HC Deb 21 June 1939 vol 348 cc2199-202
1 and 2. Mr. Day

asked the Prime Minister (1) particulars of the incidents reported to him of the number of British subjects who have been stripped and searched by Japanese troops at the barriers of Tientsin; what reports have been received of the food situation; and in what way the Japanese naval authorities are attempting to prevent, food supplies reaching their destinations;

(2) what reply has been received by His Majesty's Government to the protest lodged with the Imperial Government of Japan on the incidents which marked the blockade of the British Concession at Tientsin; and will he give particulars of the British troops who are at present guarding the Concession?

8. Mr. Arthur Henderson

asked the Prime Minister whether he can now make a statement on the recent negotiations between His Majesty's Government and the Japanese Government on the Tientsin incidents?

13. Mr. Hannah

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any further statement to make about the position in Tientsin?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)

Barrier restrictions have remained the same. Four British subjects have been stripped and searched, but no further incidents are reported in the latest telegram received from His Majesty's Consul-General. It was announced by the Japanese News Agency that the barbed wire encircling the British and French Concessions would be electrically charged from the late evening of 19th June. As regards stocks of food, there are ample supplies of flour and rice in the British Concession; arrivals of perishable foodstuffs remain spasmodic and far below normal. There would appear to be no ban on foodstuffs entering the Concession, but the Japanese authorities claim that all such commodities as vegetables have to be searched at the barriers and this causes considerable delay. As regards shipping, matters have considerably improved, and ships using the river have latterly not been stopped by the Japanese military authorities.

The various incidents which have marked the enforcement of the blockade have been taken up by His Majesty's Ambassador at Tokyo with the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs. who has promised to institute inquiries into the various cases of discrimination and ill-treatment brought to his notice. The position of the Japanese Government on the main issues concerned is still not clear, and it is not yet decided whether these issues are to be discussed in Tokyo or Tientsin, but we expect to hear further on these matters to-day or to-morrow.

Of the battalion which forms the British garrison in North China, rather more than one-half is, according to the latest strength returns, now stationed in Tientsin.

Mr. Day

Have reports been received of any Britons being roughly manhandled by Japanese troops?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, we have had such reports.

Mr. Day

Is anything being done with regard to these cases?

The Prime Minister

The matter has been taken up, as I said in my answer.

Mr. A. Henderson

Does the answer mean that the Japanese Government have not yet precisely formulated any grievances they may have against this country; and, if that be so, does it not make these cases more difficult?

The Prime Minister

Yes, it does. We hope they will formulate any grievances.

Mr. Eden

Has Sir Robert Craigie, in his conversations with the Japanese Government, made it quite plain that the Government are not prepared to acquiesce in this blockade, and that they are prepared to take any steps they may think necessary to ensure supplies to British subjects in the British Concession?

The Prime Minister

I have already stated, in answer to my right hon. Friend, that our Ambassador in Tokyo has made it quite clear to the Japanese Government that we cannot acquiesce in the blockade.

Mr. Wedgwood Benn

Can the Prime Minister say anything about the attitude of the United States?

Lieut.-Colonel Heneage

Have the Japanese Government been informed that there are Japanese subjects in the Colonies, and that their places may very well be taken by Indians?

Sir Archibald Sinclair

Are steps being taken about food?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, the matter has been under constant examination.

Mr. Gallacher

Are the Government prepared to enter into negotiations before the blockade is removed?

Mr. Vyvyan Adams

Is the possibility of conveying food by air being considered?

The Prime Minister

The whole position is being considered. But the question arises as to where the food is to come from.

Mr. Gallacher

Can I have an answer to my question?

12. Colonel Wedgwood

asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government have had communication with the Government of the: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics over the situation in Tientsin and Japanese action?

7. Mr. Boothby

asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government are keeping in touch with the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics regarding the situation in China?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Colonel Wedgwood

In view of the gravity of this morning's news, could the right hon. Gentleman not supplement Mr. Strang's mission by authorising staff talks with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics at the earliest possible moment?

The Prime Minister

We must come to an agreement first.

Colonel Wedgwood

Must we wait for the settlement of the agreement before we can get staff talks?

The Prime Minister