HC Deb 06 April 1939 vol 345 cc2994-6
Mr. A. Henderson

(by Private Notice), asked the Prime Minister whether he can make a statement concerning the concentration of Italian troops and transport at Bari and Brindisi and the present Italian negotiations with Albania.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)

On 4th April His Majesty's Ambassador at Rome drew the attention of the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs to rumours similar to those referred to by the hon. and learned Member. The Minister for Foreign Affairs stated that on 8th March the King of Albania had himself suggested that the existing Treaty of Alliance between Italy and Albania should be strengthened. Discussions on that point have since been taking place between the two Governments; it appears however that in the course of these negotiations certain difficulties have arisen, the nature of which is not quite plain, and according to the Minister for Foreign Affairs Italian interests have been threatened. I have just learnt that an Italian cruiser and two smaller warships arrived at Durazzo early this morning. I have not yet received a detailed account of the point of view of the Albanian Government, but I have just received from that Government a denial of any report that they have accepted conditions incompatible with Albanian sovereignty and national integrity. His Majesty's. Minister at Darazzo has reported that all was quiet there up to 8.25 a.m. to-day. His Majesty's Government are, of course, closely watching all developments.

Mr. Henderson

May I ask the Prime Minister whether the British Ambassador in Rome has drawn the attention of the Italian Government to the fact that any alteration in the status quo in the Mediterranean will be contrary to the Anglo-Italian Agreement?

The Prime Minister

I do not think there has been any occasion to do that. Certainly the Italian Government are aware of the terms of the Anglo-Italian Agreement.

Mr. Bellenger

With regard to the remark that His Majesty's Government were watching developments, may I ask whether His Majesty's Government have any interest in Albania?

The Prime Ministers

No direct interest, but a general interest in the peace of the world.

Mr. Arthur Greenwood

In the event there being a change in the status quo in the Mediterranean, does the British Government then contemplate a strong protest to the Italian Government about a breach of the Anglo-Italian Agreement?

The Prime Minister

I do not think it would be proper for me to anticipate a breach of that Agreement.

Mr. Greenwood

I am not suggesting there would be, but I am asking the right hon. Gentleman whether it is the intention, should that happen, to allow it to pass?

The Prime minister

That is a hypothetical question.

Mr. Shinwell

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what the presence of Italian warships denotes?

The Prime Minister

I cannot say what it denotes. I have given the House the information which I have.

Mr. Lipson

Has the Prime Minister any information that a revised agreement has yet been arrived at between Italy and Albania?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Has the British Ambassador received any explanation of the concentration of Italian troops at Bari and Brindisi?

The Prime Minister

Not so far as I am aware.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

Have His Majesty's Government had any communications with the Yugo-Slav Government about this matter?

The Prime Ministers

No, Sir.