HC Deb 15 June 1939 vol 348 cc1508-10
Mr. Greenwood (by Private Notice)

asked the Prime Minister whether he is in a position to make any statement regarding the situation in Tientsin

The Prime Minister

The Japanese blockade of the British Concession at Tientsin began at 6 a.m. on 14th June. British subjects and other foreigners are being detained and searched at the barriers. I understand that food supplies are being allowed into the Concession, but there would appear to be a tendency for prices to rise. There has also been interference with British shipping up and down the river. The British military authorities have taken all precautions possible for the maintenance of order, and His Majesty's Ship '' Lowestoft'' is moored alongside the Bund of the British Concession.

His Majesty's Ambassador at Tokyo has made full representations to the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs and has been instructed to point out the danger of provocative action by local Japanese which might lead to regretable incidents. Sir R. Craigie has further drawn attention to the serious implications of the statement made by the Japanese military spokesman at Tientsin to the effect that the questions at issue cannot now be settled by the handing over of the accused men, but that the objective of the blockade is to secure a much wider form of co-operation from the British authorities in North China. It is clear that if this statement represents the views of the authorities in Tokyo, the Japanese are using the incident to make demands far wider and more far-reaching than the question of the handing over of the four men. Such demands would raise important questions of policy, in which other great Powers are concerned no less than this country, and the closest touch is being maintained with the French and American Governments. In the meantime His Majesty's Government are considering the situation created by the refusal of the Japanese to accept their proposal for a committee of inquiry and by the continuance of the blockade of the Concession.

Mr. Arthur Henderson

In view of the apparent intention of the Japanese Government to compel His Majesty's Government to adopt a policy contrary to the principles of the Nine-Power Treaty, may I ask whether His Majesty's Government intend to invoke Article 7 of that Treaty, which provides for full consultation between the signatories of the Treaty when a situation arises which is contrary to the principles of the Treaty?

The Prime Minister

The situation is obviously a grave one. His Majesty's Government are considering it in all its aspects, and I am not prepared at this moment to say what action they may decide to take.

Sir John Wardlaw-Milne

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether, in considering the measures to be taken, he will consider the desirability of giving notice to the Japanese Government that, if the blockade is not raised within 24 hours, the Anglo-Japanese Agreement of 1911 will be denounced forthwith?

The Prime Minister

I do not think I can add anything to the statement which I have made.

Mr. Mander

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the desirability, in order to emphasise the international aspect of this matter in addition to the British, of calling a special meeting of the Council of the League of Nations to consider what steps can be taken? May I ask for an answer to that question?

The Prime Minister

I cannot say what action His Majesty's Government may decide to take.

Mr. Herbert Morrison

Is the Prime Minister of the opinion that this grave situation is the direct result of the policy pursued by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer when he was Foreign Secretary?

Mr. Bellenger

In view of the anxiety for the safety of the people there, may I ask whether the Prime Minister has any information that the British residents have an ample supply of food, including fresh vegetables?

The Prime Minister

I have given the House all the information I have.