§ 3.30 p. m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)
I beg to move,That this House welcomes the intention of His Majesty's Government to bring the Anglo-Italian Agreement into force.Yesterday, in speaking of the Declaration signed at Munich by Herr Hitler and myself, I said I thought that if it were suitably followed up it might well be found to contain the seed which would ultimately develop into a new era of confidence and peace in Europe. Somewhat the same idea was expressed, in different language, by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition when he asked whether we must always wait for subjects of difference between nations to give rise to threats of war before we considered them ripe for peaceful discussion and negotiation. Since we made an Agreement with Italy on 16th April last, I am glad to think that there are no differences between our two countries—[An HON. MEMBER: "What about Spain?"]—but it is clear that if the improvement in our relations which so markedly followed upon the conclusion of that Agreement is to be maintained, the delay in putting the Agreement into force, which has already lasted for more than six months, cannot be indefinitely prolonged.
It is not necessary for me this afternoon to discuss the merits of the Agreement itself. The terms of the Agreement were debated in this House last May, and on the 2nd of that month, a Motion, which was moved by me, of approval of the Agreement was carried by a large majority. Of course, I am well aware that the Opposition resisted the Motion then, and naturally I do not expect them to have changed their views, but the question we have to consider to-day is not whether this is a good Agreement or not. That has already been settled as far as this House is concerned. The question we have to consider is whether the time has now come to put it into force, and whether the preliminary condition which I laid down as essential before the Agreement could be put into force has now been fulfilled. The House will remember very well what that condition was. It was that we should be able to consider that the Spanish question was 208 settled, and I explained last July why we had thought it necessary to make that condition. I said then that in our view the justification for the formal recognition of Italian sovereignty over Ethiopia was to be found if we could feel that that recognition would constitute an important advance towards the general appeasement of Europe, and it was because we felt at that time that the conflict which was going on in Spain under the then existing conditions did constitute a perpetual menace to the peace of Europe that we felt that it must be removed from that category before we could ask Parliament to agree to the Agreement being put into force.
Since that time a good many efforts have been made by various Members of the Opposition to get me to say exactly what I meant by a settlement in Spain. I have always refused to give any such definition, not because I wanted to evade any proper duty which fell upon me, but because I did not feel that I could give such a definition in the absence of more knowledge than I possessed of what might be the future developments in the Spanish situation. But perhaps hon. Members may recollect that on 26th July last, in answer to an interruption by the Leader of the Opposition relating to the withdrawal of volunteers from Spain, I used these words:I would like to see what happens when the volunteers are withdrawn. If His Majesty's Government think that Spain has ceased to be a menace to the peace of Europe, I think we shall regard that as a settlement of the Spanish qustion."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th July 1938; col. 2965, Vol. 338.]Since then a great deal has happened. Already, even at that date, all the Powers represented on the Non-Intervention Committee, including Italy, of course, had accepted the British plan for the withdrawal of volunteers, and if that plan is not in operation to-day, it cannot be said that that is the fault of Italy. [Interruption.] It cannot properly be said. Again, since then the Spanish Government have announced their intention of withdrawing the International Brigade. [An HON. MEMBER: "They have done it!"] When I was at Munich, Signor Mussolini volunteered me the information that he intended to withdraw 10,000 men, or about half the Italian infantry forces, from Spain, and since then those men have in fact been withdrawn.
209 I have no doubt that hon. Members will represent that Italian men, pilots, aircraft and other material still remain in Spain, and so also there remain men and material of other than Italian nationality in Spain on one side or the other; but we have received from Signor Mussolini definite assurances, first of all that the remaining Italian forces of all categories will be withdrawn when the non-intervention plan comes into operation; secondly, that no further Italian troops will be sent to Spain; and thirdly—in case this idea had occurred to anybody—that the Italian Government have never for a moment entertained the idea of sending compensatory air forces to Spain in lieu of the infantry forces which have now been withdrawn. These three assurances, taken in conjunction with the actual withdrawal of this large body of men, in my judgment constitute a substantial earnest of the good intentions of the Italian Government. They form a considerable contribution to the elimination of the Spanish question as a menace to peace.
But these are not the only considerations which weigh with His Majesty's Government. Some hon. Members, with that eternal tendency to suspicion which, I am afraid, only breeds corresponding suspicions on the other side, persist in the view that Germany and Italy have a design of somehow permanently establishing themselves in Spain, and that Spain itself will presently be setting up a Fascist State. I believe both those views to be entirely unfounded. When I was at Munich, I spoke on the subject of the future of Spain with Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini, and both of them assured me most definitely that they had no territorial ambitions whatever in Spain. I would remind hon. Members that when, in September, Europe was apparently faced with the prospect of a new major war, General Franco made a declaration of his neutrality and stated that he would not violate the French frontier unless he was attacked from that quarter. It seems to us that the events which took place in September put the whole Spanish conflict into a new perspective, and if the nations of Europe escaped a great catastrophe in the acute Czechoslovakian crisis, surely nobody can imagine that, with that recollection fresh in their minds, they are going to knock their heads together over Spain. In my own mind I am perfectly clear that the 210 Spanish question is no longer a menace to the peace of Europe, and, consequently, that there is no valid reason why we should not take a step which, obviously, would contribute to general appeasement.
In the realm of international affairs one thing generally leads to another, and if any justification were required for the policy of the Government in closing our differences with Italy, it surely can be found in the action of Signor Mussolini, when, at my request, he used his influence with Herr Hitler in order to give time for the discussion which led up to the Munich Agreement. By that act, the peace of Europe was saved. Does anybody suppose that my request to Signor Mussolini to intervene would have met with a response from him, or, indeed, that I could even have made such a request if our relations with Italy had remained what they were a year ago?
There is one other point which I ought to mention because it seems to me to weigh heavily, although I think unnecessarily, upon certain minds. That is the propriety of the recognition of Italian sovereignty over Ethiopia. I wonder how far those who hold that view are prepared to carry their reluctance. Are they prepared to withhold recognition in perpetuity? Because, if that really were so, I am afraid they would very speedily find themselves in complete isolation. I would like to remind them, in the first place that, at the Council of the League of Nations last May, a majority of the Members of the Council expressed the unqualified view that it was for each nation to decide for itself whether it should or should not accord this formal recognition. Further, I would remind them that, of all the countries in Europe, there are only two, namely, ourselves and the Government of Soviet Russia, which have restricted themselves to de facto recognition. The latest country to recognise formally Italian sovereignty in Ethiopia is France, and their new Ambassador is to be accredited to the King of Italy and the Emperor of Ethiopia. We propose to follow the same course as France, and, accordingly, new credentials will be issued to our Ambassador in Italy on similar lines, thereby according legal recognition to Italian sovereignty.
211 Perhaps the House may like to know that on being informed of our intention to take this course the French Government not only raised no objection but stated that they welcomed generally anything which could contribute to the improvement of Anglo-Italian relations. It is, perhaps, unnecessary to tell the House that, in accordance with what has now become the usual routine, the Dominions have been kept fully informed of all our intentions, and I am very glad to be able to read to the House a message which I have received from the Prime Minister of Australia who says as follows:The Commonwealth Government are convinced that the Anglo-Italian agreement should be brought into operation forthwith as a contribution to peace and de jure recognition accorded to the Italian conquest of Abyssinia. The withdrawal of 10,000 Italian troops from Spain seems a real contribution. In our opinion, a peaceful and friendly Mediterranean is essential to the present condition of the world. To refuse de jure recognition would seem to us to ignore the facts and to risk danger for a matter which is now immaterial.I have also received the following message from the Prime Minister of South Africa:General Hertzog has noted the contents of this telegram"—that is the telegram informing him of our intention to bring the Anglo-Italian Agreement into force—with much satisfaction, and he feels that the steps that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom propose taking are wise and necessary and will materially contribute to appeasement in Europe.It will be observed how, in both those messages, the Prime Ministers of Australia and South Africa respectively have gone to what, I think, is the root of the matter, and have recognised that, in the action which His Majesty's Government propose to take they are not concerned solely with the relations between ourselves and Italy, but that the step we are taking must be regarded as a step in the policy which I have described to the House on so many occasions.
§ Mr. Stephen
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he has had any message from the Prime Minister of New Zealand?
§ The Prime Minister
I ask the House to approve this Motion, and in doing so I am satisfied that the House will be definitely increasing the prospect of peace as a whole. I say, let us put an end here and now to any idea that it is our desire to keep any State at arm's length, and let us remember that every advance which we may make towards removing possible causes of friction upon one subject, makes it easier and more probable that we can deal satisfactorily with those which remain still unsettled.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood
I think I can say that all my friends on this side of the House have heard the right hon. Gentleman's speech with the deepest dissatisfaction. There can be no argument against any attempts which are made to deal with the sores of Europe and elsewhere, to remove the danger spots, and indeed to do everything to improve international relations, but the substance of the Debate, important though many of the matters to which the right hon. Gentleman referred may be, is not the Anglo-Italian Agreement, but the price which will have to be paid for it. Whatever importance the Prime Minister attaches to the Anglo-Italian Agreement, it does not deal with issues of the same magnitude as the issue which to-day is being fought out in Spain, except in one respect perhaps, that of Abyssinia. The difference between the right hon. Gentleman and me is not as to whether Abyssinia should be recognised as part of the new Roman Empire; the question is as to whether Abyssinia has yet been conquered. It is the first time that the British Government have given recognition to a Power still in process of trying to obtain the submission of a nation, and my information is that the Abyssinian war is by no means over and that Mussolini cannot regard himself as the effective master of that country.
As I say, the real substance of the Debate, however, is not the Anglo-Italian Agreement, but the price which somebody is to have to pay for it. That price is to be paid by the people of Spain. The Prime Minister's contemptuous reference to Czechoslovakia, I believe in a broadcast speech, and his very niggardly references to the heroic sacrifices made by the 213 Czechoslovakian people are only paralleled by his Pecksniffian complacency regarding the fate of Spain and all that that means to Britain and to the Empire. The right hon. Gentleman referred to his speech of 2nd May, when he persuaded the House to accept the Anglo-Italian Treaty. He has told us that the pre-requisite of the Treaty coming into effect was the settlement of the Spanish question. As he has admitted this afternoon with pride, he repeatedly refused to define what he meant by a settlement of the Spanish question. The nearest he got to it was the statement which he himself quoted a few minutes ago from his speech of 26th July. What the average citizen means by a settlement of the Spanish question is that somehow, in some way, hostilities shall come to an end. Now the Prime Minister says that a settlement means, not a settlement of the Spanish conflict, but that the Spanish conflict is unlikely to threaten the peace of Europe. In other words, the Spanish war can continue, helpless women and children can continue to be bombed and shattered and slaughtered in Spain, vital British interests can continue to be threatened, British lives and British shipping continue to be endangered, a great British trade route threatened, and the integrity and stability of the British Empire itself very gravely endangered; all these things can happen, as long as the right hon. Gentleman retains the friendship of a tottering dictator.
The right hon. Gentleman has the peculiar genius of friendship with the wrong people, always willing to grant concessions to their demands, never able to wring concessions from them. I remember that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) once described a former Prime Minister as "the boneless wonder of the age." It is a term which might well be applied to his successor. The right hon. Gentleman has been able to do what nobody else has ever been able to do, what "all the King's horses and all the King's men" have never been able to do; he has been able to put Humpty Dumpty together again. Twice within recent weeks has he saved Mussolini from the fate that all democrats hope will soon befall him. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] I am not ashamed to say that I want to see the destruction of 214 dictatorships in Europe. The right hon. Gentleman has quite properly earned the gratitude of Signor Mussolini, and he is now coming to his aid again.
In what has the situation substantially altered since the right hon. Gentleman got his Treaty ratified by the House on 2nd May? In Spain the war has been waged with increasing bitterness; there have been large foreign reinforcements designed—and deliberately designed—to bring a speedy settlement, a real settlement, by the complete and rapid destruction of the Republican Government and its forces. Another thing which has happened since is Franco's increasing contempt for the British Government and British interests. In what way since 2nd May has Spain ceased to be a menace to the peace of Europe? Does the withdrawal of 10,000 war-weary, wounded, convalescent infantrymen make all the difference to the prospect of permanent peace in Europe? It is a matter of some importance. The only change there has been, substantially, in the situation is that Signor Mussolini has brought home 10,000 ineffectives, and the essentials of the situation remain as they were.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Non-Intervention Committee Agreement. That Committee last met on 5th July. The Chairman of that Committee cannot in decency call it together again. The Committee agreed to this resolution, which is worth reading to the House. It is paragraph 193:That the participating Governments further agree that for the purpose of paragraph 192 above, the International Committee shall be authorised to place on record their opinion that"—this is a quotation from the paragraph:'the arrangements for the withdrawal of foreign nationals are working satisfactorily, and that the withdrawal has in fact made substantial progress,' when 10,000 volunteers have been evacuated in the manner prescribed in paragraph 16 above from whichever Spanish party the Joint Commission in their report referred to in paragraph 34 above, find to have the smaller number of foreign volunteers, and consequently when a proportionately larger number of foreign volunteers have been similarly evacuated from the Spanish party found by the Joint Commission in the report referred to above to have the larger number of foreign volunteers.Is this token withdrawal—it is nothing more than a token withdrawal—of soldiers who are tired of the war, or who through disease or illness are unable to be effective 215 soldiers—is it carrying out the spirit of the Non-Intervention Agreement? These proposals were accepted willingly without any qualification by the Spanish Government. The Spanish Government has begun evacuation. It began evacuation long before Signor Mussolini ever tried to bribe the Prime Minister at Munich. The Franco Government scorned the proposals. What is the position in Spain to-day? I gather from the Press that the Prime Minister has received a Note from the Spanish Ambassador in London as to the strength of Italian forces in Spain to-day. The right hon. Gentleman may not agree with all the details of the figures, but I should imagine that no responsible Ambassador would commit himself to figures which were not substantially accurate. It is said that in Spain to-day there are 60,000 infantry, artillery and tank troops. But they are not the important factor in the military situation in Spain. There are from 900 to 1,000 pilots, 2,000 aviation mechanics, 3,000 to 4,000 radio telegraphists, assistants and aviation operators, 10,000 Italian chauffeurs, 5,000 engineers, 2,000 police and agents, or in all, working in Spain now on behalf of Signor Mussolini and General Franco, something like 90,000 Italians, all of them, apart from the military, being the most important people in modern warfare.
§ Mr. Greenwood
If the hon. Gentleman will listen I will tell him again. These are figures that appeared in the Press to-day. They are in a Note presented to the British Government by His Excellency the Spanish Ambassador in London. The withdrawal of 10,000 Italians, therefore, cannot, it seems to me, be considered by any serious person to be a real and sincere contribution towards what has been stated to be the fundamental objective of British policy in regard to Spain—the ending of foreign intervention. From the figures I have quoted it is quite clear that the 10,000 who have been withdrawn from Spain are insignificant in comparison with the total military forces in Spain. One may ask, in passing, what is happening to the plan of the London Committee. With all its efficiency, with all its industry it offered some serious guarantee for ensuring complete withdrawal. I think that the Prime 216 Minister or whoever is to speak later in the Debate ought to say whether it is the intention of the Government now to proceed towards the rapid evacuation of all foreign forces from Spanish territory. We are entitled to ask the Prime Minister, because apparently this matter was discussed in Munich, whether any representations were made to Herr Hitler for the withdrawal of some of his effective fighters in Spain, and if so what answer was made. It is essential that the return of 10,000 men should not be used to cloak over more dilly-dallying on the part of the British and French Governments, creating delays which I am bound to believe are deliberately designed in order to see that the rebel forces are victorious.
§ Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft
Would the right hon. Gentleman and one or two of his colleagues consent to go to Spain with a competent military authority in order to ascertain the number of foreign troops actually in the fighting line?
§ Mr. Greenwood
I do not see that I am called upon to do that. What I am entitled to ask is whether the Government repudiate the figures which I have given and which are in the hands of the Government. I am prepared to consider an impartial Commission from this House going out to Spain, but my first responsibility is to obtain if possible from the Government a statement as to whether the figures I have quoted are substantially accurate or not, and whether the relative composition of that large number of men is as I have suggested. In this matter the Government have a very great load of responsibility. During the last two years or more, hundreds and thousands of people on both sides have perished in Spain, and every large foreign intervention continues the loss of life, continues to keep Europe in a state of peril. The Government are responsible for prolonging the war by not securing the complete withdrawal of all foreign nationals from Spanish territory. By their policy they are not merely continuing the war, but they are promoting the encirclement of France, are accustoming Italy to regard herself as master of the Mediterranean, and indeed are endangering the fabric of the British Empire. If the motives of Germany and Italy are above suspicion, as the right hon. Gentleman believes, if those countries have no designs on Spain, on 217 the Atlantic seaboard or in the Mediterranean, what justification is there for the continuous presence of these Powers on Spanish territory?
The right hon. Gentleman claims that this withdrawal of 10,000 Italians is a gesture. I suggest that it is a trick—a trick in order to play for time and to prolong the war. If Germany and Italy are as sincere and honest as the Prime Minister has been led to believe, let them as a sign of their sincerity make the gesture of withdrawal, and then the prospects of a wider war would be swept away so far as Spain is concerned. As long as there are foreign troops on Spanish soil and there is one Republican Spaniard alive, the war in Spain will not end; but once foreign troops, foreign technicians and foreign war material are withdrawn and the future of Spain is left to the Spanish people, there will be a speedy end to hostilities in that unhappy land. That, I suggest, is the only way to remove this danger zone from the map of Europe. The Government are engaged in a crazy policy, whittling away the freedom of the people. They have already sacrificed Abyssinia; they have already sacrificed Austria; and within recent days they have sacrificed Czechoslovakia. To-day they are in effect throwing Spain to the wolves in order to rehabilitate the shattered fortunes and the rather tarnished prestige of Signor Mussolini, regardless of the consequences to Spain, regardless of the possible consequences to ourselves, to democracy and to the Empire in particular.
It is for these reasons that we shall with all our power resist this Motion to-day. The Motion is merely a further concession without any adequate return. It brings peace not one day nearer. It abandons the Spanish Republic completely, for a period unspecified, to the untrammelled power of Germany and of Italy. I hope, though I dare not hope too strongly, that the House will reject the Motion.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Commander Sir Archibald Southby
The Prime Minister has said on more than one occasion that the Government's foreign policy is one of appeasement. Yesterday my right hon. Friend spoke of the necessity of taking a positive step in the interest of world peace. To-day the House has an opportunity of taking a positive step which will, in my opinion, 218 lead to the possibility of building a foundation on which world peace may ultimately rest. I listened with interest to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the front Opposition Bench. It seemed to me that underlying it was the desire to debate democracy versus totalitarianism. We may disagree with the totalitarian form of government, but if peace is to be secured in the world we must realise that whilst we demand for ourselves a democratic form of government, we must concede to other nations the right to be governed as they think fit. The government of any country is a matter for the people of that country. Neither democracies nor totalitarian States have a right to be intolerant. Nobody has the right to be intolerant. I cannot help thinking that the cause of world peace is hardly assisted by attacks upon the heads of States with whom ultimately we have to sit round a table if a solution of the world's difficulties is to be found. I have said before, and I venture to repeat, that if one has a difference of opinion with an hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House the possibility of coming to an amicable settlement is not increased if one's friends blackguard the hon. Gentleman with whom one is trying to find a settlement. I cannot believe that the task of the Prime Minister is made any easier by attacks upon the bona fides and the honesty of the men with whom in the end, whether we like it or not, our Prime Minister must collaborate round a table if world appeasement is to be achieved.
We have heard from the Prime Minister that there has been a real withdrawal of Italian troops from Spain. In debate after debate to which I have listened in this House on the Spanish question there has always seemed to be running through the speeches from the opposite side of the House a suggestion that the Spanish people are confined to those who support the Spanish Government and that they are not equally Spanish people who support General Franco. I take no sides in the quarrel in Spain. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite that that quarrel is a matter for the Spanish people. I wish we could get every volunteer of every kind out of Spain. I believe that if we could, the Spanish people would settle their difficulties. It is idle to suppose that help of one kind or another is not going to both sides. For that reason 219 I welcome the withdrawal of the International Brigade from the Government side and the very real withdrawal of Italian help from Franco's side. I welcome still more the assurance, which the Prime Minister has told us was given to him by Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler at Munich, that neither Italy nor Germany has any territorial ambitions in Spain. Why should we not believe them? I see no reason, nor has anybody in the House advanced a reason, why the word given to the Prime Minister at Munich should not be taken as sincere.
I beg hon. Members to cease being so intolerant and suspicious. It has been said on more than one occasion that it was suspicion and intolerance that brought us to the War of 1914–18. It is suspicion, intolerance and distrust which, if it is allowed to go on, will bring another crisis similar to the one through which we have just passed. On whatever side we sit we can say "Thank God" for the statement of the Prime Minister that the Spanish question is no longer a menace to the peace of Europe. The possibility of getting a settlement has come about through the action of the Prime Minister some months ago, when he realised that it was essential for the peace of Europe that some contact should be made with the head of the Italian State. Italian friendship has always been a very real thing to this country. At the time of the Boer War, which I can just remember, Italy was the only nation in Europe which stood by us when we were being attacked and abused by every other nation at the time of our reverses in South Africa. That friendship has always existed, although lately it has been greatly impaired. We now have the opportunity of restoring it. Better Anglo-Italian relations are an essential step towards world peace. If that was true before the crisis, which was resolved by the Prime Minister's action at Munich, it is doubly true to-day.
To revert to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Opposition, there seems to be a feeling that General Franco, for whom I hold no brief, has no right to alter the form of government existing in Spain. That is a curious doctrine to come from the benches opposite. As a Spaniard, General Franco has every right to try and alter the form of government in Spain.
§ Miss Wilkinson
Is it now the doctrine of the Conservative benches that a man who disagrees with the Government of the country has a right to take up arms to change it?
§ Sir A. Southby
The hon. Lady has no right to put words into my mouth. I did not say anything of the sort. I suggest that General Franco has the right, which will be conceded by the hon. Lady, who is certainly somewhat militant, to change the government in Spain. I do not think it will be denied. In the past it was not denied in other countries that there was a right to effect a change of government. The point I am trying to make is that the difficulty in Spain is something which the Spanish people have a right to resolve among themselves and that it is only when that trouble reaches outside Spain and when there is foreign assistance on both sides that we get a danger spot in Europe and a conflagration which might ultimately spread. It is no business of ours who wins in Spain. Our business is to keep out of the quarrel and our people demand that we shall do so. All we want is to see peace come to the distressed and harassed people of Spain. We have heard from the Prime Minister that the Spanish question is no longer a menace to the peace of the world. An overwhelming case was made by my right hon. Friend that, having now embarked upon an era of better relationship and greater understanding between this country and the countries where the totalitarian form of Government exists, it is imperative that we should take a further step and see whether the work which was begun at Munich cannot be extended. I believe that this country stands at the cross-roads, and that we can either go on with the old policy of mistrust and of blackguarding the other man because he does not agree with our form of Government, or we can hold out our hand and grasp the hand which is offered to us. It is suggested on various sides of the House that the totalitarian leaders are not sincere. I believe them to be sincere, and that it is in their own interest that they should be sincere. It is our duty, if we desire world peace and are sincere in that desire, to get round the table to try to compose our differences with them and see whether we cannot help them to solve some of the difficulties with which they and their countries are confronted.
221 It must be difficult for people outside this country to understand how it is that the Prime Minister who has saved the peace of the world, who has brought hope once again as well as peace and who has opened up new possibilities of a new era where peace may be a real thing, should be so persistently and perpetually heckled, harried and abused. He is more heckled, harried and abused in his own country than he is anywhere else. True it is thatA prophet is not without honour save in his own country.However difficult and thankless his task may be, I do not believe he will be deterred from doing what he believes to be right. In that he has the overwhelming support of the people of this country. He has something more than that. He has the overwhelming support, the good wishes and the prayers of the people of the world. If at any time he finds that his burden is a little heavy arid his critics rather intolerable, I would remind him of the farmer in one of Bret Harte's books who, discussing the troubles and difficulties of life, said:A reasonable number of fleas is good for a dog; keeps him from brooding on being a dog.When the Prime Minister is being harried by his own people and if he feels the burden of office irksome, he might, perhaps, find some comfort in the philosophy of Bret Harte's farmer. I welcome this positive step towards regaining the friendship of the Italian people, which has always been a tradition, and towards establishing a firm basis upon which to build peace. I beg hon. Gentlemen opposite to join with us in doing something which is a real, concrete contribution towards world peace.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Mr. W. Roberts
I should have been glad to move the Amendment which stands on the Paper in the names of Members of my party had it been in order, because it expresses the reasons why we are opposed to the coming into force of this Agreement. In the past we have opposed it, because we consider that it represents the reversal of a policy on which the Government were elected, and a further stage in the renunciation of that policy by the British Government. Abyssinia we believe may be silent, but the Ethiopians are not subdued. Much of the 222 contents of this Agreement is a reaffirmation of undertakings which the Italian Government have made in the past, but which they have not carried out. Five out of the eight annexes of the Agreement are of that sort. We shall welcome it if the new arrangement means that those obligations are carried out in future. We are glad that Signor Mussolini has ceased to threaten us with his forces in Libya—if that is the case, though we have had no statement about that—and that he ceases to threaten us with his broadcasts. For what reason was he threatening us in the past? I submit the reason was that he was trying to obtain what, by agreeing to the Agreement, he is now obtaining, that is his territorial ambitions in Spain.
