HC Deb 06 February 1939 vol 343 cc612-8
7. Sir N. Stewart Sandeman

asked the Prime Minister whether British ships have recently been sent to Valencia for the purpose of repatriating members of the International Brigade; and how many ex-combatants have been repatriated from this zone?

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Butler)

No British ships were sent to Valencia for this pur- pose since the Spanish Government arranged to transfer to Catalonia the foreign volunteers in the southern sector of Government Spain. Pending a further report from the League Commission engaged in verifying the withdrawal of foreign volunteers from Government Spain, I am not in a position to say how many volunteers have now been repatriated from the southern zone.

Miss Rathbone

Will the right hon. Gentleman see whether the Government can take some steps to expedite the evacuation of the International Brigade, in view of the great danger of their falling into the hands of the insurgent troops?

Mr. Butler

The Government are well aware of the difficulty to which the hon. Lady has drawn my attention.

Sir N. Stewart Sandeman

Is it not a fact that if they fall into the hands of the Nationalist troops they will be quite safe?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is it not a fact that the International Brigade have been withdraw n from the firing line and disarmed?

Mr. Butler

We have been so informed by the League Commissioner.

10. Mr. Gallacher

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any information as to the number of British citizens arrested on 30th January in La Linea; with what offences they have been charged; and what steps have been taken to safeguard their interests?

Mr. Butler

I am informed that no British subjects were arrested at La Linea, although the passes of six were withheld pending the institution of certain inquiries. The passes have since been returned, and the men have resumed their occupations.

16. Mr. Noel-Baker

asked the Prime Minister whether he can make a statement concerning the recent negotiations with General Franco with regard to compensation for British ships illegally sunk by armed forces under his command?

19. Mr. Parker

asked the Prime Minister what action he proposes to take to secure compensation from the Spanish insurgent authorities for the damage done to British shipping trading to Government Spain; when this is to be taken; and whether he will consider confiscating property belonging to the insurgent Gov- ernment and its supporters in this country to meet these claims?

Mr. Butler

I can at the moment add nothing to the reply given to the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) on 1st February about compensation for deliberate attacks on British ships. His Majesty's Government have always made it clear that the special procedure proposed for such claims is entirely without prejudice to the Government's right to present claims in respect of damage done in other classes of cases, and where necessary they have explicitly reserved the right to claim for compensation in respect of such damage. Confiscation of the property of the Burgos authorities and their supporters in the United Kingdom would amount to a policy of retaliation, on which, for reasons already explained to the House, His Majesty's Government are not prepared to embark.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Does the answer mean that the Government have so far received no reply to their last communication to General Franco, 10 days ago?

Mr. Butler

We have inquired by telegram over the week-end, and I understand to-day that a reply has been received, and that it is now being sent home.

Sir H. Croft

Is it not a fact that as long as recognition is not given to the Nationalist Government there is only one Government responsible for paying compensation in Spain, and that is the Republican Government?

17. Mr. Noel-Baker

asked the Prime Minister whether, during his recent visit to Italy, he proposed to Signor Mussolini that the Italian troops now in Spain should be withdrawn, in accordance with the provisions of the plan unanimously agreed to by the Non-Intervention Committee on 5th July, 1938?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)

I have nothing to add to the full statement on the subject of the Rome conversations which I made on 31st January. The hon. Member will, however, remember that before the entry into force of the Anglo-Italian Agreement, the Italian Government had already given an assurance that they would withdraw their forces from Spain, according to the provisions of the Non-Intervention Committee's plan, if and when that plan came into operation.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Have the Italian Government at any time given any reasons why they should not themselves carry out the plan to which they agreed?

The Prime Minister

Perhaps the hon. Member will put that question down.

20. Mr. Arthur Henderson

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that Signor Mussolini has declared his willingness to stand by the British plan, which was adopted by the Non-Intervention Committee in July, 1937, it is now proposed to bring the British plan into operation so as to ensure the complete withdrawal of all foreign volunteers from Spain?

Mr. Butler

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave him on 31st January, to which I have nothing to add.

Mr. Henderson

Is the Under-Secretary aware of the resolution that was passed by the Fascist Grand Council on Saturday last, that there was no intention of withdrawing Italian volunteer forces until General Franco had achieved complete victory; and does not that indicate that the Italian Government have not the slightest intention of withdrawing their forces?

Mr. Butler

I should prefer to rely upon the assurances given to the Prime Minister, and in my answer I referred to the specific point of the Non-Intervention Committee's plan.

24. Mr. W. Roberts

asked the Prime Minister whether the Government have made any protest with regard to the bombing of the steamship "Stanbrook" on 21st January in the Mediterranean, seven miles from Barcelona?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir, and a request for an immediate investigation was made.

