HC Deb 19 June 1939 vol 348 cc1794-8
21. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government have now received any official representations from the Japanese Government adopting the demands put forward by the Japanese spokesman at Tientsin; and whether he can make a further statement on the position at Tientsin?

10. Mr. R. Morgan

asked the Prime Minister whether, in regard to her action at Tientsin, Japan is endeavouring to make a test case affecting the International Settlements in China, and, in any decision at which the British Government arrives, will this factor be taken into consideration?

19. Mr. David Adams

asked the Prime Minister whether the British Government propose at Tientsin to maintain, in view of the gravity of the principle involved, the inviolability of the British settlement?

28 and 29. Mr. Moreing

asked the Prime Minister (1) whether his attention has been called to the case of Mr. H. G. Mackenzie, of Aberystwyth, who was stripped of his clothing by Japanese searchers, and of Mr. Ivor House, of Alverstoke, Hampshire, who was roughly handled and struck by a Japanese officer at the exit from the British Concession at Tientsin on 15th June; whether any other British subjects have been submitted to a similar indignity; and what action he has taken or proposes to take to prevent the maltreatment of British subjects;

(2) whether he can give any information as to the circumstances in which a detachment of the Durham Light Infantry in the British Concession at Tientsin were called up to prevent the Chinese mob, acting under the instructions of Japanese agitators, from rushing the barricades into the British Concession?

33. Commander Bower

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the Japanese have declared martial law on the river between Tientsin and the sea, and have stopped all traffic between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.; and what provision has been made to keep communications open between the British Concession and the sea?

The Prime Minister

On 15th June a crowd gathered by Chinese and Korean agitators collected outside the British Concession. A detachment of the Durham Light Infantry were sent to support the British Municipal Police, but were later withdrawn when the mob had been reduced to about 200. The barrier restrictions at Tientsin continue. All British subjects have been held up at the barriers and rigorously searched, and in some cases were subjected to indignity. The entry of perishable foodstuffs and ice into the British Concession has been delayed by rigid search carried out at the barriers, and continues, therefore, to be spasmodic. Normal supplies are reported to be reaching the market in the adjoining French Concession. No special arrangements appear to be called for as yet, but further information on the subject is being sought from the authorities on the spot.

On the morning of 18th June, two British coasting steamers came up river to Tientsin without stoppage or search. Generally speaking, however, British vessels, including tugs and lighters, have been stopped and searched by the Japanese military authorities.

Protests have been addressed by His Majesty's Consul-General at Tientsin to his Japanese colleague, and His Majesty's Ambassador at Tokyo has been instructed to take these matters up with the Japanese Government.

The general position is not yet clear. It would appear that the original demand for the handing over of the four men has been confused by the introduction of larger issues of general policy. No formal representations have been received from the Japanese Government on this subject, and it is still hoped that a local settlement will be found possible. His Majesty's Government cannot but believe that the Japanese Government share their own desire not to widen the area of disagreement or to render more acute an already difficult situation. At the same time they are fully alive to the reactions of the present dispute on the position of other British and International Settlements in China.

My Noble Friend the Foreign Secretary is seeing the Japanese Ambassador today, and His Majesty's Ambassador at Tokyo is endeavouring to clarify the situation with the Japanese Government. As I informed the House on Thursday last, His Majesty's Government is maintaining the closest touch with the French and American Governments.

I will, of course, make a further statement at the earliest possible opportunity.

Mr. Henderson

Does the offer of His Majesty's Government that the question of the four Chinese suspects should be settled by an international advisory committee still hold good?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir it still holds good.

Mr. Eden

Can we assume that it has been made clear from that statement that all concerned now understand that it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to ensure that supplies of foodstuffs for these British subjects reach them, if necessary?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. Of course we are making inquiries into that point, and will take whatever steps may be necessary to ensure them supplies of foodstuffs.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the blockade at Kulangsu is being maintained, or whether it has been withdrawn?

The Prime Minister

I think it is being maintained.

31. Mr. Bellenger

asked the Prime Minister whether any special arrangements are being made to provide adequate food supplies for those residing in the British concessions at Tientsin and Kulangsu?

Mr. Butler

For the position at Tientsin, I would refer the hon. Member to the statement just made by the Prime Minister. The food situation at Kulangsu is not yet acute, but difficulties may arise concerning supplies of firewood, meat and vegetables. A food committee has been formed, and it is hoped to arrange for supplies from other ports by British ships.

Mr. Bellenger

In view of the alarming reports reaching this country as to actual food shortage at both these places, and particularly at Kulangsu, will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that, if necessary, His Majesty's Government will take direct action to see that our nationals are properly and adequately fed?

Mr. Butler

The hon. Member will have heard the assurances given by the Prime Minister on the subject of Tientsin. With regard to Kulangsu, it is hoped that supplies will be secured by British ships from other ports.

Mr. J. Morgan

Have the Government taken steps to see that the problem of Kulangsu shall be treated at the same time as that of Tientsin, so that there may be settlement of the whole problem?

Mr. Butler

The importance of Kulangsu is fully recognised by the Government.

34. Commander Bower

asked the Prime Minister whether it is proposed to increase the naval forces in the neighbourhood of Tientsin for the protection of the British Concession; and whether he is aware that at this season there is ample depth of water in the river for protective vessels?

The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Colonel Llewellin)

Owing to the depth of water over the Taku Bar, the largest ship which can reach Tientsin is His Majesty's ship "Lowestoft," which is there now. It is not at present considered that the presence of other British men-of-war at Taku, which is the nearest point which can be reached by larger ships and which is 30 miles from Tientsin, would be of value. Such ships are available in North China waters if required. As regards the last part of the question, reports on the depths and conditions in the river are regularly received from local sources.