The Italian Government get a good deal out of this Agreement. They get commercial privileges in Aden, they apparently get our agreement to abandon fortification in Cyprus, and they get what amounts to an admission of a joint protectorate in Arabia. All these are substantial advantages. The Italian Government may also obtain by this Agreement a status which will enable it to get itself out of the financial difficulties created for it by its adventures in Abyssinia and Spain. In exchange for what are we making these concessions? The Prime Minister himself has again and again insisted that one condition above all must be carried out before the Agreement could come into force. To-day the Prime Minister seemed to deprecate the fact that the Agreement had not come into force before, and seemed to blame the Opposition parties for it, but it is not our doing. It has rested with Signor Mussolini to have the Agreement brought into force at any time when he cared to carry out the main condition. The Prime Minister has again and again repeated this condition. He did so in answer to a question by the hon. and gallant Member for Carlisle (Brigadier-General Spears) on 21st February when he assured the hon. and gallant Member that the Agreement would not come into force if the Italians had done anything which had altered the situation in favour of General Franco. I do not believe that any impartial observer would deny that the Italians had done much since 23rd February to alter the balance of fortune in favour of General Franco. I will quote what the Italians themselves claim to have done. There 223 are many possible quotations, and I will take one from "La Stampa" on 11th June:In April of this year the Italian squadrons accomplished 2,398 flights in 4,729 hours.Figures are also given for each of the following months, but I will not weary the House with them. Is that nothing? What does the "Times" correspondent in Rome say about that?From the number of aeroplanes used in these engagements it can be deduced that an important part of Italy's air strength is now engaged in Spain, since the total number of Italy's front line air strength was only 1,805 at the end of 1937.An important part of Italy's air strength is, according to the "Times" correspondent, engaged in the war in Spain, and yet we are told that the condition which the Prime Minister laid down has been fulfilled. On 2nd May the Prime Minister repeated that condition, and again on 26th July. We are now told that the withdrawal of 10,000 men is to be treated as a gesture which will meet not only Mussolini's pledges but the Prime Minister's pledges to this House. It is well known that these 10,000 are the very men who went to Spain in defiance of the last agreement which Mussolini signed, who went to Spain immediately following the "Gentleman's agreement" which was negotiated by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) and about which he has had something to say. How can the present situation in Spain, from the point of view of Italian intervention, be described as affording a just settlement? The facts are that before the Prime Minister went to Munich and had the discussion with Herr Hitler and Mussolini about Spain, the Spanish Government had agreed to the withdrawal of all the volunteers and was withdrawing them. It was done before the Prime Minister went to Munich and he must have known about it. It was being carried out under the League of Nations. General Franco, after six weeks' consideration of the British plan, has refused it and the Italians are not being evacuated under any international control. The Prime Minister says that it is not Mussolini's fault that the Italians remain in Italy Whose fault is it? Is it because General Franco has refused to send them out, or is Mussolini incapable of getting their return? It is a fantastic statement. The 224 Italians and the Germans are a vital necessity to General Franco, and that is the reason why they are not leaving Spain. If they are not, why is it that General Franco refuses even to allow them to be counted by the counting committee? The Prime Minister suggested that half the infantry had been withdrawn. No other observer has admitted that that is the figure. The "Times" of a day or two ago puts it at possibly one-third. Signor Mussolini himself not so long ago estimated the number at 40,000. Has the Prime Minister had information from Mussolini that there are only 20,000 there? We are told that 12,000 have been killed and wounded. Are there only 20,000 left now?
§ Captain McEwen
It makes the difference that the Prime Minister's statement is accurate instead of, as the hon. Member suggested, inaccurate.
§ Mr. Roberts
I am dealing with the total number of Italians in Spain. On the Government side all have been withdrawn, under the supervision of an international scheme. That seems to me to be good enough. I am glad that the hon. and gallant Member raised the point, because it brings my memory to the very point which I wish to accentuate, and that is that these infantry, war weary as they are, and probably somewhat rebellious in the rest camps where they are being kept indefinitely, are not of any vital importance to General Franco. What are of vital importance are aircraft, pilots and technicians. Perhaps I may be allowed to quote from this side the correspondent of a Conservative newspaper who has been with General Franco for 12 months and should know something of what is going on in that country. The correspondent of the "Daily Telegraph" said on 12th October:What General Franco cannot afford to lose at present is the substantial, often decisive, help given by Italian artillery and by Italian and German airmen and technicians and their imported material.That is the reason why those Italians are not being withdrawn—because they are essential to General Franco. We are asked now not to be suspicious of and 225 not to distrust the words of dictators. How many pledges have the dictators given to withdraw volunteers, and what excuse can they have, now that the volunteers on the other side have been withdrawn, not to carry out those pledges? I am not so sure that the associations of the Prime Minister with dictators is too good a thing, because it seems to me that he has given us today no adequate reason for supposing that the pledges he has given to this House and the country that the Agreement would not come into force before the Italians were withdrawn have been fulfilled.
He said that the circumstances have changed. Indeed, they have been changed, at Munich, and greatly to the strategic disadvantage of this country. If, as I think, the strategic importance of Spain was great before the Munich Agreement, it is far greater now that we have lost the possible help of the Czechs. After all, if those of us are right—we are to be found in all parts of the House—who believe that German power is an aggressive and explosive power, that it will not be satisfied merely with Central Europe and that Herr Hitler means what he says in "Mein Kampf," then Germany has got to extend either east or west. The Czech fortifications might have been a bastion against Germany's expansion into the Ukraine and elsewhere, but they have gone. If Spain is to go too, is it not possible that the western democracies will find their strategic position so much undermined that if Herr Hitler does want to expand further he may think that the easiest place for expansion is in the west? Times without number in this House we have talked of the strategic situation. I have never heard an answer to our case from the Government Front Bench. They have told us that any other action might have meant war, but they have never met our arguments about the danger to British security which a victory in Spain for the totalitarian Powers would mean. The Prime Minister said yesterday:Our sole concern is to see that this country and her Imperial communications are safe and that we shall not be so weak relatively with other countries that our diplomacy cannot enter upon discussions upon an equal footing."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st November, 1938; col. 88, Vol. 340.]We on these Benches have often pointed out the danger to this country of a Spain under a ruler friendly to the dictator 226 countries—which is the fourth point which will make that triangle into a square or a parallelogram—the danger that that may mean to Great Britain's imperial communication and to France's security. I will quote a word from a strategist who is recognised in all quarters as an authority, Captain Liddell Hart:Thus from a strategical point of view the political outcome of the present struggle is not and cannot be a matter of indifference to us. A friendly Spain is desirable, a neutral Spain is vital. If that (the assistance of Germany and Italy) should lead to him (General Franco) becoming their tool, and Spain's sea and air bases becoming available to them in any conflict in which we are engaged on the opposite side, the whole structure of our Imperial defence might he undermined.Is it too late to appeal again to the occupants of the Government Front Bench to consider whether as a result of Munich that danger is not far greater to-day than it was before? This is not a new argument. I could give quotations going back over 100 years or more. I will take one quotation from a man writing in 1916, during the Great War. Our diplomacy had some trouble at that time to prevent parties that are supporting General Franco now from bringing Spain into the War against us.Since that time (the Franco-Prussian War) the Germans have never ceased to agitate for the political and commercial control of Spain…. A glance at the map of Europe should be sufficiently suggestive of Bismarck's anxieties about the Iberian peninsula …. The Germans in Spain have constituted themselves into a well-drilled army obviously acting on definite instructions. In the likely event of the development of cverland transport by airplane"—This was in 1916—the coasts and harbours of Spain would be invaluable to Germany. The mineral wealth of the Peninsula, only now being scientifically developed, would afford her several sorts of raw materials of which Germany has little or none. And as an outlet for German goods, as the main point of departure for the wealthy Republics of South America, as the bulwark against English control of Gibraltar, Spain is, from the German point of view, distinctly Germany's 'pidgin'.I would especially direct the attention of Members of the House to the next passage:Germany knows that with Spain as a point d' appui and with the backing of Spanish opinion and above all with that of the Church, their cause is likely to be better appreciated in the New World than if Mother Spain were hostile. From Spain, therefore, proceeds to 227 the New World a great deal of Spanish propaganda in the Spanish language.That was written in 1916 by Lord Northcliffe. I do not know why the Northcliffe tradition has so much changed recently in the papers which he created.
If that were true then, it is abundantly true to-day. To what extent has Germany established her control in Spain? German commercial penetration is very considerable. Air lines and transport, both road and rail, are under the control of German technicians to a very considerable extent. Exports are increasingly going to Germany from Spain under General Franco's rule. The President of the Board of Trade was good enough to provide me with some information at the end of last summer showing that British ships calling at ports in insurgent territory since their occupation by General Franco have declined in number by 60 per cent., whereas German ships have increased by 65 per cent.; and that some 30 of the Basque merchant ships have been taken over by German and Italian lines in payment for the munitions which have been supplied by those countries. That is exclusive of the very considerable military assistance which Germany has given.
May I ask whomsoever is to reply on behalf of the Government whether any sort of undertaking has been asked for or given with regard to the bombing of British ships? Are we really to enter into an agreement with Mussolini while almost daily at the present time, since the great peace of Munich, British ships are damaged or sunk? In spite of the statement made by the Prime Minister on 26th July, no progress seems to be made with the agreement with General Franco for the payment of compensation. I must say that the question of bombing of British ships seems to have led to an extraordinary series of what I can only call misunderstandings between the Government and those concerned. It is apparently now a misunderstanding that, as the Prime Minister announced, General Franco had agreed to pay compensation for damage done. The Under-Secretary of State, in answer to a question yesterday, stated that negotiations with the Chamber of Shipping of the United Kingdom and the Committee of British Shipowners Trading to Spain were proceeding and, 228agreement has been reached on most points and it is hoped shortly to submit a proposal to General Franco's administration.My information from the Committee of British Shipowners is that the negotiations with the Government have been broken off because the committee are utterly unsatisfied with the attitude of the Government towards the question, and because they do not propose to continue negotiations until the British Government will make the demand that compensation—or at any rate a token compensation—should be paid now.
There is a further misunderstanding which the Under-Secretary of State can perhaps explain when he replies. In answer to a supplementary question he said:As I said originally in explaining the matter to the House, the claim in law will lie against Spain."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st November, 1938; col. 36, Vol. 340.]That is the reason given why the claim has not been made against General Franco and is to be deferred until the end of the war. I understand that the Committee of British Shipowners Trading to Spain have been informed that that is not the legal position and that, in the event of the Spanish Government winning the war, it would not be possible for them to claim against the Spanish Government for the enormous damage that has been done.
Another matter arises out of this question of British ships. It is usually supposed that British ships trading with Spain carry foodstuffs to the people of Spain, but I do not think it is generally known that those ships are bringing back mercury from the mercury mines of Spain. My information is that 93 per cent. of the mercury imported into this country in British boats since the beginning of the war has come from the Spanish Government mines. When rearmament is being speeded up I should have thought that that vital raw material of rearmament might have had some protection or consideration, or that those trading and carrying that product might have had some consideration, from the British Government. We were told yesterday by the Prime Minister that we need not fear German—
§ Mr. Roberts
Yes, outside the three-mile limit, but that protection is hardly adequate, because they can well be bombed outside the three-mile limit. Another ship was bombed only this week.
§ Mr. Roberts
I cannot tell you. Whether the ship was going in or out does not seem to make any difference. In any case that is of no importance. In view of the enormous sums that the insurgent authorities owe to Germany and Italy I suggest that it would be very easy for Germany and Italy, if they won the war in Spain, to arrange trade agreements with Spain by which they would have the exclusive right of purchasing the exports of Spain. That policy is being introduced in Central Europe, and the Prime Minister does not regard it with disfavour. An offer of that sort has, according to the "Times," been made to Bulgaria recently. Such an offer in its application to Spain might be of vital seriousness to this country.
It may be said that these general issues of the Spanish war do not affect the question of whether the agreement should come into force now or not, but I believe that would be the very greatest mistake and that we have, in the desire of the Italian Government to be on good relations with this country, a leverage which could be used at this moment to get all the volunteers out of Spain, not only on the side of the Government but on General Franco's side, too. That opportunity seems almost lost. If the Prime Minister had obtained agreements with Germany and Italy during the Munich conversations that they should follow the example of the Spanish Government we should agree that it was a real step in the direction of appeasement, but what is the truth? The truth is that we are acquiescing in the invasion of Spain when there is no excuse for the Germans in any question of minorities. There is no excuse whatever except from an Imperialist point of view. If the agreement comes into force, what is the position regarding belligerent rights to General Franco? The Prime Minister referred to the newspapers to-day and said that it was generally accepted that this step was 230 going to be taken. I have seen it suggested in the newspapers that it is generally accepted that belligerent rights can now be granted to General Franco. I ask whether that is so.
Finally, I would say that there is still a real opportunity of ending the Spanish war. If the British Government would use the opportunity to bring pressure upon General Franco, Mussolini and the German Government to withdraw their volunteers there would be peace in Spain. If the volunteers would leave General Franco's side the costly war that has dragged out for so long would very speedily come to an end. One of my reasons for thinking in that way is the speeches which the head of the Spanish Government has recently been making, One speech in particular seems of especial importance. Signor Negrin said:The peace policy of our adversaries is based on the annihilation of their opponents. Our peace policy is founded on a reconciliation with those who to-day are our enemies, a reconciliation which can only be carried out on the basis of collaboration in the future reconstruction and re-birth of Spain.A condition of that is that the Italians and the Germans should leave Spain first. If they were to go, I am confident that the war would be over in a very short while. We are asked to agree to this agreement coming into force on the basis that Mussolini will withdraw further volunteers—they are troops, and not volunteers—and that he will honour this undertaking although in the past so many undertakings have been broken. Even after these negotiations have been undertaken he sends to General Franco this telegram:Fascist Italy is and will remain fraternally linked with you until your victory.Are we not entitled to be a little suspicious of Mussolini's good intentions, especially when the Spanish Government announce, as they did to-day, that they have information of reinforcements reaching Spain already? No wonder that we are prepared to believe that that may well be the truth. Is that telegram really in keeping with the spirit of this new agreement? If it is not, do we take no notice of it? If it is, why should not the Prime Minister put his name to the telegram, too? Some of us begin to believe that the only explanation of British policy with regard to Spain is that that section of the political party that governs this country wishes to see General Franco win 231 in Spain, in spite of the threat to Great Britain and France, and that that shortsighted policy has triumphed in the councils of the Government.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Eden
The hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) has devoted, as I have reason to know, much care and attention to this Spanish problem, and I think that all of us, in whichever part of the House we may sit, and whatever our views on this long-drawn-out and painful ordeal, would pay tribute to him for the sincerity and earnestness with which he has endeavoured to probe the subject. This afternoon he has addressed to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary a number of questions. The House will perhaps forgive me if I do not follow the hon. Member for North Cumberland into the more detailed aspects of this problem, important and, indeed, often baffling though they be. My purpose is somewhat different.
I believe that the dominant desire of many Members in all parts of the House at this time must be to contribute everything that lies in their power to avoid acrimonious debate. We must all of us be deeply conscious of the gravity of the times in which we live, and of the ever-increasing anxieties which beset the British Commonwealth in all parts of the world. But, since this Motion is before the House, I think hon. Members will appreciate that, in view of my own special connection with this Spanish issue, it must be impossible for me to remain silent. Were I to do so, it might seem to indicate that I had changed my mind, and that is not so. Indeed, it is my conviction that, had it been possible for His Majesty's Government to adopt a firmer attitude in respect of these Spanish problems in the early part of this year, the subsequent deterioration of the international situation which we all lament would not have taken place. Of course, I am conscious that that must be entirely a matter of opinion, and, now that the House is asked to approve the conclusion that has in fact been reached to these prolonged negotiations, there are one or two observations that I would like to make.
I would first ask the House to think back with me for a moment to the early days of this Spanish conflict, and in that connection I may perhaps be permitted 232 one word of personal explanation. There is no Member of this House, in whatever quarter he may sit, who has a greater personal responsibility for the policy of nonintervention than I have. The crisis arose in the early days of the Recess of more than two years ago, and the main responsibility for the endorsement of that policy on behalf of His Majesty's Government was that of the Foreign Secretary of the day. I must make it plain that I do not regret the decision which the Government then took. On the contrary, I believe that the Anglo-French initiative which was then taken was intended to avert, and did in fact avert, the imminent danger of a European conflict. For that action I have no apology to offer, and that is where I differ from hon. Members opposite. But, having endorsed the policy of non-intervention, it was clearly my duty to do everything in my power to see it decently carried out, and that was a very difficult task. We persevered as best we might, despite numerous disappointments, of which my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench are as well aware as I am.
It was because of this country's special responsibility in respect of the non-intervention policy that it seemed to me imperative that, before opening negotiations with another Mediterranean Power, specially interested in the Spanish problem, for a new agreement, we should make sure that we both spoke the same language, that we both meant the same thing by our adherence to a policy of nonintervention. Long before those conversations opened in Rome, it was clear that this was not so. We meant, and still mean—this country means—by non-intervention, leaving it to Spaniards to settle their own destiny. Other Powers, however, had made it plain by their action that they did not intend to allow the signature of the Non-Intervention Agreement to stand in the way of any military action they might consider necessary to ensure the victory of the party which they championed. In other words, the Italian Government and ourselves were speaking entirely different languages about Spain. It seemed to me essential to clear up this situation, otherwise Italian intervention in Spain would proceed parallel with our negotiations. This seemed to me an intolerable situation. I did not see how it was possible to conclude an agreement with another Power while the forces of 233 that Power were intervening in a civil conflict in a friendly State contrary to the express undertaking which they had signed, and while their aeroplanes were bombing towns in that State and sinking ships engaged in carrying on a trade which they themselves had expressly agreed to be perfectly legitimate.
Those were my apprehensions, and those apprehensions were, unhappily, justified by the event. Despite the opening of negotiations with this country, Italian intervention in the Spanish conflict continued unchecked. About six weeks or less afterwards, an offensive was opened in Northern Spain by General Franco—a successful offensive—with the help of his German and Italian allies. I would only quote how the "Times" correspondent described that offensive, and the retreat of the Government troops which took place. The "Times" correspondent said:The difficult manoeuvre of withdrawing in the face of the enemy proved too severe a test"—that is to say, for the Government troops.Under the terrible punishment meted out by newly arrived German and Italian air units, the temptation of troops, once on the move, to continue rather than to stop, was irresistible. Two Italian motorised divisions poured into the breach.All through the summer this intervention continued. Not only did German and Italian aeroplanes keep up a continuous bombardment of the Spanish Government lines, but a not unsuccessful attempt was made to establish by air a new development in warfare—to establish by air a blockade of the Spanish Government ports. In that process British shipping, with other shipping, suffered severely. Then I may quote the "Times" correspondent in Rome—because I am anxious to keep to absolute purity. The "Times" correspondent in Rome said:More and more prominence is being given in the newspapers to the part played by Italian air squadrons in this blockade.This intense aerial activity had its effect; the Spanish Government line bent, and broke. General Franco's forces reached the sea, thus dividing the two sections of the Government forces, one half from the other, and there were many who thought, indeed, that the war had come to an end in General Franco's victory. Perhaps I might give the House one personal experience. Towards the 234 end of the summer I was visited by an Englishman who holds no kind of official position, but who has had rather exceptional opportunities of viewing the actual course of the operations in Spain; and I asked him, as anyone would, what he thought would be the outcome of the conflict. He said to me:I believe that in the end the Government will be beaten, and they will be beaten, not by General Franco's land forces, but by his overwhelming air power.He went on to say—and this, I think, has some interest for any of us who have ever tried to follow military operations—It is not the bombing of towns—Barcelona or Valencia—of which you read in the newspapers every day, that has this effect. It is the continuous bombardment, day and night, of the lines of communication, with the result that the troops can get in the line neither rest, nor sleep, nor food, nor relief.Some of us may perhaps remember, especially in the last months of the War, the effect of air power—sometimes the bombing of roads close behind the line, catching a battalion either coming up to relieve or going back. Anything we knew then was but child's play to what the Spanish Government troops have had to endure in this respect for months past. I only mention this because we must ask ourselves the question, in all fairness: Whose were the aeroplanes which played so essential a role in this war? I am not going to indict anybody; I only want to allow the official Italian accounts to bear witness for themselves. Here is a Reuter's message from Rome, dated 8th August:Striking claims on behalf of the Italian volunteer air forces in Spain are made in an official communique published here to-day under a Saragossa date-line. Dealing with the part played by the Italian aviation section in General Franco's counter-attack on the Lower Ebro, the communique makes the following reference to the period from 25th July to 5th August"—just 10 days, I ask the House to note—The losses inflicted on the enemy by the Volunteer Air Force have been very heavy. The contribution of the Italian volunteers was as follows:—158 bombing actions took place with the use of 541 aircraft and the dropping of 455,000 kilo-grams (about 450 tons) of explosives. Intense action was carried out by pursuit craft, both accompanying bombing squadrons and in reconnaissance flights. Thirteen flights were made accompanying bombers, with a total participation"—this is a figure which I ask the House to note— 235of 327 aircraft, and 13 reconnaissance flights, with a total use of 352 machines. In all, the Legionaries carried out 1,672 flights, with a total flying time of 2,825 hours.The presence of each and all of those aeroplanes was a direct violation of the Non-Intervention Pact. The plain unvarnished facts would seem to me to be quite inescapable. May I ask the House to contemplate for one moment the situation with which we are now faced? In these days we are told that we must be realistic. I accept that. I take that to mean that we must not shirk facts, however unpleasant and embarrassing they may be. What is the main fact? It is surely this, that when His Majesty's Government put its name to the Anglo-Italian Agreement it made an essential condition, and if I may say so, correctly made that condition. Here it is. It is in the Note from Lord Perth to Count Ciano published in White Paper No. 11:In this connexion I hardly need to remind Your Excellency that His Majesty's Government regard a settlement of the Spanish question as a prerequisite of the entry into force of the Agreement between our two Governments.I would ask the House for a moment to consider how far that very reasonable condition has been satisfied. First of all, what does a settlement in Spain mean? It has never been clearly defined—I make no complaint about that—but I take it that to most hon. Members a settlement in Spain means either that the Spanish civil war has come to an end—best of all—or, at least, that foreign intervention in the struggle must have ceased. That is certainly what I thought the phrase meant. But can either of these results now be said to have been achieved? The civil war has certainly not come to an end. It is, unhappily, raging at this moment with undiminished violence. And what of foreign intervention—and particularly, in connection with this Agreement, of Italian intervention? Has that ceased, or has it even been effectively limited? It is surely difficult to maintain that view.
We have been told—it has been published to the world—that 10,000 Italian infantrymen have been withdrawn; and everyone has welcomed that. But the main contribution of Italy to the cause of the Salamanca authorities has never been in infantry, but in technicians and arma- 236 ments and particularly aeroplanes. There has never, so far as I am aware, been any withdrawal of these. This seems all the more important now, seeing that the aeroplane is, if I am not mistaken, going to play an ever more important role in the Spanish conflict in the coming winter months. So far as I can judge, there is little likelihood now of a military decision—in the sense of the fighting forces on land—at any rate, in the immediate future; and the main efforts of General Franco will be concentrated on starving out his opponents during the winter months by establishing an effective air blocade. For this he must be largely dependent on his Italian allies. As long as Italy has her air legions in Spain, it cannot be reasonably claimed that there has been any effective limitation of her intervention in the war. And what is happening now? I will inflict my very last quotation on the House. It is also from a respectable authority—this time the "Daily Telegraph," of only yesterday morning. The correspondent writes:The new offensive was launched after two weeks of calm, during which the insurgent forces at the front were changed and the artillery and air force reorganised. The Italian and German air squadrons were used in greater numbers than in any other offensive yet made and the Government's positions were bombed without ceasing during the daylight hours of yesterday.In fact, surely, the honest truth is that the essential condition which we laid down—which the Government laid down—for the bringing into force of our Agreement with Italy has not been satisfied: we have waived it; and, whether that be right or wrong, nothing is going to disguise that fact from the world. What conclusion will the world draw? They know that we have embarked on a policy of appeasement. The object is, and rightly, to eliminate possible causes of war in a spirit of mutual collaboration and good will. But this can be carried out only if all concerned are willing to subordinate purely national interests for the common good. This country has been ready to do this—ready to do it for a long time past. The Government have been ready to make, and have made, very far-reaching concessions in their sincere desire to improve the general atmosphere: but up to now there seems to me to have been little sign of a similar spirit from certain other States concerned. We are constantly giving, and they are constantly 237 taking. I am reminded of the charity collectors in "The Hunting of the Snark"—they collect, but they do not subscribe. I am driven reluctantly to think that there is a real danger that if the policy of appeasement continues to be interpreted in different ways by different countries, many international problems will, it is true, have been eliminated in a sense satisfactory to others, but our position and interests may become gravely imperilled. We shall be faced, I fear, by a bigger international problem than ever before, and I gravely doubt whether we shall receive any assistance in seeking to solve it.
Take the problem presented by the present Agreement. There were two main contributions to be made by the two countries concerned—both unpleasant for those who were to make them. We had to recognise the annexation of Abyssinia; Italy had to withdraw from Spain. No doubt for both there would have been a bitter pill, but for each of us it might have been argued that the gains balanced the concessions involved. We must recognise the right of Italy to annex Abyssinia, but Italy continues to intervene in Spain. I cannot believe that this was what the House contemplated when it approved this Agreement. I hold no special brief for either party in Spain—frankly, I had too much to do with both—and, like most hon. Members of this House, I would cordially welcome an improvement in relations between this country and Italy; but I cannot believe that to bring the Agreement into force on such conditions as these is in the real interest of our own country, and, although I freely recognise the sincerity of the Government's motives, they will, I am sure, equally recognise my own sincerity when I say that, just as last February I could not endorse this policy in the House, so, most reluctantly, to-night I cannot go into the Lobby in its support.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Sir H. Croft
Before listening to the speech which my right hon. Friend has just delivered it was not my intention to enter into this Debate; but I must make one or two comments. I cannot help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman on this subject, as in many major issues of foreign policy, is to-day quite out of sympathy with the masses of this country. The basis of his speech was this. Here was an understanding—I am not claiming 238 to quote his own words. On the one hand, we were going to give the great gift of recognition of the Abyssinian conquest to the Italians; on the other hand, they were going to withdraw troops from something that was no quarrel of ours whatever—the Spanish conflict. When we are trying to get a better understanding in the world at the present time, are we doing a bad thing in recognising that Abyssinia is part of the Italian Empire when that is already recognised by every Power in Europe except Soviet Russia?
