditions, as the hon. Lady will have seen, have been fulfilled.