Mr. Roberts

Has General Franco been requested to make an investigation?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir.

25 and 26. Mr. W. Roberts

asked the Prime Minister (1) whether the Burgos authorities now deny that they ever agreed to pay compensation for damage done by deliberate attacks on British ships;

(2) whether he will publish the note from the Burgos authorities upon receipt of which he announced in July the willingness of the Burgos authorities to pay compensation?

Mr. Butler

The Burgos authorities have never denied their ultimate liability to pay compensation for the damage caused in these attacks though, as the House is already aware, misunderstandings have arisen regarding the date at which such compensation is to be paid. Since the substance of the note which was received from the Burgos authorities in July last on this subject was given by the Prime Minister in his speech on 26th July publication seems unnecessary.

Mr. Roberts

Are we to understand that the Burgos authorities have ever agreed to pay compensation?

Mr. Butler

They have never denied their ultimate liability.

Mr. Roberts

Have they ever accepted their ultimate liability?

Mr. Butler

As the hon. Member will be aware, there is an exchange of notes with the Burgos authorities on this subject of the payment of compensation going on at the present time.

Mr. Roberts

If they have not accepted the ultimate liability, on what did the Prime Minister base his statement in July?

Mr. Butler

The Burgos authorities have never denied their ultimate liability, and we have no reason to suppose that they will.

29. Mr. Thorne

asked the Prime Minister whether he has had any reply to his representations to General Franco on the subject of not allowing reprisals in the conquered territory?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir, General Franco's representative at Burgos states that the commission of acts of revenge would be entirely contrary to his policy and intentions.

30. Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

asked the Prime Minister whether he can make any statement on the reports received from British authorities at Barcelona as to reprisals carried out there by the representatives of General Franco?

Mr. Butler

No acts of reprisal by General Franco's forces in Barcelona have been reported by His Majesty's representative in that town who bears witness to the order and disciplined behaviour of the troops.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that if such reprisals had taken place the British authorities were so situated that the reprisals would have come to their attention?

31. Sir H. Croft

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the official statement of Dr. Negrin on 2nd February, to the effect that Italy and Germany have supplied arms and munitions to the Republican Government, and that contraband supplies and help are now being received from the central and southern regions; and whether the Non-Intervention Committee has ascertained through what port or frontier such supplies have recently reached the Catalonian Government?

Mr. Butler

I have seen reports of this statement in the Press, but I understand that the Non-Intervention Committee have no evidence that such supplies have been sent.

Sir H. Croft

Have the Non-Intervention Committee inquired on the spot since this statement was made; and is it not the fact that there was a declaration throughout the world to that effect, and will my right hon. Friend cause inquiries immediately to be made?

Mr. Butler

I have said that the Non-Intervention Committee have no information, and I have also seen a German denial in the Press.

Mr. W. Roberts

Is it not the fact that the Non-Intervention Committee have no knowledge of either German or Italian armaments going to the Insurgents?

Sir H. Croft

Is my right hon. Friend aware that specific charges have been made that there were 100 aeroplane engines and many aeroplanes and 1000 machine guns still in their packing cases in Barcelona; and cannot he at least make inquiries into that matter, as it is very important?

Mr. Butler

That is dealt with in the next question.

Mr. George Griffiths

Did not the Prime Minister make a statement last week that the other nations could please themselves what they did with regard to arms for Spain?

32. Sir H. Croft

asked the Prime Minister whether he will draw the attention of the Non-Intervention Committee to the claim of the Nationalist forces in Barcelona that large supplies of aeroplane engines, aeroplanes and parts, have been discovered in the actual packing cases and crates in which they arrived; and whether the committee caused or will cause immediate inquiries to be made with a view to discovering the country of origin?

Mr. Butler

His Majesty's Government can only bring before the Non-Intervention Committee cases for which they can themselves vouch.

33. Sir H. Croft

asked the Prime Minister whether the committee investigating the bombing of non-military objectives has received an official estimate from the Nationalist and Republican Governments, respectively, of the casualties inflicted by enemy air attack upon towns, as distinct from ports, munition areas, or military centres, in the zones occupied by their respective Governments?

Mr. Butler

The Commission of Investigation have not, so far as I am aware, received any such official estimates from either the Spanish Government or the Burgos authorities. I am, however, making inquiries on the subject.

Sir H. Croft

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that official estimates have been given by both parties in Spain, and that the Nationalists say 9,000 casualties of civilians in open towns, and will he look into this matter?

Mr. Butler

I have said that I am making inquiries on the subject.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Why not suggest to General Franco that it would be better that the British Mission should inquire into the matter as well as having an inquiry on the Government side?

Mr. Butler

The British Mission is certainly available for such a purpose.

Forward to