§ Sir H. Croft
Surely it is not for us to be busying ourselves with questions of whether in some parts of the country there is some local reaction. Always in the history of the world you will find that after such a conquest there is guerilla warfare going on for some time. Of what possible gain is it to the British Empire that you should try to make trouble with our oldest friends, who were our Allies, over what is a fait accompli? I do not want to go into the Abyssinian quarrel. I know sufficient of the Abyssinians not to have felt the same enthusiasm as my right hon. Friend for Abyssinia. Those who have been on the Abyssinian frontier and have seen the whitened bones of people of Kenya in years past and have seen the slave trade, will realise why we have hesitated to defend those people. I cannot have the same feeling for the Abyssinian people as have some of my friends.
I now come to the Spanish question. What was the grave indictment of the right hon. Gentleman? He said, "Here you have the 'Times' and the 'Daily Telegraph' which give evidence that there are a large number of Italian and German machines taking part in this offensive." What machines are there on the other side? Is there a single Spanish machine on the other side, or are they all Russian, French and Mexican machines? The right hon. Gentleman knows that that is the fact. Why do we butt into this question, which, it is said, is purely the affair of the Spanish people? Has there not been sufficient of that interference in our country during the last two years? Why cannot we turn our minds to looking after our own affairs? The right hon. Gentleman said that there were 352 Italian and German machines actually 239 used by General Franco's airmen in this offensive. How many Russian and French machines has General Franco brought down in the last nine months? Is it greatly to his discredit? The right hon. Gentleman knows that he has brought down 700 aeroplanes that were made in those countries. Everybody knows that. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman behind me is so hilarious that I invite him to go to National Spain and see the wreckage and collection of all these trophies.
I am, like the right hon. Gentleman, not in any way connected with the Spanish people. All I say is, for goodness sake let them decide this question for themselves. Do not pretend and do not go on with this one-sided policy of pretending that the Russians would not have just as many machines there as the Italians if they could. Do not let them delude the House into a belief that the Republican army in Spain is not very largely commanded by foreign officers. I do not want to make trouble. It seems to be the idea to make trouble between nations, but if I gave the House a list of all the foreign officers with the Republican army it would not help peace. Surely, we should leave it to those people to fight it out for themselves, and not always be belittling this country. When the right hon. Gentleman tried to keep the scale even, he was compelled to say last Summer, just before his resignation, which everybody deplored, that he must confess that a far greater quantity of material had gone in from Russia than from other countries. I think that that reference will be in the minds of a good many hon. Members. If the right hon. Gentleman did not say it, I will withdraw.
§ Sir H. Croft
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would agree that the Russians would get as many machines into Spain as they could. As long as stolen money was in French banks it was used for getting aeroplanes, and if there are fewer machines to-day it is because there is not the cash with which to pay for them. We talk as if there is a democratic government in Spain. The war has been going 240 on for two years. How often has the democratic parliament, the Cortes of Spain met in these two years? Twice, for a single day. What number of members, Democrats, assembled in order to make decisions? There were certainly not more than one-third of their number present. Has a single by-election been held? Is this democracy? When Senor Negrin became Prime Minister, was the Parliament assembled in order to give sanction to the new mandate? Not at all. Do not pretend that a democracy still exists in Spain. It is run by a junta dictatorship of a few men on the one side, just as there is a dictatorship on the other.
I submit that by going ahead with the agreement with the Italian people we are restoring the balance of peace in Europe. It is really essential. I know that there are some hon. Gentlemen who want to take on at the same time all countries with whom they disagree. There was one country with whom we never ought to have had this serious quarrel, and that was the Italian nation. The sooner we can settle down and be friends again in that old traditional friendship the better it will be. They have never affected our direct interests in the acts which have occurred. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about our shipping?"] If ships will insist upon going alongside the quays of a port which is a legitimate objective they must accept the consequences.
I believe that this will be a step towards a general understanding. But what is the alternative? If you never try to make peace with other countries in the world wherever are you going to land? Are we to complain that this or that happened three or fours years ago? Are we to stand on our dignity? Is there going to be no peace in the world? The whole world is suffering from this continuous kind of terror. Let us get rid of that terror and try friendship for a change. I know the difficulties. No one can deny the feelings of the right hon. Gentleman. We know how sincere he is. I detest some of the methods of the dictators, but we have to live in the world with them. Surely, in the interest of unity, are we not wise to create world peace while seeing to it that we really take care primarily of the interests of all those who are within our trust and to whom we are bound by 241 pledges, and not become the meddlesome Matty of the world, and poke our finger in every pie where there is a quarrel among other nations.
§ 5.39 P.m.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
I wonder whether we have been listening in the last speech or the last speech but one to the real voice of the Conservative party, to those Conservatives who in the past have for good or ill stood for England. I wonder whether the last speech to which we have listened is the speech we should have expected from the hon. and gallant Gentleman during the last War; whether it is the voice of the Front Government Bench. How far do the people of this country sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) or the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). But whatever doubt there may be about Conservative opinion in this country, there is not the slightest doubt about Liberal opinion or about Labour opinion. [An HON. MEMBER: "For whom do you speak?"] I speak as an ordinary Englishman. Our parties, the Liberal and Labour parties, and a large section of the Conservative party are getting day by day more anxious at the drifting of Government policy. It is impossible to ignore the fact that this feeling is not confined to one party, and that in the Conservative ranks too you have this increasing anxiety. Only a month ago we saved our skins for a time by the sacrifice of Czechoslovakia. [An HON MEMBER: "Rubbish."] Now we are going to save our skins at the expense of the Spanish people—for a time. [An HON. MEMBER: "How?"] By accepting the dictation of Signor Mussolini. But what is coming next?
One of the first results of Munich has been to show that all the States of Eastern Europe are becoming chained to the chariot wheels of Germany. You have to-day Poland more anxious than it has ever been before and more tied to Germany through that fear than it has ever been before, owing to the rise and development of the new Ukrainian Republic. Czechoslovakia has gone into the orbit, and that end of Czechoslovakia which used to be called Carparthian Russia is now to all intents and purposes the German key for the Ukraine, and Poland with its large Ukrainian popula- 242 tion is naturally anxious and by that very anxiety tied to Germany. Poland, Spain, Czechoslovakia, Austria! But what of our own Colonies? Are we to sacrifice them? I do not care about sacrificing something painted red on the map, but are we going to sacrifice the natives of Africa? Is the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth prepared to make that sacrifice?
§ Sir H. Croft
I declare that wherever British safety is involved throughout the Empire I would yield not one inch.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
Who is going to interpret British safety? Is not British safety involved by perpetual surrender?
§ Sir H. Croft
I am sure that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would never try to put into my mouth words which were not my own. Immediately after the Munich Agreement I explained, in a speech published throughout the country, that I stood absolutely by my pledges about mandated territories.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
The Government will have one supporter the fewer when it comes to the next step. Do not let us on these benches imagine that the next step is going to find the people who objected to the last surrender divided. We are determined that in no circumstances will we hand over unfortunate natives to be rubber-truncheoned by the dictator States. If it is a question of international control, well and good. It would be all to the good of the natives of Africa. If it means handing over some of these helpless victims to German brutalities or Italian poison gas, the British Government will again be saving their skins from the threat of war by sacrificing other people. It seems to me impossible that the Government should really continue carrying on these lines under the impression that they are making the position safe for England. Every single surrender not only destroys some of our possible allies for the future, but is sapping the manhood of our people. The country itself has become, owing to the boom in gas masks, emasculated by the Government.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
I did not mean to be obstetric. The panic developed in this country during the period of the crisis 243 was all directed towards taking the heart out of this people instead of putting heart into them. What are the Government after? Do they want to surrender not only our prestige but our standing and our safety in the future? Hitherto, they have told us that they are spending a lot of money on armaments, but we have not seen those armaments. Hitherto, they have protested that a line will have to be drawn somewhere when Great Britain must make a stand. Has that all gone? Surely, if the Government were really anxious for the future of this country, if they do contemplate ever having to resist the demands of the dictator Powers, they would get on to the Treasury Bench a few people in whom we can have more confidence. We cannot believe in the honest determination of the Government to save this country so long as they keep out from their Front Bench men who have had some experience of fighting and some experience of carrying this country through a crisis equally as great as that which we now have to face.
We have the Government with its Cabinet Ministers, but there is only one Cabinet Minister who matters and that is the Prime Minister. We have never had before a Cabinet so dominated by one man. He conducts not only the Cabinet but, above all, foreign affairs.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
He did not sit in this House. Far from being a dictator, although he was Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister, he allowed his Ministers to look after their own Departments, instead of taking the job himself.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
Yes, and what a mess he made of it. [Laughter.] I do not want to treat this as a joke or to treat the subject lightly. The Government Front Bench to-day is the greatest danger we have to face. It is self-satisfied and it does not recruit to itself the people who would help the country. 244 Meanwhile, the ranks of Tuscany never forbear to cheer and to vote for them because they are afraid of a General Election being thrust upon them. That is what you are afraid of.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
The right hon. and gallant Member must recollect that he is addressing me.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
I apologise, I should not think of addressing you in those terms.
The situation is serious. We have a Government that is distrusted not merely by the Opposition parties but by enormous numbers of men and women up and down the country. Many of those people voted for the Conservative party at the last election because the Government were standing then for collective security through the League of Nations. Now, those people in great numbers are completely unable to realise what they ought to do. They are against the Government, they hate this policy of surrender to force, they are not deluded by the idea that you can buy peace for a few months and thereby make things safer. Is there no possibility of bringing them together?
I would beg Conservative Members to remember that their vote to-night will have a decisive effect upon the whole future policy of the Government. Their responsibility is very heavy. It is very difficult for an hon. Member faced with the risk of losing his seat to express in the Division Lobby the anxiety he feels, but it seems to me that this is the occasion when the country must come first. You have to make a sacrifice if you really believe that this policy of continual surrender to force and violence is both humiliating and disastrous. We on these benches should bear in mind that there is only one thing of really vital importance to-night, and that is to change the Government as soon as possible. We should unite with every other party in order to get rid of the real danger to Great Britain.
The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth would say that it is good to come to terms with Signor Mussolini in order to detach Italy from the Berlin axis, and so attempt to secure for ourselves at the next trial of strength an ally such as we had in the last War. I do not believe that it is possible to detach from 245 German hegemony either Italy, Poland or Hungary, for every one of these dictators is dependent for his existence upon the good will of Germany. A policy directed towards detaching any one of these dependent countries from Germany is bound to fail. You might get fair words for a time but you will never get solid co-operation with the democratic countries from one of the autocrats. Therefore, we cannot say that we are doing this in order to make things easier for Great Britain hereafter. The only argument for this policy is that peace should come before everything. There is not a Conservative Member who does not know that peace cannot be bought at any price. There is always honour to come before safety. The policy of peace at any price can be logically carried out only by the complete surrender of all that democracy and England have ever stood for.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Viscount Wolmer
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken has said that it should be our primary object to get rid of the present Government. If I may say so with very great respect, I do not think that speeches like the one he has just delivered are going to achieve that object. I would say in all seriousness to him and others who think with him on these questions that I am one of those who feel that we require in this crisis and at this juncture a National Government in the real sense of the term, but before that is possible hon. and right hon. Members opposite, whether Liberals or Socialists, will have to abandon purely partisan views, which they are entitled to voice as members of an Opposition, and to make a real effort to see whether some sort of national agreement on foreign policy is not possible. That is an absolute pre-requisite to a national Government. The right hon. and gallant Member in his speech brought into the Debate all the partisanship of which he is such a master, and then he expects us on this side of the House, who have doubts and anxieties about the Government's foreign policy, to sympathise with him in his onslaught. There has to be give and take between all parties if we are to get national agreement on foreign policy.
In regard to the speech made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) I feel myself 246 in agreement with a great deal of what he said. I am going to support the Government—with a great deal of doubt and hesitation in my mind—for this reason, that it seems to me that in the exceedingly critical condition of foreign affairs and of the world generally at this moment the Prime Minister is entitled to ask us to trust him to the extent of deciding the moment when the Anglo-Italian Agreement should be brought into effect. I am certain the Prime Minister has not said in his speech to-day everything that he has in his mind. I sympathise with a great deal of what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth said, but with all respect I would remind him that he completely evaded or ignored the real point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). What is worrying some supporters of the Government is the fact that the Government fixed a certain condition to which the Anglo-Italian Agreement was made subject, and that condition most certainly has not been fulfilled, yet the Agreement is to be implemented. That is what is worrying us, and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth did not devote a single part of his eloquent speech to meeting that point. That worries us and it will worry a great many supporters of the Government in the country.
My hon. and gallant Friend asks what is the alternative. The alternative which I should like to see the Government follow in all these negotiations is, when they have made a bargain with somebody else, to insist that the bargain is carried out. I do not see how we are going to get a policy of appeasement or a better understanding in Europe on a basis of unilateral concessions. It must be based on a policy of give-and-take, not merely giving on our part and taking on the part of the other side.
§ Viscount Wolmer
The Anglo-Italian Agreement contains two essential features, one, that we should recognise Italian sovereignty in Abyssinia and, second, that Italy should remove her forces in Spain. The Prime Minister proposed to carry out his part of the bargain but it it quite impossible for anybody to say that the Italian Government have carried out their part of the bargain. I do not 247 see how we are going to get a policy of appeasement on those lines, nor can I believe that we shall command respect in Europe by taking that line. I cannot believe that we shall get or retain friends in Europe by such a practice. Where I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth is in this: Those who feel as I do about this question must bear in mind that the situation has entirely changed from what it was last Spring. The Spanish question has really receded in importance so much, and the perils with which we are now confronted are so much greater, that unless we take up a position of complete opposition to the present Government—which is what the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) would desire—the Prime Minister is entitled to ask for our confidence in regard to the moment he chooses to implement the Agreement
I agree that the Spanish civil war has lost a great deal of its importance. It is dwarfed by the situation in the rest of Europe, there has to be a realignment of forces, and every one of us has to take fresh stock of the situation. Therefore, while on this occasion I am prepared to support the Government, I do want to say that I feel that we are getting very near the breaking point on the line of continually giving way on the part of Great Britain, and I want to know where it is going to stop. I say without hesitation that if we are going to be asked to give away any part of the British Empire to the dictator countries I do not care what happens, I shall oppose it as long as I have any breath in my body.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Captain McEwen
I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) was in error when he said that there were two specific matters upon which the completion of the Anglo-Italian Agreement depended. I think I am right in saying that there was in fact only one, and that was not the withdrawal of Italian troops nor the recognition of the conquest of Abyssinia, but a settlement of the Spanish question. We have heard a great deal about that this afternoon, and for my own part it seems to me that we are quibbling about words. The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) gave us this afternoon his idea of a settlement. He 248 said that it consisted on the one hand of the withdrawal of all Italian troops in Spain, or, on the other hand, an end of the civil war. The Prime Minister some months ago told us what he considered a settlement would amount to. He said that it was when Spain was no longer a danger to international peace. It seems to me that he has every right now to say that in his view this has been accomplished, and from what the right hon. Member for Aldershot has said he is also of that opinion. He says that the importance of the Spanish War has dwindled until it is in fact what the Prime Minister said he would regard as being a settlement. Therefore I do not think we need quibble very much about the term "settlement." I am going to support the Government wholeheartedly without the least twinges or qualms of conscience.
There are, it seems to me, two common objections to the completion of this Agreement. The first is from the Spanish point of view and the second from the Abyssinian point of view. There are people who say that we must have no dealings with Italy until she has withdrawn every single man, mechanic, and machine from Spain. That is a perfectly comprehensible view; but if we are going to insist upon it we shall have no Agreement. I know that hon. Members of the Opposition when they are given the chance of having half a loaf or no bread at all, invariably prefer to have no bread. I am not of that opinion. In any case, surely if we want to obtain the withdrawal of the entire Italian forces from Spain it will be easier to obtain that withdrawal as a result of an agreement and friendly talks based on agreement than by shouting in futile anger across an abyss of misunderstanding. There is a second category, those who say: surely we are not going to make friends with Signor Mussolini after what has happened in Abyssinia? The hon. Lady who represents the English Universities (Miss Rath-bone) probably takes that point of view. If we are to take that point of view equally we are not going to have any friendly relations with Germany because of what happened on the 30th June, 1934, because of their treatment of the Jews and so forth. Equally we are not going to have friendly relations with Soviet Russia because of the many political purges which have taken place, nor, can we have friendly relations with Japan 249 because of her aggression and the bombing of open cities. Equally, if we take this line, we can have no agreement with either side in Spain because of the amount of bloodshed of which no doubt in one way and another both sides have been guilty. Where does this lead us? We are left wrapped in the mantle of our own self-righteousness looking around for some country which is good enough to be friends with ourselves.
The hon. and gallant Member has attributed to me views some of which I share but some which I do not. Does he not see the clear distinction between refusing to have dealings with a country because there are certain features of which you do not approve and recognising the conquest of a country which has been the victim of aggression, for which we ourselves were responsible; a conquest which was repudiated at the time by the League of Nations and which has been repudiated by it ever since?
§ Captain McEwen
There are many answers to that question. One is that circumstances have altered. The hon. Lady, in common with hon. Members opposite, still does not seem to realise what has happened since September. The position in which we are now is not the same. The League of Nations is dead. The whole system of non-aggression pacts which France built up has gone. You have only to look at the foreign policy of France during the last month to understand in some way the trend of events. It is no good quoting portions of the League Covenant and going back to the rights and wrongs of 1935. That is finished. We are in a new international situation and we must realise it. If we wrap ourselves up in our own self-righteousness it can lead in the end only to isolation and war. We should, it is true, possibly have friendship with France and rather less possibly with the United States, for the United States have shown no desire to intervene actively in Europe. I do not doubt that we and France could tackle any combination. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in a speech last year spoke of the soldiers of Napoleon and the sailors of Nelson, and the combination is undoubtedly formidable. But that has nothing whatever to do with a policy of appeasement, and when I listen to speeches and statements on the old lines 250 of lighting for democracy and about our democratic friends, they are, it seems to me, couched in the language of Rip Van Winkle. They have nothing to do with the present situation.
The Opposition have run aground on this matter. Even now the Government have swept past them and are a long way beyond. It is only with difficulty that we can still hear from the sandbank on which they are embedded the faint sound of their chanted slogans. This step I support wholeheartedly because it is not only a proper step but an essential one in the direction of appeasement, and it has nothing whatever to do with Spain. Notwithstanding what the hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) who is, I see, bursting to deliver a speech about Spain, may say, it is a sound commonsense solution and high statesmanship.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Miss Wilkinson
I am so glad to be able to deliver a speech which I confess I am, as the hon. and gallant Member has said, bursting to deliver. When he says that if we follow the line of the Opposition we shall choose with whom we are going to associate, may I point out to him that it is his side, not ours, who are the experts in social exclusiveness. Surely there is all the difference in the world between having to associate in the normal course of business with people with whose private lives or actions you totally disagree, and asking the same gentlemen to dinner, and, even more, imploring them to take the table silver away with them. That is the attitude of the Government towards Signor Mussolini.
I want now to address myself to the speech with which the Prime Minister opened the Debate this afternoon. The whole emphasis of his case was on the fact that at one time Spain threatened the peace of Europe, that it no longer threatens the peace of Europe, and that, therefore, there is no reason why the Anglo-Italian Agreement should not come into operation. But what was the threat which Spain constituted to the peace of Europe? Surely, it was that Italy and Germany might make war if they were not allowed to do as they wanted in Spain and elsewhere. If they are allowed to do as they want, then the threat of war can be removed anywhere. The fact that Spain is no longer a danger to the peace of Europe is not due to Signor 251 Mussolini or Herr Hitler, but due to the Government telling them that they can do as they like. On that basis, the Government can remove the threat of war continually. Is that called peace?
Anyone who looks at a strategic map of Europe can see how important it is to have a friendly, or at least a neutral, Italy, because of this country's activities in the Mediterranean; it is for that reason that we assume that we have a right to control the Mediterranean. Italy's nuisance value in the Mediterranean is high. Consequently, there are two alternatives in dealing with the problem. One is to give way completely in the hope that at some time the Duce will be satisfied and will say that he has enough, and the other is to try to stop that nuisance in the way followed at Munich. I suggest that the Nyon policy is the only one which has proved successful in dealing with Signor Mussolini.
Here I wish to raise a point connected not with foreign affairs, but with the proceedings of this House. In the Debate yesterday the Prime Minister suggested that the mere criticism of his policy by the Leader of the Opposition was in some way unpatriotic, and he added that in totalitarian States they do not foul their own nest. An hon. Member who spoke from the back benches opposite made the same point: we must not criticise, but must be polite to the dictators. It is as well that in one place in this world these dictators should be criticised. We have not got totalitarianism in this country, and while we have not got it we had better retain the precious right to tell them what we think about them. If we went as far as the Prime Minister wants, the Opposition would be strictly forbidden to tell him what they think about him, and then I really should burst.
The Prime Minister said that we had had assurances from Signor Mussolini and that obviously we have to believe a man if we are going to do business with him. I do not think it is necessary to add anything to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) on the question of how Signor Mussolini keeps his assurances. I ask the Under-Secretary, who is to reply for the Government, whether he noticed that during the very week in which it was announced that 252 Signor Mussolini was going to withdraw 10,000 men—I refuse to call them volunteers, for they are organised units of the Italian army and the Italian air force, they are troops; whereas nobody can say that the men who have gone on the Government side were sent by their governments—there was in the B.B.C. news, which I suppose we may take as authentic, for I have never heard its facts questioned, an item about the landing of a large number of armed motor cars, each one of them containing a pilot and crew. What do those assurances mean, when that happens, at the same time as we are told the troops are to be withdrawn, with a cynicism one almost begins to admire, so magnificent is it? Signor Mussolini says, "Really, why trouble about this man Chamberlain? All you have to do is just tell him something and he will believe you." Then he sends the stuff right away. If he says that, he is right; and everything that the Prime Minister has said in the House lends colour to that view.
I want also to ask the Under-Secretary whether the recognition than Spain is no longer a danger to the peace of Europe is also to be unilateral, as is the whole question of the Non-Intervention Agreement; or whether it is to be recognised all round? If Spain is no longer a danger to the peace of Europe, is there any reason for continuing the Non-Intervention Committee, because the whole purpose of that Committee is to bind the hands of the Spanish Government and their friends while allowing General Franco's friends to send him everything they please? Is the farce of the Non-Intervention Committee to be continued, or is the Committee to be disbanded? Surely that is the least that we can do in common decency.
Then, if Spain is no longer a danger to the peace of Europe, are we going to withdraw the ban on the Spanish Government purchasing what it likes with its own money? If Spain is no longer a danger to the peace of Europe, is normal trade across the frontier to be resumed? When the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) and other hon. Members and I went in a deputation to Lord Plymouth, Lord Plymouth said—that was before the formula about Spain no longer being a danger to the peace of Europe was laid down—it was not possible to open the frontier because that would 253 constitute a danger to the peace of Europe. We have the Prime Minister's assurance that that danger no longer exists. Is the frontier to be opened, or are we going to maintain every one of these oppressive conditions that are bound to hamper the Spanish Government, and that have prevented the legitimately elected Government of Spain getting supplies with its own money from where it could get them? Are we to maintain those conditions and at the same time give belligerent rights to General Franco? It was most noticeable that, in answer to an interpolation of mine at Question Time, the Prime Minister rather hinted that belligerent rights were not connected with the Anglo-Italian Agreement. May we have some elucidation on that point from the Under-Secretary, for it is an extremely important point to hon. Members on this side.
Is this to be only another step? The Prime Minister, I admit, has not much cause to regard this House with respect; it gives him an automatic majority for anything that he chooses to ask it; but are we going to be led step by step to ratify this Agreement, with regard to which there was an express understanding that certain conditions concerning Spain would be carried out, when even the Prime Minister has to admit that the very conditions that he laid down are in fact not being fulfilled? Are we to be led on to the next step, and to give belligerent rights to General Franco, at the same time as all these oppressive bans on the Spanish Government are maintained? It seems to me that even hon. Members on the other side, who are so completely blind to national interests as to support General Franco, could hardly say that that would be a fair thing.
§ Sir John Withers
The Spanish Government would have belligerent rights as well, and of course, they would be able to exercise them just the same as General Franco.
§ Miss Wilkinson
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has raised that point, but I am rather surprised to hear it from a legal gentleman. Surely, the question of giving belligerent rights to both sides is a delightful phrase which gives an air of impartiality to the whole matter. A legitimately-elected, constitutional government, engaged in putting down an armed rebellion within its own borders, 254 has no need of belligerent rights. The granting of those rights is the recognition of rebel forces on a basis of equality with the Government. Therefore, the phrase about belligerent rights is a misnomer which merely creates a kind of facade of impartiality. Moreover, as we are talking about assurances and guarantees, can the Under-Secretary say whether the Government have received any assurances whatever that British shipping will not be bombed when carrying out legitimate trade with Spanish ports? This is an extremely important matter. Since the Munich Agreement, there have been 21 cases of the bombing of British ships. Is this to continue?
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Butler)
There have been 21 cases since July; there have been 11 cases since the Munich Agreement.
§ Miss Wilkinson
I am grateful to the Under-Secretary for correcting me. But it there were only one case, how would that fit in with all these assurances of the Prime Minister about the better state of friendship between the Italian Government and this country? Those bombings were undertaken at the orders of the Italian Government; nobody will say that air forces are volunteer air forces. If there have been 11 cases since we have had assurances of the friendship of Signor Mussolini, surely 11 cases a month is a rather high price to pay even for the invaluable assistance and friendship of Signor Mussolini. If it is the fact, as the Prime Minister suggested, that all this is a reward to Signor Mussolini for being so good as to ask Herr Hitler whether he would kindly see the British Prime Minister at Munich, then all the praise ought to go, not to the Prime Minister, but to Signor Mussolini as the grand architect of peace.
There is another question which I want to ask the Under-Secretary. One of the things which has astonished me throughout the Spanish controversy has been the attitude of those hon. Members opposite who, by decorating their election platforms with Union Jacks, have constituted themselves the patriotic party and the guardians of our national interests. I wonder whether any of them has ever looked at a map of Spain—I suggest the admirable map published by one of the Government Departments in 1937, which 255 shows our shipping all over the world at a given time. It shows how vital this coast of Spain and Gibraltar itself are to our shipping. It shows how vital is control of that coast along West Africa. All our shipping has to go by Spain or by the Canary Islands, where it diverges either to South America or round the Cape. There are three vital points, namely, Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, and the Cape Verde Islands.
