HC Deb 06 October 1938 vol 339 cc470-2
12. Mr. Dobbie

asked the Prime Minister whether any request has been received and, if so, from whom, for an early meeting of the Non-Intervention Committee to discuss steps to resolve the deadlock created by General Franco's reply to the British plan; and what reply was given?

Mr. Butler

A proposal for an early meeting of the Committee was put forward by the representative of the Soviet Government, but as it was not supported by any other Member of the Committee, the matter was not pursued. As I informed the House yesterday, arrangements have now been made that Mr. Hemming should make personal contact with the authorities at Burgos. Until he has made his report, there would seem to be no advantage in calling the Committee together again.

Miss Rathbone

Why was there this six weeks' delay between the receipt of the reply and the sending of Mr. Hemming?

Mr. Butler

There were interchanges between the various Governments concerned.

13. Mr. Dobbie

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the suggestion contained in General Franco's reply to the British plan for the withdrawal of volunteers, that belligerent rights should be granted unconditionally in advance of withdrawal, further steps are being considered by the Non-Intervention Committee?

Mr. Butler

I have at present nothing to add to the reply which I gave yesterday to a question by the hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone).

21. Mr. Jagger

asked the Prime Minister on what occasion His Majesty's representatives in Rome have paid visits to the Italian Foreign Minister since 31st July; what was the information on which representations were made to the Italian Government regarding contravention of the non-intervention agreement; what reply was made by that Government; and whether His Majesty's Government is now prepared to use their influence for the reopening of the French frontier?

Mr. Butler

His Majesty's representatives in Rome are in continual touch with the Italian Government, and I am unable to say on how many occasions visits or conversations have taken place during this period. I am unable to make public the substance of confidential conversations which have taken place between the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs and His Majesty's representatives. As regards the last part of the question, the reopening of the Franco-Spanish frontier is primarily a question for the French Government to decide.

Mr. Jagger

Would it be possible for the Minister to get to know how often any visits took place?

Mr. Butler

I have said that they are in continual touch, which I should have thought would be sufficient.

Mr. Jagger

I want to know how often visits took place.

Mr. A. V. Alexander

(by Private Notice) asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has considered the communication from the Committee of British Shipowners trading with Spain with regard to the proposed inquiry into the bombing of British vessels, requesting that some announcement may be made before the adjournment of Parliament, and whether he can make a statement?

Mr. Butler

The letter in question was received in the Foreign Office only yesterday evening, and my Noble Friend has not yet had an opportunity of considering it. I regret, therefore, that I cannot make a statement upon the matter to-day.

Mr. Alexander

Is the Under-Secretary aware of the renewal of bombing, and danger of bombing, of British vessels, and also of the grave importance to this country at the present time of being able to receive from Spain most important commodities for our national welfare?

Mr. Butler

My Noble Friend is aware how important this matter is, and hopes shortly to be in a position to send a full reply to the Committee of British Shipowners.

Mr. David Grenfell

(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether he can give an assurance that His Majesty's Government will agree to no weakening of the plan for the evacuation of foreign troops from Spain unanimously accepted by the Non-Intervention Committee before the question has been submitted for discussion to the House.

The Prime Minister

So far as I am aware, the Non-Intervention Committee does not contemplate any modification of the plan which would be at variance with the principle upon which it is based. I am, therefore, quite willing to give the hon. Member the assurance for which he asks. I must not, however, be understood to imply that His Majesty's Government will not do their best to secure the early withdrawal of foreign combatants from Spain whether or not such withdrawal is carried out within the framework of the Committee's plan.