HC Deb 16 May 1938 vol 336 cc11-5
14. Mr. G. Strauss

asked the Prime Minister whether any reply has been received from the insurgent authorities to the protest against the air attacks on British ships at Valencia?

Mr. Butler

No reply has yet been received.

Mr. Strauss

Is it not clear from the attitude of the insurgent authorities in this respect that some further action is

has fortunately now terminated, and I trust that the restoration of more normal conditions in regard to cocoa will materially improve United Kingdom trade with these Colonies. The hon. and learned Member will also be aware that a Commission appointed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies has been inquiring into the conditions under which cocoa is marketed in British West Africa.

Mr. Gibson

Do recent events show that the exports are increasing?

Mr. Hudson

I do not know that the trend has yet shown any increase.

Mr. Sorensen

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, in fact, this dispute has not been terminated but only suspended?

Following is the statement:

necessary in order to protect British ships and British seamen from deliberate attacks of this kind?

Mr. Butler

The hon. Gentleman's question referred to a protest, and I should prefer to await the reply.

Miss Rathbone

Is not British prestige suffering serious damage from the willingness of His Majesty's Government to be content with further protests?

15. Mr. G. Strauss

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the success of the Nyon Agreement in stopping the sinking of British merchant ships at sea, he will consider the installation, with the permission of the Spanish Republican Government, of anti-aircraft batteries in Valencia and Barcelona in order to stop the deliberate aircraft attacks on British ships in these ports?

Mr. Butler

His Majesty's Government are unable to accept the hon. Member's proposal. British anti-aircraft batteries installed in these ports in order to protect British shipping from an air attack would have to fire at all bombing aircraft attacking the ports. They would, therefore, become virtually a part of the local air defences, and, as such, would become open to bombing themselves. It is obvious that the action proposed would involve direct intervention in the conflict in Spain.

Mr. Strauss

As the Government acknowledge that these attacks on British ships are deliberate, surely they would be justified in setting up some defence against these deliberate attacks?

Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft

Is it not a fact that the owners of these ships are aware that they are risking the lives of British sailors, in that they are paying them three times the usual rate; and will not efforts be made to discourage the sustaining of either side by such methods?

18. Mr. Allan Chapman

asked the Prime Minister what progress has been made with the proposal for the exchange of prisoners between the belligerents in Spain; whether the delay is due to obstruction; and, if so, by whom?

Mr. Butler

Last January His Majesty's Government received the consent of both contending parties to the appointment of a single British arbitrator to conduct the proposed negotiations for an exchange of prisoners, and they were strongly urged by the Spanish Government to take the necessary steps as soon as possible. Both parties were accordingly asked whether the appointment of Field-Marshal Sir Philip Chetwode as arbitrator was acceptable. The consent of General Franco's administration was received on 26th March, but 'the Spanish Government, in a note dated 25th April, indicated that they were no longer agreeable to the appointment of a single arbitrator, and expressed the desire that an international board should be set up. His Majesty's Government have now pointed out to the Spanish Government the further delays likely to result from this decision, and are at the same time informing them that, in the event of their maintaining their attitude, His Majesty's Government are prepared to submit to General Franco's administration such further proposals as the Spanish Government may have to make for the appointment of the members of the board.

19. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Prime Minister whether any satisfaction has been received from General Franco following the protests of His Majesty's Government in respect of the bombing of British merchant vessels and the killing of British seamen?

Mr. Butler

As I informed the House in the Debate on the Adjournment on 12th May, His Majesty's Government have notified General Franco's administration where they consider claims to lie, and in all cases of deliberate attack they have protested. since detailed claims have not been made, a settlement has not been reached in any case.

Mr. Shinwell

Is it not true to say that these British vessels are engaged in trading operations of a perfectly legal character, and that, therefore, those attacks are not in any way justified; and are we to understand from the hon. Gentleman's reply that the Government are satisfied with the reply of General Franco?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir; I said that satisfaction has not yet been obtained, but detailed claims have not been lodged. We have always protested whenever there has been a case of deliberate attack.

Mr. Shinwell

Will the seamen concerned, and the seamen's dependants, receive compensation?

Mr. Butler

I should require notice of that question.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Will the hon. Gentleman be good enough to answer the first supplementary question, as to whether the Government recognise that these ships are engaged on lawful errands?

Mr. Butler

Ships can certainly trade, but His Majesty's Government warn them of the risks of entering ports where hostilities are going on.

Mr. Noel-Baker

In view of the fact that Valencia and Barcelona are far distant from the battle lines, do the Government now regard it as legitimate to bomb such ports, with risk to neutral shipping?

Mr. Butler1

We dislike any sort of aerial bombing, but we are unable to do anything to stop it when it is a case of air raids on military objectives.

26. Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

asked the Prime Minister whether, following the signature of the Anglo-Italian Agreement, any negotiations or conversations are now proceeding with the Italian Government concerning the evacuation of Italian troops from Spain, and, particularly, for the evacuation of the Italian troops and war material before the termination of the Spanish civil war?

Mr. Butler

Negotiations for the withdrawal of foreign volunteers from Spain at the earliest possible date are proceeding within the Non-Intervention Committee, but I regret that I am not at present in a position to make any further statement on the subject. As regards war material, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave on 30th March to a question by the hon. Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson).

Mr. A. V. Alexander

In view of the situation, are we to understand, from the speech of Signor Mussolini over the weekend, that the Anglo-Italian Treaty was made because the British Government wanted Franco to win, and that negotiations between Italy and France are held up because France does not want Franco to win?

Mr. Speaker

The Under-Secretary cannot be expected to interpret Signor Mussolini's speech.