These are important strategic points and we are going to allow them to get into the control of the people in Spain who have always been hostile to this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I say so because the people who are backing Franco in Spain, are the same people who backed German interests during the War, just as the people who are in the Republican Government, backed British interests during the War. That is simply a question of fact, and the only answer which the Prime Minister has made to it is that General Franco expressed his complete neutrality at the moment of the crisis previous to Munich. That is a very doubtful statement. I believe the fact is that General Franco did make a declaration, but I would point out that in the paper in the Italian language which is issued from Italy to the Italian legionaries in Spain—50,000 copies of it are issued each week—that declaration of neutrality was denied. In any case, if, by the use of Italian and German forces, General Franco wins in Spain, what he says either about neutrality or anything else will be of precisely no interest whatever to anybody. The only people who will really matter are the people who control the munitions and aeroplanes and so forth by which he has gained his victory.
That brings me to my final point. It may appear that I am presenting the Under-Secretary with an examination paper on the Spanish question, but these really are points which the Prime Minister, with a delightful wave of the hand, left completely unanswered—just as he said at Munich that there was no use bothering about the exact line of a frontier, and whether it went through a town or not, and that those were matters which could simply be left to the experts. But this House has a right to be informed on these points and the further question which I would put to the hon. Gentleman 256 concerns the German troops in Spain. Not one word has been said about the German troops in Spain. We have not been told whether this Anglo-Italian Agreement affects them. Are we to understand that, even if all these assurances of Signor Mussolini are accepted and carried out, there is nothing whatever to prevent the German forces being retained in Spain? Those forces, as far as the northern aerodromes are concerned, are a very serious threat. Those aerodromes are in German hands and there is a very interesting map published from German sources showing, with some pride, the position of those German aerodromes.
As far as I can see the net result of all this is that we are going to establish two Fascist countries, Italy and Germany, on the southern frontier of the only ally we have left in Europe, namely, France, and the only guarantee which France has is a gentle assurance from the Prime Minister that he believes Signor Mussolini. If he does, then he is the only man in this world who does. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] Hon. Members say "Shame," but let us look at the facts. Take all the assurances given by Signor Mussolini and by Herr Hitler, time and time again, to the Non-Intervention Committee, every single one of which has been broken. It is not a question of opinion; it is a question of fact. If a man lies to you ten times you may forgive him, as the Bible tells you that you must do, but if you go on and believe him for the eleventh time, then it is your fault if you are "done in." That really sums up the present situation. My only difficulty is this. I am one of those who have far more respect for the Prime Minister's intelligence than to believe that he does believe it, and that of course is the serious fact in the whole situation.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick
The hon. Lady the Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) will forgive me if I do not follow her on the various points with which she has dealt, because I have risen only for the purpose of asking my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State one question, which I think will be found to go very close to the root of this matter. There are two views in this country on Spain, both of which are widely held and both of which have found expression here this afternoon. 257 The first is that, in spite of intervention, in different degrees and at different stages of the conflict, by no fewer than three great totalitarian Powers, the Spanish war remains essentially a war between Spaniards. Another view expressed in several quarters is that foreign intervention and Italian intervention in particular, has altered the character of the war, given it an international flavour and at some points actually endangered the interests of our Imperial communications and our position in Europe. That was the point made by the hon. Lady. It seems to me that the Government to-night, if they will, can throw a great deal of light on the validity or otherwise of those two points of view.
I say so because it seems to me that six weeks ago the issue was put, more or less, to a practical test, and that the Government know the answer to that test, but the House in general and the public do not. It is on that point that I wish to address my question. We all remember that on 26th September a communiquÉ was issued from No. 10, Downing Street the general effect of which was that, in certain eventualities, we, with France and Russia, would go to war with Germany. On the same day, Signor Mussolini speaking at Verona confirmed what he had said before on more than one occasion, namely, that, if there was a general war, Italy would be found fighting on the side of Germany. The stage in fact was set for a European conflict between France and ourselves on one side and Germany and Italy on the other in the Western theatre, and, as we know, not only was the stage set but the curtain nearly went up. On the previous day, 25th September, the French Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary and, I think, General Gamelin, the head of the French Army, came here to consult our Cabinet. It was their second visit, and it is impossible to suppose that in the course of those two sets of consultations every strategic point of importance was not touched upon, including, of course, the effect on France's interests of the situation in Spain. That must have been discussed and a decision reached upon it—which brings me to my question.
What I want to ask the Government is this: Had war broken out in the early days of October, would the situation in Spain have resulted in compromising the French power of defence? Would her 258 vital Eastern frontier have had to be weakened in the interests of meeting a threat on the South? That is a direct question and I very much hope that a direct answer will be given to it, because it seems to me that a great deal depends upon it. If the answer is "Yes," if, in fact, France's defence was compromised, I do not see that the House is justified in approving the Agreement before us. It would amount, I think, to recognising and perpetuating a position involving danger not only directly to our ally but indirectly to ourselves. If the answer is "No," if the Government can tell the House that the French defence was not compromised, then, I think, the case is very different.
I listened very carefully to the Prime Minister's speech this afternoon, but I was not at all clear in my mind what the precise difference was between the circumstances to-day, when we are prepared to ratify the Agreement, and those of three months ago, when we were not prepared to ratify it. That perhaps is a mere debating point, as I understand that that is not the Government's case at all. The Government urge on the House, I understand, that a settlement in Spain and peace in the Mediterranean are more likely to result with an Italian pact than without it. If that is the Government's advice, I, for one, do not feel justified in refusing to take it. But I do think that other people find themselves in just the same difficulty as myself, and I would seriously ask whoever replies for the Government to answer the question which I have just posed. On the answer to that question must depend the decision which a good many of us will have to take this evening.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Macquisten
We have heard a good deal about the great democracies and the dictator governments, but neither the dictators themselves, who speak somewhat despitefully of the great democracies and belittle them, nor the Members of this House who have spoken seem to realise that neither this country, nor America, nor any of the countries ruled by representative government is really a democracy at all. Representative government is not, and never has been, democracy. The democracies were little towns in Greece where every man was his own representative, and that is the only form of democracy. It was the same in Russia in the time of the Tsars, when 259 each little village had its "mir" and the men met together to decide the allocation of their own bits of land and to make local regulations and laws. But democracy, as applied to forms of representative government, is only a name.
What good is it to a man to have the 150,000th share of a Member of Parliament? The voter thinks he is ruling because, at stated intervals, he places a cross on a piece of paper. But that does not give him much to say in the government of the country. The only thing is that when he is thoroughly disgusted with a government, he gets a chance of putting them out of office—and, mark you, the most of politics consists, not of putting people in but of putting people out. But when you put one party out, the difficulty is that you have only a choice of one other party. It is always a choice of two evils. That is all it amounts to. What say has the average man who votes by ballot in the selection of the man who is to represent him? Practically none. In the case of hon. Members on the opposite side of the House the matter in generally decided by some cabal of trade union leaders or the Co-operative Society. On our side—well it is difficult to say, but the only Members of this House, I think, who stand entirely on their own feet and are without interference from any cabal are my hon. Friends of the Independent Labour party, who sit here in spite of the prohibition of the trade union leaders.
§ Mr. Macquisten
It is not democracy at all. I once heard of a by-election long years ago, when I was a boy, and a number of fellows from the Clyde shipyard were so dissatisfied with the candidates that they wrote on the back of the ballot paper, "I decline to vote for either of the beggars," and signed their names and addresses. That was their feeling, and that was how they expressed it. There is no use in our saying we have a very superior form of government. We have all sorts of monstrosities under this Government. We have to put up with things that woud never be tolerated under a dictatorship. Do you think they would tolerate that road transport should be strangled as has been done in this democratic country? I do not. To hamper road transport on behalf of the railways 260 we have no roads. But the dictators have built beautiful roads for their road transport. Do you think they would stand for the awful tyrannies and tragedies of the various marketing boards in this country? Of course they would not.
What happened in Italy and in Germany? They were both crushed, and Germany certainly tried a democratic Government. Much chance did France give to it—not a dog's chance. They were knocked about, and the people got desperate, and thus Hitler emerged. Italy was in the same state of going violently red, and what happened? These two very great men emerged, and there is no use in our trying to belittle them. We may not like them, just as we did not like William the Conqueror whose coming I always think was a great disaster to the English people who then had free institutions, laws and customs which he took from them. These two great men Hitler and Mussolini emerged and set their countries' feet upon a rock. It is true their countries are ruled by steel and we are ruled by gold and I charge you always to recollect what the Spartan said to Croesus when he was boasting of his gold to him. The Spartan said "It is all very well but whoever has better iron than you will soon have your gold." That is a dangerous position to be in, and we ought to be in a position to defend ourselves, and I am glad to see that we are going to do so. When I hear all the small fry in this country criticising these two very very great men who have done so much for their own countries and their own citizens, it reminds me of field mice of the shrew kind criticising elephants on the basis that they both have trunks.
Even Dictators are in a very delicate position and have in the main to take their people with them. We have had only one specimen of them in this country. We had Cromwell, and we were very glad to get rid of him. He endeavoured, by more or less violent measures, to suppress the liberties of the people, and they were very glad to go back to the old regime It is very difficult for these people to get off their position of sitting on the throne. They are in the position of the Chinese, who say in their proverb, "Who rides on the back of a tiger can never dismount." They have to carry on, and we have to realise what they have done for their country. In Germany there is no unemployment, and 261 there would not be any in this country either if it had not been for our disarmament programme. After all, what are armaments? They are only wages. The money is all spent on wages, and it is far better to keep the men busy than to keep them unemployed. I do not believe we should ever have had either unemployment or the recent crisis if we had gone on building ships and keeping up the aeroplane force that we used to have.
I now think that by the policy of appeasement that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has followed, he has done the greatest work that has been seen in our time, and this ratification of the Anglo-Italian Agreement is part of the policy. The hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) spoke just now about the bombing of British ships, but, after all, they are going into Spanish ports within the three-mile limit and taking risks in order to get enormous earnings out of it. You might as well object to gun runners which are going into a port being molested. As far as I understand it, people who started in this trade with nothing are now millionaires, yet I am sorry for the sailors who have taken the chance of double money and who have, some of them, lost their lives. I only wish there was legislation to make the people who have made large fortunes at this trade provide for the widows and dependants of those who have lost their lives. You cannot expect our citizens not to be fired at when they engage in this sort of thing. You might as well say that no Spaniard should fire at members of the International Brigade because they happened to be British citizens. They have to take their chance, and if people interfere in other people's wars, they must take the consequences which come to them. I am sorry that this war has not come to an end. I do not know how it is to come to an end, because each party seems so difficult about it. As far as I understand, it was largely started by Communistic propaganda. There was no law and order for some time, and then they took a very doubtful election about it, and Franco butted in.
With regard to appeasement and the question of Czechoslovakia, all that I recollect is that the Czechs took the whole of Austria that was worth taking at the conclusion of the Great War, and left her like a body without a head, and she 262 was bound to fall into German hands. It was inevitable for Austria's self-preservation. With regard to the Czechs themselves, they could not have defended themselves for they were surrounded on every side. Their new State was created as part of the policy that was begun at the time of the Versailles Treaty, the policy of keeping down the Germans. The Labour party's hands are clean in this matter, because they were against all this sort of thing. It was a great mistake, and naturally Germany said, "We will not have enemies on our flank." The Czechs have behaved very well, though I recollect one incident in their history which has always made me uncomfortable. Hon. Members may recollect how the Lowland Scots—not the Highlanders, thank God—sold Charles I to Cromwell, though they knew he was going to his death. Well, the Czechs sold Admiral Koltchak to the Bolshevists, although they knew he would probably go to his death, and that is a very grave blot on their history. If we had gone to war about Czechoslovakia, it would have rejoiced the hearts of the Russians, who would have sent a few hundred aeroplanes to help the Czechs, and then they would have laughed up their sleeves to see the anti-Bolshevist Powers tearing each other to pieces and inevitably going Bolshevist themselves at the end of the war.
As to Abyssinia, I would not give the whole of the Abyssinian population for a single Gordon Highlander or Argyll and Sutherland Highlander, or a Cameron either. It was their own affair, and they behaved very badly to Italy at the time of Adowa. They got a chance of a settlement in the Hoare-Laval Agreement, but what happened? All those people who get up the rows in this country because they cannot get into Parliament yelled, and unfortunately the Government yielded to them. I got two abusive letters from some gentleman of whom I thought very little over that matter. The one man who has been right over the last seven years has been the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), but he keeps on at it when the time has passed. If his policy had been adopted five years ago, we would have had a war then and would have been able to win it quite easily. He has always been right in that matter, but it is too late now, and he does not recognise it. He has been most scurvily 263 treated by the Cecils. I remember Lord Hugh Cecil saying in this House that armaments had the same effect on the right hon. Member for Epping as filth had on a bluebottle: they made him buzz about and feel vastly important.
I think we need safer and more realist counsellors than these people, and we have got one in the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. I believe he has got thoroughly in touch with Herr Hitler, who, mind you, is a very great man and whose career is one of the most miraculous I have ever read about. I have been reading it in the newspapers lately, and his account of his life in "Mein Kampf" is tremendous. Of course, his ambition to rule the world is not easily to be realised, and I do not think we need anticipate that. In the meantime, what we have to do is to make ourselves fit and strong, and we ought to take a leaf out of the dictators' book. Why do we have so many idle among our population? Hitler does not allow any of that sort of nonsense. He takes the well-born and the rich—he does not allow any rich—and he says to the idle young women in the West End, "You need a job; go into the country and help the peasant to cultivate his farm." They all go to work, and everybody in Germany works, and it would be an immense benefit to all of us if we had to do the same thing, though, of course, we shall not do it unless we are compelled.
I am one of those who are very strongly opposed to war. I have sons of my own, and I do not want them wasted. The only people who are keen on war are a lot of ferocious old women who have no descendants, and a lot of old bachelors above military age. There are all sorts of them, but it is the boys I think about, and not only our own boys, but the German boys as well. I do not think they want war any more than we do ourselves, but they are in the grip of their Government. They had to go on with the steps they took, and I think we were very near it. The right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) suggested that gas masks had made a very great difference and that as a result enthusiasm for war had died down. In this country we have had no invaders for over 1,000 years, and war in the past has been a thing that we sent our soldiers and 264 sailors to fight on our behalf. It has never come home to the people themselves. But once all the people in the world understand what war means, it makes all the difference.
The Germans have had some dreadful experiences, In the Thirty Years War many parts of Germany were reduced to cannibalism.
§ Mr. Macquisten
Yes, polygamy, which, I think, probably to him would be worse than cannibalism. They have suffered these things, but we have not, and once all the peoples understand that it is not just a question for soldiers and sailors, but that it is the whole of the people who will be involved, I hope we shall manage to get all peoples of every country to stop either their dictators or their so-called democratic Governments, which are not really democratic at all, but mere representative Governments, making wars. I think the Prime Minister has taken a very big step in that direction, and I say, "God bless him." I also say that what Signor Mussolini did in bringing about the interview with Herr Hitler was a wonderful piece of work, and I feel a very warm side to him for it. I think the best thing we can do is to make friends with him, and to-day's Motion will help to bring that about.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Ridley
There is a rumour that after the next General Election this House will cease to number among its Members the hon. and learned Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten), and if that be so, there will be many Members of it, I am sure, who will regret the disappearance of a most distinguished patriot, who has treated us with both wit and wisdom, and who seemed to enjoy his own wit and wisdom even better than did the others.
§ Mr. Macquisten
I was once criticised by an English Member, who said, "He is a strange man. I have never seen him smile. I do not think he even sees the point of his own jokes."
§ Mr. Ridley
I am bound to remonstrate with the hon. and learned Member when he suggests that this country has never been invaded. There has been a very substantial invasion, especially in the House of Commons, by the race to which 265 he belongs. I do not desire to discuss the details of the British-Italian Agreement, but I wish to say a word or two about general policy. The hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) expressed a fear, to which I have no doubt he came with very great reluctance, that the Munich Settlement and the ratification of the British-Italian Agreement had not been governed by conditions of expediency or of strategy, nor predominantly by a desire for peace. The fear in his mind, and the increasing fear in my own, is that they have been governed by a closer approximation of philosophy between the dictator Powers on the one hand and, on the other, a very large number of gentlemen who sit on the benches opposite. It has been a very disturbing experience in the last two years to hear the mention of one Power in Europe always greeted on the other side with ill-concealed derision and execration—to hear the Spanish Government referred to in terms almost of contempt, and to feel on the other side an increasing sympathy with what may be called the totalitarian outlook. I believe there is a growing conviction that this Government prefers tyranny to liberty, and on no other ground can the foreign policy of the last two months be explained or understood. I believe that the Munich Agreement was determined as one consideration, even if not the major and predominate consideration, by a desire to avoid in Germany an alternative form of government to the existing regime. The Prime Minister and the Government which he leads hate the alternative to Nazism more than they hate Nazism. They hate liberty, therefore, in my view more than they hate tyranny. For no other conceivable reason, as far as I can see, at least six members of the Government sitting at various times on the Front Bench have declared their indifference to the outcome of the Spanish conflict. They do not care, in fact, whether democracy wins or loses, and that obviously must mean that they do not care about democracy, and so we reach an agreement with Signor Mussolini based on our willingness to allow him brutally to frustrate the struggle of a people for freedom, a people which has known every kind of tyranny and every sort of oppression. The basis of the Agreement which the House is asked to ratify is, in my view, in serious violation of the declaration of 266 the Prime Minister of 21st February, when he said:Provided there is no foreign interference, we desire to let the Spaniards make their own settlement. We do not consider that it is part of our duty or part of our aim to dictate to the Spaniards what settlement they shall make. The settlement that we want is a settlement of Spanish questions by Spaniards free from foreign interference.Surely my hon. Friends are entitled to complain that the Prime Minister did not make a Spanish settlement free from foreign interference a condition precedent to the operation of the British-Italian Agreement. It has not done so because it does not want to; indeed I doubt whether in the present situation he dare attempt to do it.
Some discussion has taken place as to what even now a settlement of the Spanish question may be taken to mean. Some months ago it was assumed to mean a proportionate withdrawal of foreign troops on both sides. The Spanish Government immediately called that bluff by withdrawing all their foreign volunteers. That obviously means, if there is to be proportionate withdrawal on the other side, the complete evacuation of every German and every Italian invader. In the original conditions—I do not know whether they still stand—it was stated that the withdrawal of troops on the insurgent side was to be determined for Italy by decisions made by the Non-Intervention Committee. Nothing has ever been determined for Italy during the existence of the Non-Intervention Committee by anything that the Non-Intervention Committee has decided. It is surely to indulge in excessive optimism to believe that what has never happened may now in some miraculous fashion be expected to happen. The suspicion in my mind is justified by this most remarkable clause that, if evacuation is not completed when the war ends, all remaining volunteers and raw material will be withdrawn. This pre-supposes an insurgent victory, for obviously only in the event of an insurgent victory would the Italian dictator be free to choose whether to withdraw or not. If the Spanish Government were victorious, Signor Mussolini would have no alternative but to do what he was told.
Then there is the declaration which the Prime Minister has repeated to-day, omitting one significant word. He said he had an assurance from Signor Mussolini 267 that he had no territorial aims in Spain. The original conditions have it that he had neither political nor territorial aims. Is the omission of the word "political" to be regarded as significant or merely accidental? In any case what reason can be found for the presence in Spain of a single Italian soldier except that the Italian dictator has either territorial or political ambitions? The effect of a settlement in these conditions means that Italy and Germany can please themselves. They can, so far as the Prime Minister and the Government are concerned, both remain in Spain as long as they like until finally, if they have their way, a people struggling for liberty has been crushed. In order that there should be no doubt in anyone's mind as to what Hitler and Mussolini desire, they made it plain to all the world. On the morrow of the Munich Agreement General Franco wired his congratulations to Hitler. He got in reply a telegram wishing the rebel cause success. Mention has been made of a communication in the last week from Mussolini to Franco to the same effect. This is the line of policy that is being pursued, to what end no one in the House can say. This process of appeasement is one in which we throw other people's babies to the lions and, as the lions roar louder and louder for more babies, we may be compelled in the end to throw our own. We are willing to abandon every canon of decency and every standard of international conduct and to cover it all with a nauseating smugness. We pretend, as we did in the case of Czechoslovakia, that it is even better for the babies that they should die in that way. On 21st February, discussing the proposed recognition of the questionable conquest of Abyssinia, the Prime Minister said:The formal recognition of the Italian position in Abyssinia is one which could only be morally justified if it was found to be a factor, and an essential factor, in a general appeasement."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1938; col. 58, Vol. 332.]I take the significant word in that quotation to he the word "morally." The Prime Minister did not say the only political or the only expedient justification. He said the only moral justification. I thought morals were a standard of right and wrong. It is a matter of black or white, and there can be no intermediate shades of grey. If a moral justification 268 can be found for the ratification of the agreement I can see no reason why the word should not be invoked for any desperate adventure that any filibusterer cares to engage in and afterwards ask our approval for. Abyssinia, Czechoslovakia, Spain, and to-morrow what else? No one can say. Over South-Eastern Europe and the contiguous countries to Germany there hangs the Swastika, one country after another compelled to accept German domination. This new tendency in British foreign policy to have no regard to decent standards and, for the sake of appeasement, to forsake law and order and honour in international affairs, means that this Agreement, and those responsible for it, will be remembered in history with contempt.
They will be seriously remembered in the same fashion for another reason. We are not only by this policy acquiescing in the destruction of democracy abroad, but we are seriously endangering the practice of democracy in this country. Through centuries of British history broadening down from precedent to precedent, our people have believed themselves justified in believing that the British Constitution lent itself to peaceful political and economic change, no matter how substantial the change might be. Our great political parties and organisations have built themselves up on that assumption and understanding, which we damage at our peril. The only alternative is arms, and the emergence of this movement of force and violence from which happily this country has been free—the emergence of the bludgeon instead of the ballot box. My serious fear is that the development of these new tendencies in foreign policy, culminating to-night in the request to the House that it shall ratify an Agreement which recognises a right that has no moral basis or justification, will weaken the faith of the people in the effectiveness of British institutions. By this Agreement we turn our backs on Milton and raise our hands in salute to Mussolini. As we do so we rapidly imperil the very structure of those political institutions to the maintenance and defence of which this Government becomes day by day an increasing danger.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Captain A. Graham
I earnestly appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite to make up their minds which of two alternatives 269 they desire. Do they desire war in Europe sooner or a little later, or do they wish for this policy of appeasement? In either event I would appeal to them to exercise as much as possible—and I know it is very difficult—self-restraint in language both in their speeches and in the newspapers which support their view. Even if they are looking forward to war, let them at least wait before they produce an even more explosive atmosphere than there is at present and until the air defences of London are a little more effective. If, on the other hand, they are in favour of a policy of appeasement, as I believe most of them are, I would beg them to refrain, not from criticism of the dictators, but from what is simply vulgar abuse of the dictators. However one may view the history of the past and the history of foreign Governments, it serves no good purpose to this country or to the traditions of this House to call the heads of foreign Governments liars, thieves and murderers. We rightly objected that it was in the worst possible taste when Herr Hitler not long ago called Dr. Benes a liar and abused him in that fashion.
A dictator is not, perhaps, used to restraining his language, but if we are to show that democracies are capable of maintaining the proper traditions of their countries and exercising themselves in diplomacy for the benefit of their countries, it behoves them not to hurl abuse from the housetops. In the old much-abused days of secret diplomacy there was much less danger of war than there is to-day, when any person in the street who reads a newspaper thinks that he is therefore qualified to shout out his opinions about foreign rulers and foreign Powers from the housetops when, in point of fact, he has nothing, either knowledge or learning, on which to form an opinion, let alone to express it. Open diplomacy creates far greater dangers for democracies, unless they show themselves worthy of it by restraining their language, than the secret diplomacy of the past ever did.
If we are to follow this policy of appeasement we must try to understand what is the main interest of the Italians in Spain. I know how hard it is when forming one's views about the policy of a country with whose political system one is in complete disagreement to avoid one's prejudices filling the mind with suspicion 270 and suggesting certain motives. Whenever I read of the activities of the Soviet Government, of which I have always had the profoundest suspicion ever since I had the privilege of fighting against them in North Russia, I find it very hard not to suspect their motives and policy at every possible turn. I frankly recognise, however, that if my mind is filled with suspicion of that sort, it is not likely to have the clearest view of the real motives of their policy.
We must try to apply such an attitude of mind to what is really the policy of Italy in Spain. We have for many centuries been a tolerant country with an equable climate, and we are not used to bloody revolutions and civil wars, at any rate, for the last 300 years. Other countries have had them. Russia arid Spain have had ferocious civil wars. In Germany there was the Spartacist revolt, practically a civil war, and in Italy there was the general lapse into semi-anarchy after the War, from which it was saved by the emergence of the Fascist discipline of the nation. We have seen the civil war in Russia pursuing its bitter course. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who was Prime Minister at the time, being guided by what an Englishman or a Welshman might have done, thought it possible to bring the two parties together on the island of Prinkipo for a conference in which they might settle their differences. It was a complete failure, because where so much blood has flown between two sides in a nation, peace and compromise on our easy-going English methods are impossible.
Therefore, I believe that any form of compromise or reconciliation in Spain will prove equally impossible. I hope that I may be wrong. One thing on which the Spaniards appear to be united is their detestation of foreigners. That has been the case in the past, and it is so to-day. They are determined, whatever the outcome of the war, that foreign Powers which have aided either side—and it is common knowledge that foreign Powers have intervened on both sides—shall not obtain one inch of Spanish territory in reward for whatever assistance they may have given to the victorious side. We ourselves, 130 years ago, gave considerable aid to Spain. We re-established Spanish independence. If ever a nation had claims to receive some territorial 271 reward from the Spanish nation and Government it was the nation which saved Spain from Napoleon. Apart from the Duke of Wellington, this country received no territorial advantage.
§ Captain Graham
No, and I would remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the head of the Italian Government has explicitly denied that Italy has any territorial ambitions in Spain. I believe that he will keep his word. When Sir Austen Chamberlain was Foreign Secretary there was an incident in which some subordinate Italian officials in Arabia were urging certain hostile measures, mostly in the way of propaganda, against British agents and British influences in that part of the world. The head of the Italian Government had come to an agreement with Sir Austen Chamberlain in which he had given his word that nothing of that sort would be tolerated and in reply to the appeals from his own eager agents on the spot he forbade them continuing their activities. He remained true to his word and promise to Sir Austen Chamberlain.
What is the purpose of Italian policy in Spain? Italy has been through a condition of anarchy in which officers of the Army and Navy and any upholder of law and order were publicly assaulted in the street. Out of that chaos came the Fascist movement of national discipline. We, in this country, cannot conceive of a national action or an expedition of military force, whether volunteers or conscripts, unless it were for a material objective. Unless one has suffered in a revolution or civil war, it is impossible to get oneself into the state of understanding of the feeling of crusade against those conditions, either of Communism on the one hand, or of despotic Czarism on the other, from which you have had to fly or over which you have triumphed. It is quite natural for Italy and Italians to desire to go on crusade in Spain against Communism, the thing from which they themselves were delivered in Italy.
For years before the civil war in Spain Italy took an interest in Barcelona. Barcelona has for 30 years been the political cesspool of Europe. It is a well- 272 known fact that there were Italian agents there long before the Spanish civil war broke out, just as there were Russian Soviet agents working there. It has been one of the festering sores of the European polity, and being merely a few miles across the Gulf of Lyons, it is only natural that Italy should feel that what goes on in Northern Spain very much affects her. It is quite unnecessary to look for territorial concessions or promises as the motive of Italy's interest in Spain. It is quite definitely their policy that they cannot allow a Communist Government to be established so near to them across the Gulf of Lyons.
§ Captain Graham
I know that it is not strictly a Communist Government—labels are always unfair—and I will say an extreme Left Government. It is a well-known fact that it is, in point of fact, largely directed from Russia. [Interruption.] Hon. Members may find that as difficult to believe as I find it impossible to imagine their not already knowing it. It depends on what information hon. Members get.
§ Captain Graham
One of the authorities who impressed me most was a colonel of the International Brigade fighting on the Government side who came to the House of Commons here and informed us that he himself had been under the orders of a Russian corps commander in Spain and that the supreme authorities, both civil and military, were Russians.
§ Captain Graham
I am afraid it is a case of the hon. Member's word against mine, but that was the impression that I received from him.
§ Mr. Roberts
May I send the hon. and gallant Member the shorthand note of that meeting; and if what I have said proves to be right perhaps he will be good enough to admit it.
§ Captain Graham
My impression is that there were two meetings. I went to the first one which he addressed, but I believe there was a second.
§ Mr. Roberts
That was a Conservative meeting, and perhaps he said something different on that occasion.
§ Captain Graham
There are other authorities which I could give the hon. Member if he wishes; but my point is that it is a perfectly natural thing for Italian action to be guided by that policy, and whether we like it, or whether we do not, the fact remains that we have to accept the present position in Spain. It is no good chewing over past wrongs: we have to look to the future and to be practical. An hon. Member opposite said that he was tired of this talk about morals. I say openly, though possibly it may shock the consciences of hon. Members, that in my view that is precisely one of the things with which foreign politics should not concern themselves—a Foreign Secretary, or a party, in any country pontificating "This country is right" or "That country is wrong." That is one of the great mistakes we have made in the last ten years in the direction of British foreign policy. In my view any British Foreign Secretary should concern himself only with British interests. Those are not always material interests, by any means, but I say that it is not the function of a British Foreign Secretary to pontificate as to which country is morally right and which is morally wrong. That is for God Almighty, and not for any human being.
Further in regard to this Agreement, it has been suggested that it would be wrong to recognise the King of Italy as Emperor of Abyssinia when there is still trouble in Abyssinia. I think we should be somewhat disappointed if other nations refused to recognise His Majesty as Emperor of India because there is still fighting on the North-West Frontier. The situation is very comparable. It is not so many years since rebels actually penetrated to Peshawar, the capital of the North-West Province. Would you say, therefore, that it was wrong for His Majesty to be recognised as Emperor of India? The effective sovereignty over Abyssinia, whether one likes it or whether one does not lies with the Italian Government, and men who are concerned with practical affairs, and not with beating moral tom-toms or emotional cymbals must recognise that fact, which is precisely what His Majesty's Government propose to do. If it is objected "What is the value of the removal of 10,000 so-called 274 ineffectives?" I say that those 10,000 Italians are a formidable and effective body of soldiers. Anybody who looks at the photographs of them marching through the streets of Naples will see that they are far from being cripples in any sense. In my belief, which I have very good grounds for regarding as well-founded, they represent one-quarter of the 40,000—not 90,000—Italians there are in Spain, and while I should be the last person to assert that an inaccuracy on the part of any diplomatic representative was intentional, the House ought to admit that it is probably somewhat difficult for the representative of one of the two sides in the Spanish conflict to obtain entirely accurate figures of the numbers of men of another nation who are on the other side of the line.
Conversations I have had recently both with official and unofficial Italians indicate that any Englishman visiting Italy comes back with the rooted conviction that the one thing which the people of Italy desire—and it is a growing public opinion which the Italian Government cannot afford to ignore—is freindship with England and that they have a fear of being embroiled with England at somebody else's behest. It is for that reason that I would again urge on every Member of this House to restrain his language, because otherwise it can only tend to destroy the friendly feeling for us which is growing in Italy. If we allow ourselves to abuse the idol of that nation it is only natural that our action should be nationally resented. I very much regret the speech of the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). What may have happened in the past is not necessarily a good guide for the future or for our immediate action. In politics it is impossible to overtake the past. While I have the highest respect for many of his qualities, the fact remains, unfortunately, that the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington is considered by the ordinary man and woman in the street in Italy as "Public Enemy No. 1 of Italy." If we are desirous of obtaining peaceful relations and friendship with a nation we must not follow the advice which is given by the man whom, rightly or wrongly, they consider to be their "Public Enemy No.1." Therefore, I appeal to Members of this House not merely to restrain their language in the interests of the country, 275 but to do everything they can positively to bring about better relations with Italy, especially by supporting this Pact tonight.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
At the outset of my remarks I should like to assure the hon. and gallant Member for the Wirral Division (Captain Graham) that I did not interrupt his speech with any intention of scoring a point, but only from a genuine desire for information. I think his speech was remarkable for one fact, and that is that he was able to quote one occasion upon which Signor Mussolini has kept his word or kept an undertaking. That is a very interesting contribution to the Debate. No other Member opposite has been able to give a similar instance. We all join with the hon. and gallant Member in deprecating what he describes as vulgar abuse of the rulers of other countries. Strong criticism is legitimate. But I have not heard very much in the nature of vulgar abuse uttered from these benches. Criticism, yes; vulgar abuse, no. If the hon. and gallant Member does deprecate vulgar abuse of the rulers of foreign countries he might, perhaps, address his remarks to members of his own party when they are referring to the ruler of Russia or to the present Government of Spain. As he made some remarks about the party on these benches looking forward to war, although he could not make even that stupid gibe without having to criticise his own Government for having neglected to provide for the defence of London after being in office for so many years—
§ Captain A. Graham
I meant to say "anticipate" war, and I am just as much opposed to the Government's neglect of the defence of London as anybody on the other side of the House.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
I am glad to hear that. With reference to his gibe about Members here looking forward to war, I recommend him to study the remarks of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence during the Debate on the crisis, in which he expressly repudiated any suggestion that Members upon these benches are less anxious than Members opposite to see peace preserved.
I understood from the opening remarks of the hon. Member that we were to hear an explanation of what animates Italian 276 policy in regard to Spain, but the only explanation we were given was that the Italian Government disapprove of the Government in Spain and therefore feel entitled to intervene with men and materials and to invade the country—a very dangerous theory indeed to advocate. My hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) put a question during her speech, which I am sure she felt was an embarrassing question, to the the Under-Secretary who is going to reply. She asked him whether he would let us know if the Prime Minister has received any undertaking from Signor Mussolini that Italian aeroplanes shall cease bombing British ships when the Anglo-Italian Agreement is brought into force; but my hon. Friend has overlooked one point, and that is that the Prime Minister has already informed the House on several occasions that Signor Mussolini has no control whatever over these Italian aeroplanes which are bombing British ships. When faced with questions from this side of the House about these outrages on British ships the Prime Minister has invariably made the reply that these Italian aeroplanes are under the control of General Franco and that Signor Mussolini is quite unable to do anything about them. It would certainly be an amusing commentary upon the Anglo-Italian Agreement if, as a reward for its coming into force, the ruler of Italy gave our Prime Minister an assurance that Italian aeroplanes should cease bombing British ships. Unfortunately the dictator is not all powerful. He cannot control these Italian aviators, and therefore we must expect to see the attacks upon our shipping by Italian aeroplanes continue.
The Motion before the House is:That this House welcomes the intention of His Majesty's Government to bring the Anglo-Italian Agreement into force.This House is really getting very strong on welcoming. A few short weeks ago we welcomed, so far as the Division Lobbies are any indication of the feeling of this House, the Munich Agreement, with all the diminution of our security in Europe which that involves. To-night, again, in the Division Lobbies, we are going to welcome the Anglo-Italian Agreement, with all the diminution of our security in the Mediterranean which that implies. I have no doubt, looking into the future, that we shall find the House welcoming the cession 277 of some of our Colonies to Germany, with the implied possibility of Germany creating naval bases and raising black armies overseas. At the pace we are going at the present moment I shall not be surprised if the House meets one of these days and passes a Resolution welcoming Herr Hitler on his arrival in this country to take over the Government. Historically, it would not be the first time that the aristocracy of this country connived at and welcomed a change of dynasty. Under the present Government this House is in a mood in which it seems prepared to welcome anything, provided that it does not involve any defence of international law or justice for weak and defenceless nations; and that is a shocking abdication of the democratic principles which this House is supposed to represent and to embody in the world.
There has been a reference in the "Times" to the fact that we have a Prime Minister who embodies the principle of the Fuhrer-Prinzip. Under his leadership the Government pursues a policy which encourages our enemies and depresses our friends. The Anglo-Italian Agreement which we are by way of welcoming to-night is the price which the Prime Minister has paid for losing a colleague, the late Foreign Secretary, whose speech we have heard this afternoon. The Prime Minister considers that that price is worth while, but I am not sure that those who listened to the late Foreign Secretary's speech will agree with him. This Agreement was made contingent upon a phrase "a settlement in Spain," which has never been defined. I imagine that this must have been one of the very few occasions upon which a major negotiation has been embarked upon and carried through without any definition of the basis of negotiation.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
I am coming to the question of definition. No attempt was ever made to agree a definition of the phrase with the Government with whom we were negotiating. I consider that it was a purposely ambiguous phrase employed by the Prime Minister in order to enable him to turn a very tight corner. People have short memories, but long ago, in the Non-Intervention Committee, Count Grandi made the statement that no Italian troops would be with- 278 drawn from Spain until General Franco was victorious, and Signor Mussolini has repeatedly declared in public his intention to use all Italian resources to ensure a Franco victory. It is clear that our Prime Minister entered into negotiations with a man who was and is determined that the issue of the war in Spain shall be a victory for General Franco. That is Signor Mussolini's idea of a settlement in Spain, and our Prime Minister has never challenged it or put forward any alternative to it. That being so, we are compelled to believe that the Prime Minister has accepted Signor Mussolini's definition of a settlement in Spain, and considers it to be identical with victory for General Franco.
To-day the Prime Minister told us one or two very interesting things about his conversation with Signor Mussolini at Munich. Did he ever raise at Munich these questions with Signor Mussolini? I do not think so. In speaking about a settlement in Spain the Prime Minister said that he would regard it as a settlement if Spain no longer menaced the peace of Europe. That was also very ambiguous. If the Prime Minister agrees with Signor Mussolini that "settlement" means a Franco victory then the Spanish situation does no longer menace the peace of Europe, although I imagine that it will continue to menace British ships in Spanish harbours. When the Prime Minister was recommending these negotiations to the House I remember that he used a phrase which made a great impression upon my mind and almost caused me to waver in my opinion. He told us that he had used the firmest possible language to Signor Grandi and had said, in other words, that he would not stand for any more Italian reinforcements going to Spain. I think the words were to the effect that the situation must not be altered in Spain while these negotiations were being carried through. I would ask hon. Members opposite to consider whether that condition has been fulfilled.
I do not accuse the Prime Minister of bad faith; that is not the sort of criticism in which I indulge; but I say that the Prime Minister repeatedly makes use of very ambiguous language in the statements which he makes to this House at awkward moments. He is wont to make dramatic statements, dramatic though quietly uttered, which all too often turn out to mean nothing. I do not want to 279 discuss at great length the question of the good faith of Signor Mussolini. It is true that he broke the previous Anglo-Italian Agreement the day after it was signed and that the presence of Italian troops in Spain while Italy is a member of the Non-Intervention Committee would, in that curious, remote pre-dictator period of diplomacy, have been considered flagrant bad faith. But we are living in a completely new era of new diplomatic methods and technique. It is an era for which the strange portent of a British Prime Minister flying backwards and forwards across the sky to wait on Herr Hitler and ask him if he would like his chop underdone or well done, is not a very happy omen. Apparently we are in an era of diplomacy in which bad faith in international life is now regarded as is divorce in our social life, that is as something of which one need no longer feel ashamed.
The Anglo-Italian Agreement is to be brought into force, and whether or no the document is to our liking it will be signed on behalf of a British Government. Future Governments will be bound by it, possibly more bound than is the present Government about our signature to other documents. We must make the best of it. We must hope that it will work and be useful. If Signor Mussolini intends to act in good faith we all know what actions are incumbent upon him and will prove his good faith. I would ask any hon. Gentleman opposite to say if the retention of Italian troops and material in Spain is consonant with good faith on the part of Signor Mussolini. That is the test. The unfortunate thing is that if Signor Mussolini does not keep faith on this matter there is very little that we can do about it.
I was reading the other day a story of a man who went to his friend and said: "I was given a slap in the face this morning. What do you advise me to do about it?" The friend considered the problem, and then said: "Well, if you were given it, I should advise you to keep it." That is the position in which we are at the present time. We receive slap after slap in the face, and there is nothing we can do except accept them. This Government must really have a crick in its collective neck from keeping on turning the other cheek.
I would like to call special attention to two points arising out of this Agreement. 280 What is the British foreign policy underlying it, and, what is the effect of it upon British security? I do not want to examine that well-worn track from Manchuria to Prague via Abyssinia, Austria, Spain and Czechoslovakia. It is a route strewn with the bodies of British Foreign Secretaries and the remains of agreements and undertakings which we have torn up while making the journey. If you want to interpret all those incidents, and the present Anglo-Italian Agreement, in order to find out what underlies British foreign policy then you must find the highest common factor—perhaps I should have said the lowest common factor—of all these incidents. In each of these cases you will find that a free and independent country has come into conflict with the totalitarians. The forms and sometimes more than the forms, of democratic government were being observed in each of those countries—although that may not apply to Ethiopia, nevertheless the Emperor of Ethiopia was high-principled and was a good man doing the best for his country. In each of those countries, except Abyssinia and Austria, Russia was an influence on their side. Even in the cases of Abyssinia and Austria, Russia, as a member of the League, was an influence on their side.
In each of those countries a loyal member of the League of Nations has been in. conflict with a non-member of the League. In each case the upshot has been bad for British trade and business and has diminished our security. In each case the totalitarian Powers have had their way. This must be more than a coincidence. It cannot be by chance that there is this similarity as to what has happened in so many cases showing such different circumstances, in countries so wide apart as China, Abyssinia, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Spain. We must infer from the facts that the National Government backs totalitarianism against freedom, independence and democracy.
§ Mr. Morgan
I do not think that the hon. and gallant Member intends to be unfair, but is not all that he is pointing out really the result of the breakdown of the League of Nations and not any default on the part of this country?
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
I would remind the hon. Gentleman that when the League of Nations was with considerable success taking effective action in the case 281 of Abyssinia, the present Prime Minister, who in his own election address said that the only possible course was to stand by a League policy, described that action as midsummer madness; and that it was from that moment that the deterioration took place in the League of Nations which we shall have so much cause to regret. Another interesting conclusion is that in every case the National Government have stood against the country which has enjoyed the support of Russia and in every case have failed to support a fellow member of the League against a non-member. They have failed to support British trade and to maintain British security.
If these are not the motives animating the National Government in their foreign policy, if we are to believe that they wish to support liberty and democracy and to work with fellow members of the League to maintain our trade and our security—if these are their real wishes and intentions, one can only say that the history of the past few years shows that their foreign policy has completely failed, and that they have sustained one diplomatic defeat after another. The Anglo-Italian Agreement, with all that it involves for the Spanish Government, is the latest example. It may not be the last. I would warn countries like Denmark and Belgium and Holland to read, mark and learn from these events, and to realise that no help or support will be forthcoming from this country if they in turn are similarly attacked.
Let us consider the second point—the effect upon British security. The Prime Minister said to-day that Italy and Germany have no territorial ambitions in Spain. They do not need to have any territorial ambitions in Spain. Nobody that I know ever imagined that Italy or Germany would do anything so crude as to take over Spanish territory. Certainly there will be no German or Italian occupation of Spanish territory; it will be something quite different. We have to think about raw materials, about trade agreements, about key men in key posts in the Spanish Government, arrangements about aeroplane bases, arrangements about submarine bases. These are the fruits which will follow a Franco victory in Spain. And, as they will all be secret arrangements, what protest can we make about things which threaten our trade and diminish our security but about which we shall know nothing?
282 This simple question must be asked: If Italy and Germany are so disinterested, if they have no territorial ambitions in Spain, why have they gone to all this expenditure in men and material and money in Spain when apparently, if General Franco wins, they will not expect anything in return? I sometimes go to address a meeting in the country, and, when the meeting is over, they move a vote of thanks to me, and I say, "I am very much obliged, but no thanks are needed." Apparently that is what is going to happen in Spain. General Franco is going to move a hearty vote of thanks to the heads of the Italian and German Governments for their services, and they are going to say, "Delighted to have helped you, old fellow; no thanks at all are necessary." There is something else which happens when I go to address a meeting. After I have assured the chairman that no thanks are necessary, I go to the vestibule or ante-room to get into my great-coat, and the secretary comes to me and says, "What are your expenses?" I do not then say, "Oh, no, nothing is necessary"; I tell him very precisely what my expenses are, I expect to get them, and I do. I think that is the process we shall see at work after a General Franco victory. There will be the public repudiation of any thanks at all being wanted, but at a private interview the expenses will be quoted and arrangements strictly made for their payment.
Is it seriously contended that British and Dominion security will be increased by a General Franco victory in Spain, which is the avowed object of Italy and Germany? Is it not perfectly clear that a Franco Spain would be under an immense obligation both to Italy and to Germany? In the event of our being at war with either of those countries, would our task in that war be facilitated or the reverse if General Franco were in control of Spain, and Italy and Germany were in control of General Franco? I will not say that I would like to have an answer to certain questions, because I know by experience that I never get it, but a question that frequently occurs to myself, and, I believe, to many of my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the House, is: Has this matter of British security as affected by the events in Spain been put before the Committee of Imperial Defence and examined by them; 283 and, if so, have they reported to the Government that British security would not be affected in any way? Has the matter been considered by the Plans Division at the Admiralty? Has the Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet ever been asked his opinion as to how far the task of the Mediterranean Fleet in a future war would be facilitated or made more difficult by these events? Has any Member of the Government read the views of Captain Liddell-Hart on the subject? Do they entirely ignore the warnings which he has repeatedly given on this matter?
We are told that all this is to be done in order to redress the grievances of Italy. What grievances had Italy against us? Her conduct in Palestine, her aggression against Ethiopia, her perfidy in Spain-all these things, by some extraordinary distortion, when protests are made against them, are transformed into Italian grievances, and in due course we have to conclude this Agreement in order to redress these fictitious grievances which are really our grievances. The policy of the Prime Minister and the National Government results invariably in the discomfiture of democracy, and, if we criticise, we are told that there must be no criticism. Any criticism is met by the not very savoury accusation that we are fouling our own nest. I think the Prime Minister confuses his own nest with Great Britain. May I remind the House that inside this Chamber, a few short weeks ago, the late First Lord of the Admiralty told us that he had tried to swallow the egg which the Prime Minister, on coming back from Munich, had laid in the nest. He said he had tried to swallow it, but that it stuck in his throat. "Peace with Honour." We listened in this House to the late Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs telling us that he must deny the noble word "Honour" to what had been done at Munich. May I, in relation to the Prime Minister's claim to honour, quote the words of Pliny the Younger, who said:What would have been a great source of honour if another had related it becomes nothing when the doer relates it himself.We learn from these events that the Conservative party dreads Communism more than it dreads totalitarianism. Totalitarianism gives capitalism a longer run. The end is the same, but it gets a longer 284 run, and therefore the capitalist Conservatives prefer totalitarianism. Any small country which ever dares to associate with Russia is condemned to death by this National Government. Czechoslovakia, the Spanish Government, and China all illustrate that fact, and now we know that pressure is already being brought to bear upon France in order to make her sunder her alliance with the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics.
The Prime Minister seems to me, in his foreign policy, to be working on ideas which would naturally commend themselves to a modern business man. We had an instance of that yesterday, when, in referring to the war in China, he said that it was going to be a blessing for British trade in the long run, because capital was being destroyed in China, and so, of course, British capital would be required to replace it. It is a very naive idea that Japan is fighting this war in China in order to benefit British trade and capital in the Far East. It means that, the more wars there are in the world, the more capital will be destroyed, and, consequently, the better it will be for British capitalists. I think the Prime Minister is working out his foreign policy on the modern business theory that you do not any longer compete with your rivals; you divide the market up between you. Competition in big business is becoming quite obsolete; the modern theory is to divide up the market. I think the Prime Minister feels that there is room for six empires in the world, and adopts the very simple theory of "Why not divide the world up into those six empires, and all live comfortably and not compete? "Side by side with that goes another modern business principle, that the day of the small shop is over, that it is time the big stores did all the trade, and that the small shops must go. The idea seems to be that these six big empires are going to run the whole show, and the small shops—in other words the small States—have to give up business and be taken over by the big Powers.
I have only this to say about such a theory, which I seriously believe is the underlying motive of the Prime Minister in the foreign policy he is pursuing. We have heard a great deal recently about the necessity for national unity. The Prime Minister has not made one single concession to thought in any other 285 quarter of the House, or in any other political party, to achieve that unity. We hear a great deal about the necessity for national unity and about the necessity for a great national effort to put through the trebling of the rearmament programme which peace with honour has made necessary for this country. You will never get national unity, and you will never get this national effort, in the pursuit of a selfish foreign policy which aims at nothing else but enabling our Prime Minister to play a game of imperialistic poker with the totalitarian Powers. The only unity you can achieve in this country, and the only national effort you can call forth from the people of this country, will be possible when the foreign policy of this country is built round the simple idea of defence of the democratic principle and of international law and justice.
§ 8.14 p.m.
Mr. Edmund Harvey
I wish to take the thoughts of the House back for a few moments to some remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Wirral (Captain A. Graham), who said it was a great mistake that foreign politics should concern themselves with morals.
§ Captain A. Graham
What I said was that it was a great mistake that a Foreign Secretary should pontificate on morals as between nations. That is quite a different thing.
I willingly accept the hon. and gallant Member's version, but I think he went on to say that the one principle directing British foreign policy should be that of British interests—
I wish to emphasise that point. Surely, one of the greatest interests of this country in foreign policy is the maintenance of good faith, and I think it is because of their hesitation on that point that many who heartily wish well to the aim of the Government in getting European appeasement feel grave concern about the bringing into force of the Anglo-Italian Agreement a t this moment and in the circumstances which prevail to-day in Spain. It is a question not only of Italian good faith, but of British obligations. We have an obligation as a nation, as 286 signatories to the Covenant of the League, to the people and Sovereign of Abyssinia. We are pledged to respect the territorial integrity of Abyssinia, as Italy was pledged when the invasion of Abyssinia began. Can we feel that we are keeping our good faith to small peoples if we recognise the Sovereign of Italy as the lawful Emperor of Abyssinia, without any treaty having been made with the man now recognised by us as the lawful Emperor of Abyssinia; without, as far as we know, any effort having been made to secure for him at least part of his lawful Dominions and some liberty for at least part of the Abyssinian people? I do hope that the Government even now may be able to state that they are using every effort to secure some rights for the Emperor of Abyssinia and his people. He is our honoured guest in this country at this moment, and I could wish that to-day we could be as chivalrous to him as, centuries ago, King Louis XIV of France was to the exiled King of England, whom he continued to maintain and support for years.
We will not go into the motives of King Louis, but I think we can feel that there was a very definite chivalry in his action, which deserves admiration even across the centuries. I hope we can treat with equal chivalry the Emperor of Abyssinia, whom everyone recognises to have been an honourable man trying to do the best for his people in very difficult circumstances.
I think the other very grave difficulty which many people feel over this Agreement being brought into force now is the fact, which most people recognise, that what the Prime Minister considers a settlement in Spain is not the settlement that they expected as the preliminary to the coming into force of this Agreement. We looked forward to a settlement which would mean the ending of this lamentable civil war; and, if possible, the ending of it by agreement—a settlement which would involve withdrawal from Spain of all foreign combatants. Surely the least we can expect as a preliminary would be the immediate withdrawal of not only a section of the Italian forces, but the whole mass of the Italian forces at present engaged in Spain. That has not been achieved, and I am very grieved that 287 the Prime Minister seems to regard the Spanish civil war now as a mere incident in the background. It is a tragic thing, and the longer it goes on the worse it is for the people of Spain and for the whole of Europe. We cannot feel that there is real peace in Europe while that civil war is proceeding.
I wish to make an earnest appeal to the Government that if this Agreement comes into force they will use all the influence they have with Signor Mussolini, and with others who may have influence, to bring about an agreed settlement in Spain. General Franco, if left to him-self, would have to make some kind of agreement with the Spanish Government. It might not be an agreement satisfactory to either party; but I believe it would be satisfactory to the great mass of the population of Spain, who are longing for peace and are suffering while the leaders on both sides insist on carrying on until ultimate victory is obtained. I beg the Government to take this opportunity of stating that they are going to use their influence to get an agreed settlement, to bring to bear on the leaders of both sides all the influence they can to secure peace, in the interests of the people of Spain and of the whole of Europe. This is not just a question of material issues. It is a vitally important issue for the future of our civilisation that a war of this kind should not go on, and that we should not stand by indifferently while a people suffer in the way the Spanish people are suffering. We made a small, a trifling, contribution as a nation to alleviate the sufferings that are going on in Spain. From across the Atlantic there has come a vast contribution: enormous supplies of corn go to those who need it on both sides. We have done very little. We can make a great contribution if the whole influence of this Government is brought to bear to bring about a settlement by agreement.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander James
I definitely, and without any hesitation at all, support the action of the Prime Minister in bringing before the House this Motion for the bringing into force of the Italian Agreement; because it seems to me that our policy must have, as it always has had in this civil war, three main objects. The first—happily achieved—is to prevent the war spreading; the second, to keep our- 288 selves out of the war and to preserve neutrality—and, under that head, I would remark that as we have been constantly accused by both sides of favouring the other side that is the best proof that we have achieved the utmost neutrality we possibly could; and the third object—and one in which I agree with the last speaker—is that we should be approaching a position now to achieve reconciliation between these unfortunate people. I am the more impressed by the need for reconciliation because when I was in Spain in July I could not but observe that the actual character of the war was approximating more and more to the intensity and the horrors of the last European war: becoming more and more destructive of life and more and more cruel. After all, the time has to come sooner or later when Spaniards will have to live together again.
The right hon. Gentleman who spoke first for the Opposition enunciated some propositions which I believe to be fallacious, and I propose to refer briefly to two or three of them. He said, first, that every foreign intervention prolongs this war. I, personally, believe that the historian of the future will not be able to agree with that. Foreign intervention, heavy as it has been on both sides, and important as it has been, has not prolonged the war. It really represents in the peninsula a relatively small part of the fighting forces. This war, I am convinced, is really a Third Carlist war. The ideology, the popular support given to the two sides, the geographical lay-out, even many of the incidents, and much of the minor tactics are absurdly similar. Let anybody read up the history of these two wars, and let them observe, too, that both these wars lasted for over four years. Since 1812, when the constitution of Cadiz was produced by a number of Spanish Liberals who were inspired by the French Revolution and the philosophy of Rousseau, there have been no less than 14 full swings of the pendulum in Spanish politics. It is a complete mistake to suppose that this last Populaire Government was the first attempt at liberal government in Spain. For example, there was the First Republic of 1873, and which had in its course of little over two years no less than five Prime Ministers. Anybody who takes the trouble to study Spanish history must recognise what a feeble plant Spanish democracy has always been. The right 289 hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Opposition used this phrase. He said, "Directly foreigners are withdrawn there will be a speedy end to the war." I believe that there is very little hope in that, because each side has for propaganda purposes so grossly overstated the number of its foreign opponents. I believe that the historian of the future will say that on balance the personnel of combatants in Spain had given more support to the Republicans than to the Nationalists.
That naturally brings me to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). In listening to his speech two reflections occurred to me. The first was—and nobody would quarrel with his high moral tone which we all admire—that he seems rather to under-estimate the fact that we have to live in a very imperfect world, and have got to make the best of it. He cannot expect, and indeed never did receive, the same consideration from other people that he was prepared to extend to them. I should be the last person to expect an Italian peasant of humble origin and without much education to have exactly the same view of morality as my right hon. Friend. The second objection I had to his speech is this, that once again he seemed to be seeking to allow the best to be the enemy of the good. Nobody would suggest that the Agreement is perfect, but at least it is better than having no agreement at all.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington quoted certain figures about the activity of Italian aircraft in the Peninsula. I have with me the cutting to which he referred. I regret that he is not in his place. I told him that I was going to make reference to this point, and naturally I do not expect him to interrupt his dinner to come here and hear me. He quoted from the "Daily Telegraph" a report dated 8th August from Rome of the number of aircraft employed during ten days between 25th July and 5th August of this year and the number of bombs that were dropped. I am not seeking to suggest that there is not a moral offence here. Of course there is. I am not trying to excuse the action on the ground that the offence was only a little one, like the famous baby, but the figures as he presented them, I think, were very misleading, as he quoted them. Having com- 290 manded for a long time a squadron of aircraft in war myself I have some knowledge of how squadron records are composed. If you take the figures which he gave, and if you work out the number of aircraft into the days flown, and if you estimate that the Italian aircraft operating in Spain were flying approximately the same number of hours in the air of which a pilot was capable in war conditions, you will find that during those ten days there would have been an average daily flying strength of 45 bombers—no mean force, certainly. You will find there were dropped by those 45 bombers approximately 37½ tons per day. I will take another figure which I am not sure that he gave. It was a summary of the whole. The paragraph reads as follows:If all the machines carried out 1,672 flights with a total flying time of 2,825 hours.If you divided that on the basis of our war-time experience into machine flights per day it would give a total of 53 machines in action. I am not suggesting that that is not a serious matter. Of course it is, but it does not represent, on a front which is 1,200 miles long, an enormous, overwhelming force suggested by the quotation as my right hon. Friend gave it.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
The official Italian Government communique from which I understand the right hon. Gentleman was quoting does actually give the number of aircraft that were used—335 in one paragraph and 541 in another.
§ Wing-Commander James
That is the total over a period. I have the long report from the "Times" in my hand of the same Rome report. My right hon. Friend referred to information which is a summary, and I was, therefore, referring to that. If the hon. Member will do the same sum as I have done and divide the machines and bombs dropped into flying days and flying hours, he will find that I have presented a picture which represents a fairer presentation of the fact. He must not confuse machine flights with machines, as he is doing. Naturally—and hon. Members opposite will not disagree—a propagandist summary published in Rome is in the form to glorify the action of their legionaries—[Laughter]—Yes that is what it was—and presents in the most favourable 291 aspect these Italian airmen. [Interruption.] Surely, the hon. Member for Sea-ham (Mr. Shinwell) has never before publicly suggested that Signor Mussolini writes himself down?
§ Mr. Shinwell
What I gather from the hon. and gallant Member's statement is that we cannot place much reliance upon statements made in Rome.
§ Wing-Commander James
What I was pointing out was that the statements made in Rome need to be analysed. Of course, the crime was a crime, but it was not as extensive a crime as my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington seemed to make out in his speech. Actually, I have been for days on active parts of the front without seeing a single machine in the air. Therefore, do not let us exaggerate matters. Let us try to get a true perspective. The hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) raised the question of the bombing of ports. This, again, impinges upon the remarks of my right hon. Friend, because one of the reasons for this amount of bombing of the ports is that, in the absence of the granting of belligerent rights to both combatants, there was no alternative method of blockade open to the Nationalists. I hope that one of the levers that the Government will be able to use to secure the total withdrawal of all foreign air forces from both sides in Spain will be to make that a quid pro quo for the granting of equal belligerent rights to both sides.
The situation regarding belligerency is anomalous. I should like to read the conclusions of Professor Arnold G. McNair on the subject, published in the Law Quarterly Review in October, 1937, because they are a completely impartial and authoritative statement of the pros and cons of belligerent rights. I will give two brief extracts from them, which I think are taken fairly. He says, in sub-paragraph (b) of paragraph 6:that if at any time since some date late in 1936 we had seen fit to grant General Franco recognition of belligerency, no reasonable person would have been greatly surprised and the Spanish Government would have had no legitimate grievance: but that our Government was and is under no legal obligation to take this step.In paragraph (d) he says: 292that, not granting recognition of belligerency, we were compelled by the exigencies of the situation to recognise the fact of insurgency in Spain, and thus to embark upon the comparatively unchartered sea of a relationship to both parties of which the rules were ill-defined, and still in course of development.The right hon. Gentleman who led the Opposition ironically asked what was the German and Italian interest in the Peninsula. The first reason is that, no doubt, both of them hoped to get something out of it—there is no doubt of that for a moment—but that they are likely to do so is a very different story. I do not think they will get anything out of it. I do not think they have now much hope of doing so. Surely, it was very significant that at the time of the crisis General Franco's Government should have announced, without hesitation, that they would observe a complete neutrality and would not allow any threat to the southern frontier of France. That was an action of some importance, taken as it was at a time when the Opposition profess to believe that Nationalist territory is dominated by Italy and Germany.
There is another reason, and hon. Members opposite should be the last people to ignore it, and that is that, like themselves, the Governments of Italy and Germany are hag-ridden with dogma. Italy and Germany, sensibly or stupidly, rightly or wrongly—and it is a fact that the bulk of the people there have to follow their Government's lead by their Government's propaganda—have the same fanatical horror of Bolshevism. Therefore, they were led to support what they regarded as anti-Communist faction. Gibes have been almost continuously made, sotto voce, from the benches opposite while I have been speaking. I am perfectly well aware that I have often exposed myself to the charge of being a partisan in this war. I admit that, and I will tell hon. Members opposite why. It is because I did not want the Opposition to have a clear field in jockeying the people of this country into the belief that all the rights are on one side. I have from the word "go" supported and still support the policy of proper and fair neutrality by this country in Spain, but hon. Members opposite have allowed their Left Wing dogma to lead them to suggest that all the rights are on one side and all the wrongs on the other. I have 293 met upright, honourable and patriotic Spaniards on both sides, sincere and honest people, but the Opposition present to the people of this country a case which has always been completely one-sided and had it been followed out it would have landed us into the sort of mess that we must seek to avoid being dragged into by them.
§ Mr. Shinwell
May I ask whether the hon. and gallant Member did not take up a one-sided attitude when he first went to Spanish Government territory and returned to this country? Has he not, in fact, been a partisan on both sides?
§ Wing-Commander James
I am prepared to be judged by what I have said and done. To the best of my belief and intention I have tried to see reason on both sides. I concede this fact frankly that, in my opinion, the interest of the British people, which is my primary interest, would have been less ill-served by a victory for the Nationalists than a victory for the Republicans. That is my bias, and it is because I hold that bias that I have sought to prevent a one-sided presentation of the case by the Opposition. I support this Anglo-Italian Agreement because I believe that it is a furtherance of the cause of peace and appeasement in Europe, and later on I hope—and the sooner the better—in the Spanish Peninsula.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I have listened to the last speaker with great surprise. He was in Spain at the end of last July. I was also in Spain at the end of July, but we differ, because to-night he is going to support this Anglo-Italian Agreement, while I, as a result of my investigations in Spain, am definitely opposed to it. I fear that probably there is some political bias which has animated my hon. Friend opposite. May I at this moment apologise to him for any noise he may have heard on these benches? It was chiefly due to the fact that he was almost inaudible.
§ Dr. Summerskill
As a matter of fact we had to interpret as the hon. and gallant Member continued because we were not quite clear what he was saying. During the last two days I have listened to Debates on foreign affairs and the most 294 significant feature is the fact that the blessed words "collective security" have been omitted. In fact, two or three speakers, including the virile young hon. Member with the red carnation in his buttonhole—I do not know his constituency—have said with great complacency, "The League is dead." It shocks me to hear young men on the other side of the House talking in terms of nineteenth century power politics. The creation of the League of Nations was the only fine thing which came out of the last War, and they are pleased that the League is dead. I feel that the words "collective security" should have dominated these Debates. What is the good of hon. Members opposite appealing to us for national unity, appealing to the political section of our movement, appealing to the trade unions and to the women for auxiliary services; what is the use of their saying, "Let us unite," unless they give these people a foreign policy on which they can unite?
If the Government wish to rehabilitate this country in the eyes of those nations whose good opinion we value, we must have a foreign policy which commends itself to those nations. Do not let us blind ourselves to the fact that the moral credit of Britain to-day is lower than it has been for 100 years. No amount of inspired propaganda can help the sufferings of the Czechs, who have been offered up as a living sacrifice on the altar of a momentary peace. The Prime Minister may feel that concessions are good for the soul, and that after Munich he anticipates in this country and throughout the world a great spiritual revival. Those who have had to look at the world during the last few weeks must admit that the spiritual revival is notable only by the persecution of defenceless Jews throughout the world. The people of this country of every political faith and every creed are, I believe, more alive to the significance of the changes in our international policy than they have been for the last 20 years. They watch, with an intermingled sense of hope and fear, the Prime Minister's perilous acrobatics on the Rome-Berlin axis, accompanied as it is by alternating boos and cheers from Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini. Having listened to the continual protestations of hon. Members on the other side of their love for democracy and their great interest in using democracy, we see the 295 Government engaged in a desperate struggle to maintain democracy.
If the Prime Minister's desire for peace and his horror of the sufferings of the common people are as sincere as he would have us believe, surely he should turn his attention to Spain. I heard the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) just after the crisis commending the Prime Minister, because he said it was a deplorable thing to see the people of this country digging trenches in which they were prepared to hide like rabbits. The hon. Member for Bridgeton, I think, believes in the international brotherhood of man. I do not want to appeal to the passions of the House, but I want to give hon. Members a vivid picture of what is happening in Spain to-day. In July in Spain I saw hundreds of men, women and children rushing to the underground station where some of them were living, hiding like rats to get away from the bombs. The platforms were covered with mattresses and old men of 80 and babies of a few weeks old were sleeping on these mattresses. When the children were taken to the daylight they screamed; they were afraid of going into the light because of the bombs. Barcelona during the last six months has had 90 air raids day and night, and in one of these raids 1,000 men, women and children were killed. The picture of the streets was appalling. They literally ran in blood, and men and women were rushing out into the streets in order to identify their mutilated children.
As a doctor I went out to examine an aspect of the life in Spain which seemed to me even more dreadful than the frequent bombing of men, women and children. I went to investigate what is meant by the slow starvation of the civilian population of Spain. I would ask hon. Members opposite, if there is still time, to change their minds. They cannot really believe in peace if to-night they are going to support a pact which will prolong this starvation of helpless children. I examined children, I examined babies who had had no fresh milk, no eggs, no butter, very little meat and who were living literally on black bread, beans and dried cod. I examined Spanish mothers who, because they can scarcely sustain themselves, cannot even feed their babies, and who were having to wean these helpless children on beans. There is in Spain 296 to-day a generation of children marked with rickets, children born and bred during the last two years, whose fate during the coming winter I tremble to contemplate; children who are unable to resist disease and who will die like flies during the first epidemic. That is a picture of a part of Europe only a few hours flying distance from London. The National Government of this country call themselves peacemakers, yet they are not only condoning this state of affairs in a sister democracy, but are to-night going to reward one of the chief aggressors by ratifying the Anglo-Italian Agreement.
I would remind the Prime Minister of the words which he spoke in 1935. He said:The choice before us is whether we shall make a last effort at Geneva for peace and security or whether, by a cowardly surrender, we shall break a promise we have made and hold ourselves up to the shame of our children and our children's children.To-night we are going to make a further cowardly surrender, we are going to betray Abyssinia and Spain, and, I suggest, hold ourselves up to the shame of our children and our children's children. I feel that the Prime Minister went to Munich in the role of European obstetrician, complete with "gamp," and produced a monstrosity of which we were asked to be the godparents. Now, we are told there is another case, this time an Italian one, ready for delivery, but we on these benches say that the time is premature. If the Agreement that is about to be ratified is to promote a pacification of Europe, then let Signor Mussolini withdraw his troops as a guarantee of his good intentions. Have hon. Members forgotten that in January, 1937, Italy entered into a gentleman's agreement to stop intervention in Spain? A few days after entering into that agreement, Signor Mussolini sent his first consignment to Spain, and yet at the end of last year the Prime Minister and Signor Mussolini were exchanging very cordial letters. The Spanish invasion grew, and at the end of last year Signor Mussolini not only boasted of his consignments going to Italy, but he laughed at the impotence of Britain. Then the Anglo-Italian Agreement was signed in April, 1938. I feel it is significant that each time conversations with Signor Mussolini began Parliament immediately went into Recess—in August, 1937; at Christmas, 297 1937; and at Easter, 1938. This, of course, prevented any discussion in Parliament and hindered any correspondence in the Press.
The excuse is that Signor Mussolini has now atoned for his past failures by withdrawing 10,000 men. The hon. Member opposite may doubt the accuracy of the Ambassador, but I think most of us have sufficient faith in the foreign representatives of this country to know full well that the 90,000 Italians in Spain are there. I suggest that the Government have deliberately deceived the House during the last three years as to the number of Italians in Spain. I was on the Ebro Front at the end of July, about 48 hours before that tremendous push was made by the Republican Government, when they crossed the Ebro river, and I was given information, which was well authenticated, that 10,000 Italians had landed at a small town about 48 hours before in the East of Spain. Although I have been in the House only a few months, I have learned that the Government Front Bench, in answer to most questions, always say, "We are not in a position to say"; but the least that has always been suggested in the House is that no further Italian reinforcements have been going into Spain since the signing of the Agreement in April, 1938. On coming back from the Ebro Front, I asked the Under-Secretary whether it was true that 10,000 men had landed on the East coast of Spain. He said "Yes, the date is right, but my information is that they are not Italians who have been landed in Spain, but Spaniards."
§ Dr. Summerskill
With all due respect, I do feel, in view of the information we have had, that you are either deliberately deceiving me or you perhaps have been deliberately deceived.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I must remind the hon. Member that she must address the Chair, and certainly not address remarks of that type to a Member personally.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I apologise, Sir Dennis. I have been here only a few months, and I sometimes forget to use the third person. The point I am trying to make is that as late as the end of July, I had information that 10,000 fresh Italian 298 reinforcements had been sent to Spain. We are told in the House to-day that we are going to ratify this Agreement because 10,000 men are being withdrawn, the same number as was sent fresh from Italy at the end of July—[An HON. MEMBER: "They were not."]—and Signor Mussolini, with his tongue in his cheek, persuades the Government that this withdrawal is an earnest of good faith. Yet he announced publicly, in Genoa, that the Italian forces would be evacuated only when Franco wins.
The Prime Minister suggested yesterday that it pained him to find people looking for evil and sinister motives in the actions of the heads of the totalitarian States. Is the Prime Minister so naive that he sees nothing sinister in an Italy which, during the last two years, has fortified an island commanding the Mediterranean passage between Sicily and North Africa, has fortified another in the Red Sea, has established gun emplacements on both sides of the Straits of Gibraltar, and has air bases in Abyssinia? And yet a condition of the Agreement which is being ratified to-night is that we cannot erect counter-assets without consulting Italy. Is it wrong to look for evil motives in a man who has transgressed every international law, who has bombed open towns and civilians, who has sunk neutral ships, and who has used gas on defenceless natives in Abyssinia? I suggest that when the Prime Minister signed the Munich Agreement he did not foresee the Nazi domination of South-Eastern Europe. Are we this time once more to be asked to "stand and deliver," in order that a new Roman Empire should be resurrected?
§ 9.5 P.m.
§ Mr. Emmott
I despair of being able, in the short time available to me, to persuade the hon. Lady the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) to agree with me. I fear that we disagree upon nearly every part of this vast subject, and therefore I shall make no attempt to convert her. But although I strongly disagree now with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), I am not without hope that at some future time I may find myself in agreement with him, and I would like to address one or two remarks to the House upon the important and, if I may say so, impressive 299 speech which he made to the House this afternoon. I should like to say at this point that I gave the right hon. Gentleman notice a little earlier of the fact that I intended to refer to his speech, and with characteristic courtesy he informed me that an engagement prevented him from being present, but that he had no objection to my saying whatever I liked about him.
The right hon. Gentleman addressed his whole argument to the question of what he alleged to be the breach of the condition which is pre-requisite to the entry into force of the Anglo-Italian Agreement. That condition consists in the stipulation that there must be first a settlement of the Spanish question. The right hon. Gentleman based his argument on the suggestion that a settlement of the Spanish question must mean either the end of the Spanish war or the end of foreign intervention. But this was a particular interpretation of the meaning of that condition, and I would observe that it is not necessary to agree with that interpretation. I ask the House: what was the purpose of the policy of non-intervention? Was it not to avoid the spread of the conflict from Spain to the rest of Europe? If that was so, then I say that a settlement of the Spanish question does not necessarily mean, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, a complete end of foreign intervention. It may mean, and I suggest that it does mean, an end of the danger of the embroilment of Europe in that conflict. The Prime Minister this afternoon said, and I think the greater part of the House will agree with him, that there is now no such danger existing: and if the danger of the embroilment of Europe no longer exists, then I say that the condition pre-requisite to the entry into force of this Agreement with Italy is satisfied.
The right hon. Gentleman's argument was addressed almost wholly to the question of the supply to the Nationalist forces in Spain since April, 1938, of certain warlike equipment, and particularly aeroplanes. On the question with which he particularly dealt he was caught up by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), who professed to remind him of a statement that he was supposed to have made in a previous debate. The right hon. Gentle- 300 man the Member for Warwick and Leamington denied that he had made that statement. I, fortunately, had remembered the statement, and indeed I thought that there might be an opportunity of referring to it. I therefore beg leave of the House, on account of the great importance of this matter, to remind hon. Members of what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington, while he was still Foreign Secretary, on 1st November, 1937. First, I would remind the House that during the months previous to that date, much had been said in this House about the supply of troops to both the Spanish combatants, but comparatively little had been said about the supply of equipment. Not long before the Debate of 1st November, 1937, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) gave it as his considered opinion that far too much had been made of the supply of troops and not nearly enough made of the supply of warlike equipment. On the occasion of the Debate to which I refer, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, interrupting the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington, said:My case was not that no material had been received, either from Russia or possibly from France, and, I believe, Mexico, but that this agreement"—that is the Non-Intervention Agreement—had operated in such a way that there was an overwhelming superiority in the quantities which came from Germany and Italy in comparison with what came to the Valencia Government.In reply, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington said:I am very reluctant to weight the scales. I would like to give as much information as I can. I wish to be as fair as I can, and I think it fair to say this, that I could not stand at this Box and tell the House that during the summer months of this year"—that is, the summer months of 1937—there had been more material reaching the insurgent forces than there had been reaching the Government forces."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st November, 1937; col. 588, Vol. 328.]I am entitled to ask: Has there been any change in this situation since that date? If so, what is the evidence of it? It has never been produced to this House. There is no evidence that any material change 301 has taken place in the situation as described by the right hon. Gentleman on 1st November last year. The most remarkable thing is that he said not one word to-day about the three countries mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs—Mexico, Russia and France. I think I may be allowed to say without impertinence and speaking in the absence of the right hon. Gentleman, that the argument which he addressed to the House this afternoon was an impressive one. It was expressed in graceful and distinguished language and it was presented to the House with moderation. But I could not help thinking, and I feel that many hon. Members will agree with me, that that argument was deployed on too narrow a front. It was directed only to one question, namely, the supply, since April, 1938, of material to the Nationalist forces in Spain. I suggest that unless the right hon. Gentleman was in a position to deny that there had been a comparable supply of equipment to the other side, his argument loses all its force. I should like to make this comment too on the right hon. Gentleman's speech, that it seemed to me that it was out of relationship with the pregnant remark made earlier by the Prime Minister, that the events which took place in September had now put the Spanish problem into its proper perspective.
I think that in the Debate this afternoon and this evening too much has been said about Spain and not enough about Italy, the relations between Italy and Britain, and the material facts which underlie that relationship. I suggest that we should view the Agreement between Italy and this country in its proper setting, and not as a matter of nice calculation relating to the exact numbers of troops or the exact quantities of equipment employed in Spain. I suggest that the first fundamental justification of the Agreement is that it establishes the relationship between Italy and Britain upon the traditional and friendly footing which has always underlain the relations between the two countries. Ever since the Risorgimento, and indeed before it, there has always existed a natural and friendly sentiment uniting the peoples of the two countries.
The second fundamental justification which I suggest is that this Agreement corresponds to the true interests of the 302 two countries. Do not all these interests depend upon peace in the Mediterranean? Consider the case of Italy. She is a young imperial power. She is setting forth now upon a great imperial adventure. Only the other day we read moving descriptions how no fewer than 1,900 peasant families set forth from the port of Genoa, collected from all parts of Italy, to colonise one of the regions of Libya. Italy is not rich. It may be that she is accumulating at this moment a great internal debt. It may be also that she is living to a certain extent on her reserves. I think it is probably true that a naval war might prove fatal to her. Mention was made by the hon. Lady who has just resumed her seat of one island situated between Sicily and Africa which she rightly stated had been fortified by Italy. Actually there are two such islands, the island of Pantellaria and the island of Lampedusa. Then there are Rhodes and Leros in the Dodecanese. We have Malta. It may be that in the event of war both the two Powers could do infinite damage to each other, and that we both should be able to render, if not uninhabitable, at least useless, the fortress islands of the other. We certainly could interrupt the communications between Italy and Libya and between Italy and the Suez Canal. Italy is dependent upon sea-borne trade. Even if in a time of war she were able to solve her problem of stores and her problem of paying for those stores, she would still and always have a vulnerable coastline. She is separated from her new Empire by two stretches of sea over which she has not full control, and it was recently written in an authoritative Italian work:We have, like England, three-quarters of our Colonial interests beyond the Suez.It is not necessary to say anything more in order to show how vitally Italy depends on the maintenance of peace in the Mediterranean.
And what of Britain? The Mediterranean has been described on more than one occasion as, for us, a main arterial road, and I need not occupy the time of the House in describing what are vital British interests in that sea. It is sufficient for me to refer to the Agreement which was made in January of last year, when the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington was Foreign Secretary, because in that we find the statement that the two Governments 303recognise that the freedom of entry into, exit from, and transit through the Mediterranean is a vital interest both to the different parts of the British Empire and to Italy, and that these interests are not in any way inconsistent with each other.Those are the vital interests of Britain in the Mediterranean. The hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) this afternoon referred to British Imperial communications and suggested, as he has so frequently done before, though without making any attempt to prove his thesis, that the entry into force of this Agreement and everything depending upon it would damage, would prejudice British imperial communications. How utterly wrong the hon. Member is. Why, it is the very maintenance of these communications that requires peace in the Mediterranean, and it is to secure peace that this Agreement is designed.
I say that nothing at this moment would make a greater contribution to the protection of British interests than the cessation of the strain and discontent which have been caused by the failure to bring this Agreement into effect. Nothing at this moment could make a greater contribution to the protection of British interests, as truly understood, than the ratification of this Agreement.
The hon. Member for North Cumberland used, as again he so often has and as so many hon. Members have frequently used, the phrase "the totalitarian Powers." Hon. Members in these Debates have used that phrase or some such expression as that, putting the totalitarian Powers upon exactly the same footing, drawing no distinction whatever between them, assuming that their interests are identical, that they think with the same mind, that they are inspired always by the same ideas. This phrase—and it is a very important part of the argument addressed by hon. Members on many occasions to the House—make it obligatory, I think, for at least one hon. Member to address to this House an argument which perhaps—in fact, I am certain—would come more properly, at least more freely, from a private Member than from a Minister. But if we are to preserve Parliamentary institutions at all, we must speak our mind. We must speak the truth as we understand it, unless to speak the truth would, without securing any advantage, offend national susceptibilities.
304 It is the assumption that the dictatorial powers rest on the same footing, pursue the same policy, and are to be approached in the same way that I invite the House to examine. I suggest that there is a difference between Germany and Italy. I invite the House to throw its mind back to the history of the events which illustrate Italian policy between 1933 and 1935. It was at the beginning of 1933 that the Nazi party came into power. Almost immediately there began, by Press and radio and all the means of propaganda that are now available, the attacks of the Nazi party upon the Government of Austria. The eyes of Italy were opened. Up to the beginning of that year the relations between Italy and Germany had been not merely correct but friendly. In the autumn of that year there came a change, and in February, 1934, Italy joined Britain and France in a declaration relating to the independence of Austria. In March there followed the Rome Protocols which joined Italy, Austria and Hungary. In June there followed a meeting at Venice between Chancellor Hitler and Signor Mussolini, which was not conspicuously successful in resolving the differences between the two statesmen. On 25th July there happened those horrible events in Vienna: the attempt of the Nazi party to gain control of the Government of Austria, and the brutal murder of Chancellor Dolfuss. What did Signor Mussolini do? He moved an army corps to the frontier. He showed that he was prepared to fight, if necessary, in order to prevent the Anschluss. There followed in January, 1935, the agreement signed at Rome between the head of the Italian Government and M. Laval. That agreement took the form of a pact affirming the necessity of maintaining the independent position of Austria and of organising the relationship between the Danubian States on that basis. In March Germany made a unilateral repudiation of one of the essential clauses of the Versailles Treaty and adopted conscription. In April, at Stresa, Italy disapproved the action of Germany and entered into an agreement recording her intention to use close and cordial collaboration with France and Britain in order to oppose unilateral repudiation of treaties. The agreement made at Stresa was a guarantee of Austrian independence. From these events only one lesson 305 can be drawn and that is that paramount strategical and political considerations impelled Italy during that time to oppose the extension of the German power in Europe and to associate herself closely with France and Britain for that purpose.
At the end of 1935 the members of the League adopted the policy which is compendiously described by the word "sanctions." The adoption of sanctions completely changed the whole direction of Italian policy. It turned it into a completely new channel. It threw Italy into the arms of Germany. I sometimes wonder whether our people realise what bitter memories have been implanted in the minds of the Italian people by that policy. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why did she attack Abyssinia at all?"] I cannot go into that question. Her breach of the Covenant is not denied. But upon the Capitol of Rome there is, among the memorials of the most memorable events in the history of modern Italy, the marble memorial that records the mobilisation at the end of 1935 of the 50 States against the people to whom civilisation owes so much. Truly at that time the iron entered deeply into the soul of this proud and sensitive people.
Now in recent months Italian policy is resuming its former channel. There is a good deal of recent evidence to show the consciousness of the clash of interests between the two dictators. In regard to trade, in every State of the South-Eastern part of Europe except Albania, during recent years Germany has gained at the expense of Italy. In the question of the possibility of Hungary and Poland making a common frontier there is some reason to suppose that that course has been supported by the Italian Government. The German Government, of course, is wholly opposed to it. Then, upon a question which may become of vital importance to the relations of the two countries, Signor Mussolini, on 21st September, made a very remarkable statement at Treviso. He was referring to what he described as the national minority question and he said that a distinction must be made between conditions in Italy and those in Czechoslovakia: each problem must be judged by its particular historical circumstances andThese problems must have determined proportions.In these words I seem to detect a warning to Germany. Then there is the Anschluss 306 itself. Signor Mussolini was willing to fight to prevent the Anschluss in 1934. I have shown how between 1933 and the end of 1935 the whole policy of Italy was directed to preventing an extension of the German power and to the close association of Italy, Britain and France for that purpose. Is one to imagine that the Anschluss suits Italy any better now that it has happened?
I have expounded these ideas and set these facts fully before the House, because I think it is necessary that someone should do so. But I would not suggest that we should make any attempt to detach Italy from Germany. The question is not one of breaking the axis that joins Rome and Berlin. It is rather one of redressing a little the balance. To fortify Italy is not to separate her from Germany. Signor Mussolini played a notable part a few weeks ago in persuading the head of the German State to come into conference, and I was glad to hear the tribute which the Prime Minister paid to him for the part he played. I do not think I misrepresent him when I say that the Prime Minister actually went so far as to say this afternoon that Signor Mussolini by that act had saved the peace of Europe. That statement does not go beyond the truth. It is not the least part of the great achievement of the Prime Minister that he recognised the man who could play that part. There is nothing inconsistent between the recognition of the true interests of Italy in this Agreement and the course which Italy has marked out for herself. I do not say that we should detach Italy from Germany, but I say that upon the right relationship of Italy and Britain hangs the peace of Europe. Do not let us throw Italy into the arms of Germany. To consolidate a closer union between Italy and Germany would, I firmly believe, increase the chance of war. To range Italy and Germany against Britain and France—to what end would that tend? To war. To war the most unnecessary, the most hideous, the most destructive of life, the most destructive of those material things which are the highest creation of the genius of mankind, that the historian would ever have to record among the follies of deluded man. From that madness the policy illustrated by this Agreement, and this policy alone, will save this grateful country and the world.
§ 9.38 p.m.
The last speaker will forgive me if I do not follow him into his interesting discourse on power politics. The principal subject of to-day's Debate is the Anglo-Italian Agreement, yet scarcely a speaker has referred to one clause of it. That is hardly surprising, because the Agreement is a document that has been before the House for a good many months. It is an extraordinarily dull document, and I think that the instinct of the House is perhaps right in believing that something over and above the details of it is really at stake to-day. News of the easy confirmation of that Agreement will, I think, give a shock to public opinion when its significance really shows itself. Following hard upon the sacrifice of Czechoslovakia, it will inevitably be regarded as another surrender to blackmail, and with less excuse. When the Prime Minister went to Munich he paid a terrifically high price for the Agreement which he arrived at there, but at least he got something in exchange. He got peace—if not peace in our time, at least peace for a time.
What are we going to get, and at what price, from this Agreement with Rome? What we are to get can only really be judged by reading the Agreement itself in considerable detail. It is significant that, as far as I have heard no Member has referred to the Agreement at all. On our side what we get out of it is mainly a reaffirmation by Italy of a number of promises that Italy had previously made in other Agreements and previously broken. The only substantial addition made by the Agreement is the clause referring to the cessation of propaganda. What Italy gets out of it is much more substantial. It gets the recognition of Italian sovereignty in Abyssinia, and all she gives in exchange is a token withdrawal of 10,000 war-weary men from Spain, which means a tremendous surrender by Great Britain of the position she has hitherto held in the Spanish dispute.
The agreement with regard to Abyssinia comes at a time when the evidence is piling up that Italy has not yet conquered Abyssinia and that the tribes are still resisting, with extraordinary success considering their lack of money, leadership and modern arms. I recommend anyone who doubts that to read the interesting series of articles that 308 appeared a few weeks ago in the "Manchester Guardian" from the pen of Mr. George Speer, the correspondent of the "Times" during the Ayssinian war. It describes in full detail, what formerly many close students of the subject knew, how effectively the tribes are still resisting, and over what a small portion of the territory of Abyssinia the conquest by Italy is really complete. It is true that the Emperor of Abyssinia is still in exile. May I say, in passing, that one of the meanest acts of this Government is that they have not even seen fit to provide a pension for the man whom they have unquestionably ruined by promising help which they could not in the end give him. But the Abyssinian tribes fight on.
As to the Spanish side of this Agreement, I recall the House for a moment to the so-called British proposal which was laid before the Non-Intervention Committee some 15 months ago. It has repeatedly been altered to suit Italy and Germany, and was finally accepted by the Committee, including the Italian and German representatives. That did not suggest what we are now asked to accept as a "settlement" in Spain—a token withdrawal of some 10,000 war-weary Italian soldiers. It suggested a proportionate withdrawal. The Spanish Government, by a clever move, which I cannot help thinking rather dismayed the Prime Minister, countered that proposal by first accepting the Agreement with very little delay and then voluntarily, without any bargaining, agreeing to dismiss all their foreign combatants under the supervision of the League of Nations. General Franco, on the other side, sent no reply for six weeks, and then sent a reply which was more insolent than an outspoken rejection. Before that he had been relieved of all motive for assenting by two actions, first the action of the French Government in closing the French frontier on 11th June, and, second, the Prime Minister's refusal to do anything effective to stop the bombing of British ships. That had the effect of giving General Franco in advance the chief things he stood to gain by accepting proportional withdrawal, so his rejection of the proposals was not surprising. But the point is that not content with the favours which he has already heaped upon him, the Prime Minister proposes to reward him for his 309 insolent rejection by a fresh concession, the acknowledgment that the withdraw al of the 10,000 volunteers constitutes a Spanish settlement.
I wish to ask, and I beg the Under-Secretary to be good enough to answer, because this is an exceedingly important point, Is the settlement in Spain going to be followed by the grant of belligerent rights? I noticed that last Sunday the "Observer" predicted that the Government would adopt what one might call the "Nelson touch" by turning a blind eye to all the Italian forces remaining in Spain, going through the form of consulting the Non-Intervention Committee about belligerent rights and then proceeding to grant belligerent rights whether the Non-Intervention Committee agreed or not. Is that the intention of the Government? Are the conditions for the grant of belligerent rights to be those laid down in the British plan, which represented 12 months work of the Non-Intervention Committee, or is the condition to be this token withdrawal of 10,000 so-called volunteers? If the Non-Intervention Committee does follow the example of the British Government by modifying its proposal and granting belligerent rights on the mere withdrawal of the 10,000 Italian volunteers, that will mean, in effect, that in addition to the blackmail already paid to Signor Mussolini the Prime Minister will now, through the help of the Non-Intervention Committee, be giving him and General Franco positive assistance in the starving out of Spanish Republicans, though the combined efforts of the insurgents and of the Italians have failed to subdue them so far. It seems astonishing to note how those least favourable to the Spanish Republic have been compelled to pay unwilling tribute to the valour of their forces. Actually a "Times" leader the other day said:There seems something indestructible about the spirit of the Republicans.Apparently the happy thought is that since the spirit of the Republican forces is otherwise unbreakable let us break them by helping to starve out their women and children. It is significant that in the Prime Minister's speech there was riot a word or hint about what effect the recognition of a settlement in Spain upon the mere withdrawal of these 10,000 troops will have upon the fortunes of Spain herself, and yet to the minds of the British public that is an important consideration. 310 The different effect which the Spanish struggle has had upon the well-to-do classes of this country and in Parliament and upon the British proletariat has always appeared to me to be extraordinarily significant.
In my lifetime I do not remember anything which has taken quite so strong a hold upon the imagination of the British working classes as the valiant struggle of the Republican forces in Spain. It has touched their hearts and appealed to their generosity. One sign of that is the enormous sum of money—I have tried to reckon it up and it cannot come to less than £250,000—which has been poured out, mostly by poor people all over the country, for the people of Spain, showing how the hearts of British working people have been touched by the struggles of the Spanish people. The point is that if at the end of that heroic struggle, the spirit of the Spanish Republic is going to be broken by the connivance of the Prime Minister in a plan of General Franco and his ally Signor Mussolini to starve out the Spanish people, it will have a momentous effect in the future upon the action of the British electorate. Earlier this afternoon the hon. and gallant Member for Bourne-mouth (Sir H. Croft) told us what he was willing to fight for. He said that he was willing to fight for the Colonies, though he admitted that it was doubtful whether the Prime Minister agreed with him. I think all of us find it very difficult to know what the Prime Minister would think it worth while to fight for. However that may be, I think the result of this blow, coming upon the other blows dealt at democracies, will be that the Government will find it difficult to get British democracy to make a stand when any cause is at stake which the Government think it is worth while fighting for.
I see only two alternatives. It seems to me that on the one hand we may sink step by step into the position of a second-rate Power; because whenever an issue arises it either appeals to the well-to-do and they think it worth fighting for and the electorate do not, or it is a cause which appeals to the imagination of the electorate but to which the governing classes feel indifferent; and so we shall become a second Sweden or Denmark, with the difference that we have a congested population which involves respon- 311 sibilities very different from those of agricultural Sweden. Alternatively, we shall fight some day and fight alone, because the selfishness of our policy has left us without a friend in the world. Is it thought that these repeated surrenders gain us either the respect or the affection of the totalitarian Powers? We have had one surrender after another, resulting only in greater insolence on the part of Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler. So it goes on, and it is difficult for any of us to see the end, except that we shall either be left to fight alone or gradually sink down into a condition in which we become a menace to nobody and are respected by none.
§ 9.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
On 21st February the Prime Minister inaugurated the new foreign policy which he has carried on since then, and on these benches we recognise his sincerity and the personal devotion which he has shown in trying to carry through that policy, just as he recognizes—he said so this afternoon—that we believe that that policy has accelerated the progress of the world towards disaster. There is a direct connection, the connection of cause and effect, between the resignation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) and the speeches which the Prime Minister made on 21st and 22nd February on the one hand and many of the grave events which have happened since: The German invasion of Austria three weeks later, the German aggression against Czechoslovakia, the long-continued bombing of British ships, the violation of rules of international law which have a vital importance for us in peace and war, the Japanese attack upon Southern China, which had not happened before, but has happened since Munich, and has cut the lifeline of Hong Kong, the intensification of our troubles in Palestine, the insistent demand for colonies, the revived activity of autonomist movements in Alsace-Lorraine and Memel and other places. Those are the consequences of what happened on 21st February. On that day the Prime Minister sacrificed his Foreign Minister and scrapped the League—to make this Agreement with Signor Mussolini. And we must now measure his gains against the grave count of losses on the other side.
Our case to-night is that this Treaty should not be put into force, because it 312 has not brought us the benefits which we were promised; because it has not cleared up the atmosphere of suspicion and unrest that existed in the Mediterranean; because it has not brought us the fulfilment of the pledges which were made when it was drafted; because it is, in itself, another blow at the rule of law on which the Prime Minister has said so often that stable peace must ultimately depend. To illustrate that thesis I want to touch on only three points: propaganda, Abyssinia and the war in Spain.
I begin very briefly with propaganda. And when I say propaganda I mean not only Annex 4, which bears that heading, but I mean also the Gentleman's Agreement of January, 1937, which was reaffirmed by Annex 1. That Agreement says that the two Governments would "use their best endeavours to discourage any activities liable to impair the good relations which it is the object of the present Declaration to consolidate. I ask the Prime Minister and the House whether the Rome-Berlin axis has abstained from any action likely to impair good relations since 21st February. There have been 70 British ships deliberately attacked since then, and 60 seamen killed and mutilated, in violation of rules of International Law which are of vital importance to us in peace and war. Does the Prime Minister bring us to-day a pledge that that will not recur? My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) mentioned Palestine. What about the action of Signor Mussolini's axis in Palestine? There is no specific pledge in the Agreement about Palestine, not because the Prime Minister did not try to get one—the whole thing was held up for days while they debated whether one could be put in or not—but because the Prime Minister could get only "a verbal assurance" from Signor Mussolini. But everybody knows that it was not an accident that our troubles in Palestine began when Signor Mussolini was preparing his Abyssinian war. Everybody knows that his axis has given the Arabs great support. If hon. Members will study recent copies of the "Daily Telegraph" and of the "Times," and the last number of the "Quarterly Review," they will find an amazing array of evidence to show that the axis at this moment is more active in Palestine than ever before. I ask again: Has Signor Mussolini discouraged that action or not? I conclude on propaganda 313 by saying that, if there were no other reason in the world but the question of Palestine, that alone ought to suffice to prevent us from agreeing to this Motion to-night.
I pass to the question of Abyssinia. On 21st February, the Prime Minister told us that he had informed Count Grandi that "we were loyal members of the League"—I wonder if that is still among our ambitions—"and that, if we came to an agreement, we should desire to obtain the approval of the League for it." Did he obtain the approval of the League? I admit that the Government make a strong case when they say that many other governments have already recognised the conquest of Abyssinia; but we believe that the number would be much fewer if our Government had pursued a stronger policy of upholding international law. In any case, what happened in Geneva certainly did not satisfy the Prime Minister's own condition that we should obtain the approval of the League. What was the Government's problem? It was to set aside a unanimous resolution of the Assembly which said that it was "incumbent upon Members of the League not to recognise any situation, treaty or agreement which might be brought about by means contrary to the Covenant of the League or to the Pact of Paris." That was perfectly precise, and it simply declared what was the existing law of the Covenant of the League.
It is very doubtful whether a unanimous resolution of the Assembly could set it aside, But in any case, we never tried to get such a Resolution. We had a discussion in the Council, in which a majority of members made speeches, some of them very vague, in favour of the view that individual Members of the League should be allowed to recognise the conquest if they liked. But there were five speeches against—and very strongly against. I will cite only what was said by a spokesman of another Member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, Mr. Jordan of New Zealand, who said:The proceedings in which we are engaged, however they may be disguised, will only be regarded as a stage further in the surrender to aggression.He went on:The New Zealand Government cannot support any proposal which would involve, either 314 directly or by implication, approval of a breach of the Covenant.When he said that Mr. Jordan spoke for more of our countrymen than did Lord Halifax. The proceedings in Geneva had no legal value in setting aside the law of the Covenant, whatever moral or political value they may have had. But did they have any legal value? The Prime Minister likes to quote to us Mr. Ewer, of the "Daily Herald." Mr. Ewer said of the day's proceedings of the 12th:The shameful day is over.Mr. Vernon Bartlett said:The unhappiest member of the League Council was certainly Lord Halifax. After his speech, almost every comment I heard was an accusation of unparalleled hypocrisy.If we recognise Italian sovereignty in Abyssinia to-day, whatever other Governments may have done, we are in fact setting aside the Covenant of the League, and we are doing it without any approval of any organ of the League.
And as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) said this afternoon, we are doing it in flagrant violation of the facts. The Prime Minister is always asking us to be realist. What are the realities in Abyssinia to-day? They are that Signor Mussolini is in the third year of his Covenant-breaking war and that he has had heavier casualties this year than ever before. I know that the Government do not receive this information. For 18 months they did not receive any information that there were any Italian troops in Spain; but we know there have been some now, because 10,000 have come away.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
In Spain they have 56 consular officers in every part of the country, who can travel where they will. In Abyssinia they have two and, like everybody else, they can travel only with a large Italian escort. Last winter, the British Press was full of articles from authoritative sources saying that the war was still going on. In April and May, when the Prime Minister was negotiating this treaty, some of the greatest living British authorities on Africa were telling us that the Abyssinians were still vigorously resisting. Lord Lugard, a very high authority, who is not likely to say anything rash or irresponsible, wrote in the "Times" on 18th May: 315There is undeniable evidence that the situation of the Italians is very critical, and the rains are shortly due, when it may become more so.Miss Margery Perham was on the Abyssinia frontier in the Sudan and she came back and said that:There is evidence to show that the conquest is by no means a historical fact.She spoke of the increasing vigour of the Abyssinians' "struggle for freedom" and the "growing financial difficulties" of the Italians. In April last a French journalist, M. Pecheral, went from Kenya into the South of Abyssinia. He was for weeks with the Abyssinian Army, and here is the essence of what he said in his long report. He said: "Although Europe may have lost sight of it, the war in Abyssinia is as real as the existence of an independent Abyssinia, with its own capital, its own Government, its own Army." Since then Mr. George Steer, whose very great experience in the matter the Government will recognise, has made a special study of the matter, and has written the articles of which the hon. Lady spoke just now. He says that the Italians are having continual war; that they have to keep 200,000 troops there to hold the Abyssinians in check, that they have had very heavy casualties this year; that throughout this year the exports of the country have fallen to the value of £300,000; that Abyssinia has now to import food to feed the Army; and that the resistance of the Abyssinians is carried on by an organised movement, the troops operating in bands of from 500 to 10,000, with a close liaison between them. M. Pecheral has been there again. He was there in September. He went through the Sudan, and he confirms everything that Mr. Steer has said.
I have some other evidence. I have here a large packet, which I will show to the Under-Secretary afterwards if he cares to look at it, of the originals of reports—written in Amharic—from the leaders who are carrying on this resistance. They give the centres where the Italians are holding out—33. They say that in many of them they have to live behind barbed wire. With these documents they have sent letters, the originals of which I also have, from Italian officers captured by the Abyssinians. I will not weary the House with a longer statement, but will read only one extract from one of these letters, which say this: 316The hours of the night are worst. … You ask if we can leave our forts. It is out of the question. The smallest body which can venture is a company, because, after all, one's life is one's life, and bullets are bullets.If the Government now recognise the conquest of Abyssinia by Italy, they will be betraying a very gallant people who are the victims of a Covenant-breaking aggression which we still condemn.
I turn to the war in Spain. The war in Spain seems very near to-night, when we hear of a Spanish Government vessel, on time charter to a British company, being attacked by a trawler, which is said to have been armed in Germany, only seven miles from Cromer. That seems to indicate that the intervention of the axis in Spain is not yet ended, and that the dangers of the war are perhaps still rather greater than the Prime Minister appeared to think. In view of what has been said about Spain to-day, especially by the Prime Minister, I wonder more and more why the Government have brought in this Motion. But I remember that it is now said in Rome that, if you twist the lion's tail, he opens his mouth and shows his false teeth. I have wondered whether Signor Mussolini has been putting on the screw. There has been a suggestion in messages from Rome that there should be no more Four-Power talks until this Agreement was out of the way. If that were true, it would be a particularly delicate form of blackmail, no doubt, but it would be blackmail all the same.
And if this is the prelude to the other acts of appeasement which we are to expect in the near future, I think it is important that the House should comprehend clearly just what violations of solemn pledges the passing of this Motion will entail—pledges given by Signor Mussolini to our Government, and pledges given by our Government to the House. In recent times, as the Prime Minister said to-day, he has taken a great deal of trouble to avoid defining what he meant by a settlement in Spain; and on 2nd May he said he hoped we would not think him "unduly obscure" for not doing so. Well, by 2nd May we did not think him obscure at all, because we had come to the conclusion that he meant the same as Signor Mussolini. But it did not sound like that on 21st February, the day on which the pledges were made. On that day the late Foreign 317 Secretary, in resigning, made it very plain, as he did to-day, that the difference between him and the Prime Minister was about Spain. He said that he had made agreement after agreement with Signor Mussolini for non-intervention, and that, after 18 months, he thought it time to say that there should be some performance as well as promises, and that only when there was performance could we proceed to real appeasement.
I ask the House to remember what happened. In reply to that, the Prime Minister said that he attached just as much importance to Spain as the right hon. Gentleman did, but that his methods were likely to result in better progress, and that "the new atmosphere" would produce "a good effect." He went on to prove that by telling us, with a triumph which the House will remember, that Signor Mussolini that very morning had accepted the British formula for the evacuation of the foreign troops. We assumed, of course, that no difficulties in making a plan to carry that out would ensue. The Prime Minister then made specific pledges which I want to quote. He said he had told Signor Grandi that the Government regarded a settlement of the Spanish question "as an essential feature of any agreement at which we might arrive." He said then that it was "an essential feature" of the agreement, not a "pre-requisite of its completion." He then said that when we went to Geneva it would be essential that no one should be able to say that "the situation in Spain during the conversations had been materially altered by Italy, either by sending fresh reinforcements to General Franco or by failing to implement the arrangements contemplated by the British formula." Let the House note—"during the conversations"—that is to say, from 21st February until to-day.
Against the background which I have described, I am sure hon. Members will agree that the House was right in thinking on that day that the Prime Minister meant that, before this Agreement was completed, Signor Mussolini must give up his attempts to win the war in Spain—"no material change in the situation" could really mean nothing less—and that his participation in the Spanish war would end as soon as the Non-Intervention Committee had drawn up a plan for the evacuation of foreign troops. I have read the Hansard 20 times, and I cannot make it mean anything else.
318 Those were the conditions on which the Prime Minister was going to insist. How have they been fulfilled? I will take first the question of the material alteration of the situation in Spain. It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington in his masterly speech this afternoon, absolutely proved that Signor Mussolini has tried time and again to win the war in Spain. Nobody forgets the Aragon offensive or Tortosa, or the drive on Segunto and Valencia, the seven counteroffensives on the Ebro, and General Valle's claims in the Italian Chamber of what the Italian Forces had been able to do. I had armed myself with nearly all the quotations which the right hon. Gentleman brought, but I will not inflict them on the House again. I will only add one, which comes also from an un-tainted source, from yesterday's "Times." It is the statement from Rome that, after their discussion, Herr von Ribbentrop and Count Ciani were agreed that "The assured victory of General Franco … was held to be the only acceptable solution."
What about the second of the Prime Minister's statements—about the reinforcements? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington also argued that at length. I think he proved his case. There is, in addition, information from the Spanish Government which, as my right hon. Friend who opened this afternoon has said, has usually been proved substantially correct, that something like 5,000 or 6,000 new Italians, including many technicians and airmen, have reached Spain in the last six or seven weeks. In addition, I want to add only two other bits of evidence, again from that untainted source, the "Times." On 10th September the "Times" said, in a message from Hen-daye—that is, on General Franco's side:The Nationalists' concentrated air and artillery bombardments on any specified area literally destroy everything on the face of the land.It was not like that before 21st February, when the Spanish Government made their offensive on Teruel. There must have been reinforcements since then. My second item is from a leading article in the "Times":It is … pretty well established that airmen fly from Italy, pick up bombs in the Balearic Islands, drop them in Spain, and return to their home aerodromes.319 Is that reinforcement, or is it not?
I turn to the Prime Minister's third pledge, that Signor Mussolini could not fail to implement the arrangements contemplated by the British formula. That pledge was faithfully adhered to in the Agreement made on 26th April. That appears in Annex XI:First, the Italian Government have the honour to confirm their full adherence to the United Kingdom formula for the proportional evacuation of the foreign volunteers from Spain, and pledge themselves to give practical and real application to such an evacuation at the moment and on the conditions which shall be determined by the Non-Intervention Committee on the basis of the above-mentioned formula.Just to show that we really did mean evacuation of foreign troops in Spain, Lord Perth acknowledged Count Ciano's note by saying this:His Majesty's Government … will, I feel sure, be gratified at its contents. In this connection I hardly need to remind Your Excellency that His Majesty's Government regard a settlement of the Spanish question as a prerequisite of the entry into force of the Agreement between our two Governments.The meaning is absolutely plain, that when there was a plan prepared by the Non-Intervention Committee, the Italian Government must carry it out, and that it must do so before this Treaty came into force. Now there is a plan. It is four months since it was made. Why has it not been carried out by Signor Mussolini? Because General Franco has refused it? Does that prevent Signor Mussolini from carrying out his pledge, or does it justify him in not doing so? The Prime Minister, if I understood him, thinks it does, because he says that it certainly was not Signor Mussolini's fault that it had not been carried out. Does he suggest that General Franco would not accept this plan if Signor Mussolini asked him to? And may I say that we have asked General Franco to accept it? We have brought great pressure to bear. Has Signor Mussolini done the same? Before we pass this Treaty we have a right to know.
Does the Prime Minister suggest that Signor Mussolini could not bring away his troops before General Franco accepts the plan? If so, how is he bringing away the 10,000 who have just arrived in Italy? There is a plan executed by the Government in Spain, and if Signor Mussolini is prepared to escape his obli- 320 gations by a verbal quibble such as this, is he worthy of the confidence that the Prime Minister puts in him? I venture to think that the Prime Minister himself never really thought of such a verbal quibble as this last July. I think he did himself an injustice this afternoon, when he suggested that he did. I looked up the whole of what he said on 26th July, and it was this: He was saying that they profoundly regretted that the Treaty could not be brought into force, but that they could not abandon the position they had taken up in regard to the settlement of the Spanish question. He said that they regretted this delay, and added:We shall do all that we possibly can to facilitate the withdrawal of the foreign volunteers from Spain, in order that that country may cease to offer any threat to the peace of Europe.My right hon. Friend the leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister whether, by that statement, he meant to say that the withdrawal of volunteers was the settlement in Spain, and whether he understood now that it was merely a question of volunteers being withdrawn? The Prime Minister replied:I would like to see what happens when the volunteers are withdrawn. If His Majesty's Government think that Spain has ceased to be a menace to the peace of Europe, I think we shall regard that as a settlement of the Spanish question."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th July, 1938; col. 2965, Vol. 338.]I submit that the plain meaning of that is that the minimum definition of settlement in Spain is the withdrawal of volunteers, by which, of course, on 26th July, everybody meant the execution of the new non-intervention plan of 5th July. I suggest that the Prime Minister then thought that before he could bring his Treaty into force, he must secure the application of the non-intervention plan by Signor Mussolini. Now he accepts Signor Mussolini's withdrawal of 10,000 men. And I think that that withdrawal is symbolic of the whole spirit in which Signor Mussolini has carried out his obligations with regard to this Agreement. Let the House consider what happened on the day of glory when 10,000 armed veterans arrived at Naples. By Signor Mussolini's recent admission they were at most a quarter of the Italians in Spain. They had already seen 18 months of war. The fresh troops remained. They were without their machine guns. They had left them in Spain. But they carried their rifles which, as a military observer 321 said, proved that they were members of the armed Forces of the Italian Crown. They were reviewed by the King of Italy, who thus gave a kind of Royal consecration to an expedition which has been a flagrant violation of four separate international Treaties signed with us.
This is the event in virtue of which the Prime Minister chooses to bring his Treaty into operation. If the Prime Minister had had regard to the pledges which he made to the House of Commons and which Signor Mussolini made to him, he would have made a very different answer when Signor Mussolini asked him for this motion a few weeks ago. He would have said, "The Spanish Government have sent away their foreign volunteers; they have sent away everyone who has been naturalised since the war began; they have accepted the unlimited control of the International Commission of the League; they are prepared to accept control for the Non-Intervention Committee; they stopped bombing civilians when we asked them; they accepted our Commission of Inquiry into bombing; and they have never bombed British ships. You go and tell General Franco to do these things, and you yourself withdraw your five divisions, your air force, your artillery and your tanks, and then we will bring this agreement into force." And I think the Prime Minister would go on like this: "Until you do that, we shall restore to the Spanish Government, on whose territory there is not now the slightest scrap of intervention, the legal right to purchase arms."
The Prime Minister to-day is going to do the exact opposite of that. He is giving away the only means he has of restraining Signor Mussolini; the only weapon which he has to hold him to his bond. In effect, he is giving him a free hand in Spain, and saying: "Do what you like, I shall not trouble you any more about it." A little while ago a spokesman in the Japanese Foreign Office was asked whether it was true that Japan was intending formally to declare war on China. He denied that with great indignation, and said:It would be impossible for Japan to declare war unless she denounced peace pacts, such as the Kellogg Pact and the Nine Power Treaty, by which she is at present bound.I sometimes think that we are approaching that Oriental standard. We surrender to a threat of world war and we call it 322 securing a settlement of a dispute by peaceful means. We give away a population of 4,000,000 of people, a very large proportion of whom do not want to be given away, and we call it self-determination. I think we are approaching that standard in connection with this Agreement.
The Prime Minister is always asking us to face realities. What are the realities about the Motion to-night? We are not asked to pass this Motion to-night because the Anglo-Italian Agreement has brought us appeasement in the Mediterranean, nor because it has ended the hostile action of Signor Mussolini in Palestine, in the Near and Middle East and elsewhere, nor because it has settled the question of Spain, nor because Mussolini has refrained from sending reinforcements, nor because the Italian armies have crushed the Abyssinian resistance or begun the creation of modern and enlightened administration; nor because it has brought us the good will of the Italian people, which every traveller knows we never lost.
I want to end by asking the Under-Secretary a question to which I hope he will give us an answer. We are sacrificing the Abyssinian people. We are giving our consent to Signor Mussolini's continued aggression in Spain. We may be allowing him to establish a domination which some day may prove a serious danger to us in the Empire which we rule. We are condoning the violation of a number of international engagements. We are thereby striking to-night still another blow at international law. Why are we doing this, and what are we getting in return?
§ 10.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Butler
I shall endeavour to answer the various points which the hon. Member has put to me, and I shall not shirk the last challenging question which he has put.
The Prime Minister took the original step of initiating these discussions as the first part of a bigger whole. That whole is the achievement of peace through active negotiation and conciliation. Now that the Government have decided to bring this Agreement into force, we hope that the area of peace will be extended. That is the major object of the Motion on the Order Paper this evening. Signor Mussolini has said in the most optimistic 323 speech he has made on the international situation for a long time, that the clearing of the political horizon is becoming wider and more promising. We shall very likely see better weather. First of all in the Mediterranean. Most of the countries bordering on the Mediterranean have for a long time been living in a state of great uncertainty, but now, with the bringing into force of an agreement between two major Powers, they may be expecting better weather, and will be able to put away their umbrellas. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister may well be able to dispense on any future travels he may undertake with his familiar umbrella.
There is another area, the Near and Middle East. Here, I think, it is very appropriate that the Agreement should be brought into force. The provisions which relate to the Near and Middle East are very valuable at the present time. Among other things I think it will ensure a continued absence of propaganda, which has been a noticeable feature since the Italian Agreement was signed on 16th April. But not only in the Middle and Near East but also in Europe, I think the bringing into force of this Agreement will have its effect. Just as we did not stop short at Munich so we do not intend to stop short now in putting forward practical proposals for widening the area of world peace wherever we get an opportunity. I have mentioned our hopes in the Mediterranean and in the Near and Middle East, and in Europe. Let me now deal with the war which has occupied so much time in the Debate this evening and to which the hon. Member who has just spoken devoted a large part of his speech. Recent developments in Spain indicate that that country is not now likely to be a cause of international conflict. My right hon. Friend, the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer), in his valuable speech, said that the Spanish problem in view of the recent crisis has receded and has not the same international significance it had before the major crisis through which we have just passed.
I propose to apply two tests, the tests of words and deeds, to both sides in Spain as proving my contention that the Spanish conflict is not likely to he the cause of a great international war. The tradition of British policy is to examine 324 both sides. Our policy towards Spain is an impartial policy. I have said so often at this Box. Let me examine some of the words spoken by both sides in Spain. My hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock (Mr. Patrick) put a question to me and asked, whether the situation in Spain in a crisis would compromise French defence. I can best refer him to a statement issued by General Franco at the height of the crisis at the end of September in which he said:The Government of Nationalist Spain intend to maintain an attitude of complete neutrality in the event of the outbreak of war in Central Europe, on condition that no Power provokes war on Nationalist territory.The statement continued:The war in Spain is a local problem. It is not General Franco's wish or intention to interfere with any foreign Power.That, I think, is an answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock. It was a particularly severe crisis through which we passed, and if we are to have any touchstone of the intentions of at any rate a large part of Spain in an international crisis, we have there an example of the attitude likely to be adopted. I cannot answer for the French General Staff. Therefore, I cannot say what the position of the French defences would have been, but I can say that we have a valuable indication about the future position of this section of Spain. The hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) gave a quotation from Captain Liddell Hart, who said:A friendly Spain is desirable; a neutral Spain, vital,"—referring to the strategic needs and considerations of the British Empire. I would again refer the hon. Member to the statement made on behalf of General Franco in which the word "neutral" occurred; and I shall back that up in a minute with a statement by Dr. Negrin, as evidence from the other side as well. Before doing that, I will refer to the question of whether the future Spain, however it may emerge from this terrible conflict, is likely to be friendly to this country. I would remind hon. Members of the particularly moving speech in this respect by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), in which he said that no Spaniard had been killed by British shells or bullets, and that we were perhaps the one great country in Europe which had not inter- 325 vened in the Spanish war on either side. The whole history of Spain goes to show that their one wish is to eliminate the foreigners and to run their own country. Looking into the future history of the world, I would at any rate rather be a member of this country if I were looking for somebody towards whom the future Spain was likely to be friendly. I said that I would adopt the typical British attitude of impartiality towards both sides. Let me, therefore, quote from the speech of Dr. Negrin, a speech which I heard when it was made at the Assembly of the League of Nations, at the height of the crisis. I must say that its contents came as a surprise, and the speech itself was of a remarkable character. Dr. Negrin, after first referring to the impertinence of those authors who had not the courage to cast off the cloak of anonymity, and who said that Spain was hoping for a general conflagration, went on to say:It is not only for reasons of principle that we wish to avoid any general conflagration. Our wish is also inspired by national considerations. After more than two years of war, we know well enough what it would mean to be dragged into a world conflict. We have no need to provoke a catastrophe to solve our problems.The Prime Minister of Government Spain went on to say:Once foreign intervention in Spain has been eliminated, I can assure you that a policy of national conciliation, under the firm and energetic direction of a Government of authority, will enable all Spaniards to forget these years of suffering and cruelty.I quote that very remarkable speech by a man whom I have met on several occasions, together with Senor del Vayo, at Geneva to show that the views of both sides in Spain about Spain's attitude towards international conflict are exactly the same, and also to show that both sides have something in common and that Spaniards of all types would prefer to conduct their own war on their own soil. I think there is something in common among Spaniards of all kinds, namely that they do not wish Spain to be a menace to world peace. In a book "The Martyrdom of Spain" by Senor Mendizabal which has just appeared, the author says that the Spaniard always has in mind what he does not want, but has only the vaguest idea of what he is seeking. I am convinced it is now clear what Spaniards of all types do not want.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington put forward 326 his own definition of a settlement in Spain. His view of a settlement in Spain is that foreign intervention in the war should cease. I am sure that the whole House was impressed as much as we on the Government Bench were by his typical sincerity in this matter, but I am bound to say that his definition is not the definition which the Prime Minister has in mind. The Prime Minister's definition was made on 26th July when he said that if His Majesty's Government thought that Spain had ceased to be a menace to the peace of Europe, we should regard that as a settlement of the Spanish question. [HON. MEMBERS: "After withdrawal."] He said he would also look into and examine the question of the withdrawal of troops. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington will appreciate that we are as sincere in our definition as he is in his and will be content with the difference of opinion on that point.
The right hon. Gentleman enlisted a certain amount of sympathy by describing the extent of Italian intervention, and I wish to follow him on that point. I must confess that I thought the intervention in the Debate of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) was particularly apt. He pointed out that it was not apparent from the speech of my right hon. Friend that there had been foreign intervention on both sides. Our position in this matter has always been clear. I have never denied that there has been foreign intervention on both sides in Spain. My right hon. Friend acknowledged his responsibility for the policy of non-intervention. What was his experience? I am sure the House will remember a speech of his in which he said, referring to the policy of non-intervention, that a leaky dam was better than no dam at all. Our experience of the policy of non-intervention has been that although there has been foreign intervention on both sides in Spain, that policy has prevented the Spanish war from becoming part of a wider international conflict. To that extent I think that, with all its difficulties, which I have frankly acknowledged at this Box, the policy of non-intervention has been proved worth while. When I examine the latest developments in that policy, I find even more cause for encouragement. Reverting to the metaphor of the dam I notice that instead of the water flowing 327 in or trickling in through leaks, we see a diminution of the flow and also a good deal of water flowing out.
I should like now to examine the question of the withdrawal of foreign nationals from Spanish soil at the present time. I have referred to the word of both sides, the word of the Spanish Government and the word of the Burgos authorities. Now let us look at deeds. Reference has been made to the withdrawal of the International Brigades from the Government side. Hon. Members opposite claim that the volunteers or nationals of foreign countries have already left the Government side. The truth is that they have not yet left Spain. We fully acknowledge the intention, which has been published, of the Spanish Government to evacuate these nationals, and I was personally at Geneva to welcome the decision of the Spanish Government to evacuate foreign nationals. On the other side, on the Franco side, 10,000 men and more, according to our information, have already been withdrawn. Their withdrawal was witnessed by Mr. Hemming, of the Non-Intervention Committee, when they left Spain, and our Military AttachÉ in Rome was given special facilities to witness their arrival in Italy. The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), in describing the withdrawal of these Italian troops, used the word "ineffectuals." It is an extraordinary thing to me that when an Italian soldier is withdrawn from Spain he appears to be ill, decrepit, to have been in Spain 18 months, to be worn out, to be old, and to lack any potential value as a fighter, whereas troops which are in Spain are regarded as being the cause of all our troubles.
Our information is that Signor Mussolini has withdrawn approximately half the Italian infantry in Spain. That is our definite information, and the Government see no reason to doubt the word of Signor Mussolini. That brings me to another point, and that is the subject of the figures which have been produced by the Spanish Government on the eve of this Debate and sent to the Foreign Office, on the number of Italians in Spain. I say quite definitely that our information does not bear out the accuracy of that statement. Our information is that these figures are very much exaggerated. I 328 have already had a passage of arms with the hon. Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) in the course of this afternoon's Debate on the question of figures; but I can only give the general information at our disposal, while mentioning the difficulty of obtaining completely accurate information, and there is no doubt whatsoever that the information in our possession shows that these figures of the Spanish Government are very much exaggerated.
§ Mr. Attlee
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us the source of that information? We know we can never get any information at all from the Government on this subject.
§ Mr. Butler
I have given this answer on many occasions before, that the Government information comes from a variety of sources.
§ Mr. Butler
I am not able to give any exact estimate, but the information in our possession shows that the word of Signor Mussolini can be trusted in this matter. I think I am entitled to say that approximately half the Italian infantry have been withdrawn from Spain. I have been asked some further questions on the subject of our Spanish policy, and I should like to say that I fully appreciate the sincerity of the views of hon. Members opposite in their feelings on the subject of the Spanish war. They are not less strong than our own. I believe there is opposite a genuine fear that by bringing into force the Italian Agreement, we are altering our policy of impartiality towards the Spanish conflict. I am able to say that that is not so.
Questions have been put on the subject of granting belligerent rights, and I should like to make this statement The question of the granting of belligerent rights is bound up with the execution of the Non-Intervention Committee's plan. General Franco, who has often been pressing for the rights of belligerency, now considers that the voluntary withdrawal of 10,000 foreign legionaries from his forces entitles him to claim it forthwith. His Majesty's Government are bound to support the provisions laid down in the Non-Intervention Committee's plan relating to this question. Those provisions 329 have been read out in the course of the Debate and are bound up with the whole of the Non-Intervention Committee's plan, which is at present under discussion. Meanwhile Mr. Hemming, the Secretary of the Committee, is at Burgos and we are making every effort to proceed with the plan, and we realise its importance as the best method for the withdrawal of foreign volunteers or nationals from Spain. I have had various other questions about our Spanish policy. It has many humanitarian aspects. Some hon. Members have described the sufferings of the Spanish people. We are, in particular, investigating whether it is not possible to enable supplies to reach certain of the most needy classes, in particular supplies necessary for those who are organising humanitarian work. I can only say that we are engaged in discussions with the Spanish authorities on this point We have, besides that, sent a Commission to Spain to investigate air-bombing, to which the Spanish Ambassador in London, who was present at Geneva, paid a special tribute at the Assembly of the League. Besides that we have, through the mediation of Field-Marshal Sir Philip Chetwode, achieved a certain exchange of prisoners, and we hope that he will be able to make further progress on a larger scale. In all these ways we are attempting to prove that our policy towards this terrible conflict is impartial and we are doing all we can to limit it to the shores of Spain itself.
I have been asked what is the position in Abyssinia at present. We have heard it said opposite that the Italians in fact are not in control of Abyssinia. We have had quoted to us information dating from April, May and June last. I can give the House the latest information obtained from our representatives in that country. It is that, except in one particular district, where the Italians are experiencing certain difficulty and have had to bring their forces up to some 60 battalions, we understand that the country is under Italian control. Except in that district I do not believe that the Italians are finding great difficulty in controlling the country. When I last addressed the House there was difficulty in Gojam, about 150 miles north of Addis Ababa, but our information from there now is that that area is subdued and that the Italians are having no further trouble in that district. If I can sum up the matter, I should say that Italian control over Ethiopia is be- 330 coming steadily stronger and only that one small area is under Abyssinian control. The Abyssinians, we are told, would not be able without outside aid or without a major war with the aid of some outside power to gain recontrol of the country. Therefore, I think it may be said that the Italians are in control of Abyssinia with the small exception of one particular area. When one reflects the time it has taken for other Powers to overcome resistance in certain mountainous districts, the difficulties in a country like this will be fully realised.
These are the detailed reasons for bringing the Agreement into force. The value-of regulating matters on boundaries where our Empires meet, of exchanging information about our military forces in those areas, and of obtaining opportunities of trade agreements between Italian East Africa, the United Kingdom, India and the British Colonies cannot be denied. To borrow a slogan from the party opposite, the National Government are making a supreme national effort for peace. We have been asked for what system or ideology we are working. But to borrow again from the manifesto of the party opposite, we desire to be good friends with all peoples and to co-operate with them. We have heard a good deal about collective security. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington, referred to "The Hunting of the Snark" in which he said that certain people collected but did not subscribe.
Let us look, in conclusion, at what we have collected by our foreign policy since February last. We are working towards the rebuilding of the League of Nations and we are giving a lead in all League work. We are working for a close trade agreement with America. We have given and shall give confidence to the Mediterranean Powers in the direction of averting war by our present action in bringing this Agreement into force. We have agreed to the method of consultation in dealing with any future cause of dispute with Germany, and, in the words of this Agreement, we hope to put the relations of this country and Italy on a solid and lasting basis and to contribute to the cause of general peace and security. We are witnessing to-night, in spite of the uninterrupted scoffing of the Opposition during my speech, the opening of a new bridge and a new high road between our 331 old friend Italy and ourselves. We have cut the tape, and now let the traffic of full understanding flow in both directions.
§ Question put,332
"That this House welcomes the intention of His Majesty's Government to bring the Anglo-Italian Agreement into force."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 345; Noes, 138.335
|Division No. 333.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Harvey, Sir G|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)|
|Alexander, Brig.-Gen. Sir W.||Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Cross, R. H.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Crossley, A. C.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's)||Crowder, J. F. E.||Hepworth, J.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Cruddas, Col. B.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)|
|Apsley, Lord||Culverwell, C. T.||Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey)|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Davidson, Viscountess||Higgs, W. F.|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Davison, Sir W. H.||Holdsworth, H.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||De Chair, S. S.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||De la Bère, R.||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Denville, Alfred||Howitt, Dr. A. B.|
|Balniel, Lord||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Dodd, J. S||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Doland, G. F.||Hulbert, N. J.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Donner, P. W.||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H.||Hunloke, H. P.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Dower, Major A. V. G.||Hunter, T.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Drewe, C.||Hurd, Sir P. A.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Hutchinson, G. C.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Dugdale, Captain T. L.||James, Wing-commander A. W. H.|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Duncan, J. A. L.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Dunglass, Lord||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)|
|Blair, Sir R.||Eastwood, J. F.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)|
|Blaker, Sir R.||Eckersley, P. T.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)|
|Bossom A. C.||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Kimball, L.|
|Bower Comdr. R. T.||Ellis, Sir G.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Emery, J. F.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Latham, Sir P.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Errington, E.||Leech, Sir J. W.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Lees-Jones, J.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Leigh, Sir J.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Everard, W. L.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Bull, B. B.||Fildes, Sir H.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Findlay, Sir E.||Levy, T.|
|Burghley, Lord||Fleming, E. L.||Lewis, O.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Liddall, W. S.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Lindsay, K. M.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Furness, S. N.||Lipson, D. L.|
|Butler, R. A.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.|
|Caine, G. R. Hall.||Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||Lloyd, G. W.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Gledhill, G.||Loftus. P. C.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Gluckstein, L. H.||Lyons, A. M.|
|Cary, R. A.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Goldie, N. B.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Gower, Sir R. V.||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Grant-Ferris, R.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Granville, E. L.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.|
|Channon, H.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||McKie, J. H.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Macnamara, Major J. R. J.|
|Christie, J. A.||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Clarke, Colonel R.S. (E. Grinstead)||Grimston, R. V.||Maitland, A.|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Markham, S. F.|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Marsden, Commander A.|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Hambro, A. V.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Hammersley, S. S.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Cox, Trevor||Hannah, I. C.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)|
|Critchley, A.||Harbord, A.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Remer, J. R.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Moore, Lieut.-Colonel Sir T. C. R.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Moreing, A. C.||Rosbotham, Sir T.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Morgan, R. H.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)||Rowlands, G.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.|
|Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Russell, Sir Alexander||Touche, G. C.|
|Munro, P.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Nall, Sir J.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Salmon, Sir I.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Nicholson, G. (Farnham)||Salt, E. W.||Turton, R. H.|
|O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Samuel, M. R. A.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Sandeman, Sir N. S.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Palmer, G. E. H.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Patrick, C. M.||Scott, Lord William||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Peake, O.||Selley, H. R.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Perkins, W. R. D.||Shakespeare, G. H.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Peters, Dr. S. J.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Petherick, M.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)||Watt, Major G. S. Harvie|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.||Wayland, Sir W. A|
|Pilkington, R.||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Plugge, Capt. L. F.||Simmonds, O. E.||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Procter, Major H. A.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Purbrick, R.||Smith, Sir Louis (Hallam)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Radford, E. A.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Smithers, Sir W.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Somerset, T.||Wise, A. R.|
|Ramsbotham, H.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Ramsden, Sir E.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Rankin, Sir R.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Spens, W. P.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Rawson, Sir Cooper||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'ld)||Wragg, H.|
|Rayner, Major R. H.||Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)||Strickland, Captain W. F.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)||Captain Margesson and Lieut.-|
|Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Colonel Kerr.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Maxton, J.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Grenfell, D. R.||Messer, F.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbre, W.)||Milner, Major J.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Montague, F.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Barr, J.||Hardie, Agnes||Nathan, Colonel H. L.|
|Batey, J.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Benson, G.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Owen, Major G.|
|Bevan, A.||Hicks, E. G.||Paling, W.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Hollins, A.||Parker, J.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Hopkin, D.||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Burke, W. A.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Pearson, A.|
|Cassells, T.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Cluse, W. S.||John, W.||Poole, C. C.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Price, M. P.|
|Collindridge, F.||Jones. A. C. (Shipley)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Cove, W. G.||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Kelly, W. T.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Daggar, G.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Dalton, H.||Kirby, B. V.||Ridley, G.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Kirkwood, D.||Riley, B.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lathan, G.||Ritson, J.|
|Day, H.||Lawson, J. J.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Leach, W.||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Ede, J. C.||Lee, F.||Sanders, W. S.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Leslie, J. R.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Logan, D. G.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Foot, D. M.||Lunn, W.||Shinwell, E.|
|Frankel, D.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Silkin, L.|
|Gallacher, W.||McEntee, V. La T.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Gardner, B. W.||McGovern, J.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Maclean, N.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||MacNeill Weir, L.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Marshall, F.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Stephen, C.||Viant, S. P.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)||Walkden, A. G.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)||Watkins, F. C.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Summerskill, Dr. Edith||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Westwood, J.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Thurtle, E.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Tinker, J. J.||Wilkinson, Ellen.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Tomlinson, G.||Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)||Mr. Charleton and Mr. Anderson|
§ The Orders of the Day were read, and postponed.