HC Deb 15 March 1939 vol 345 cc383-5
11. Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

asked the Prime Minister the circumstances under which the British ship "Stangate" was captured by Spanish warships; what action has been taken; and what orders have been issued to our naval authorities regarding the declaration of an illegal blockade of the Spanish coast?

Mr. Butler

The steamship "Stangate" was arrested by a Spanish warship on the evening of 10th March at a position on the high seas of Gandia, and was ordered to proceed to Palma. On learning of the arrest of this ship from the steamship "Leilwyn" (the "Stangate" having no wireless), the British naval authorities ordered His Majesty's Ship "Intrepid" to intercept her and secure her release; this was successfully effected within a short time. His Majesty's ships have been instructed that their present orders remain unchanged by the Spanish Government's announcement of measures to prevent access to that part of the coast in possession of their adversaries.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in reference to the political conditions in Spain public opinion is perturbed by the apparent in ability of the Government to secure proper treatment for British ships which are un doubtedly proceeding on their lawful occasions?

Mr. Butler

I think that in this case the action of the British Navy has been very successful.

Mr. Wedgwood Benn

In view of the orders given to the Navy how does it come about that the "Stangrove" made a journey from Barcelona to Palma and that no attempt was made to rescue her when she was under an armed escort?

Mr. Butler

The "Stangrove" had no wireless.

An Hon. Member

Neither had the "Stangate."

Major-General Sir Alfred Knox

Can the right hon. Gentleman say who is the owner of this ship?

13. Mr. Watkins

asked the Prime Minister whether he has now completed his inquiries regarding the law of political responsibilities promulgated by General Franco on 9th February, 1939, under which every Spanish citizen who did not belong to the insurgent movement, and all who belong to opposing parties, are liable to penalties ranging from 15 years' imprisonment to confiscation of property and loss of nationality; whether he is now satisfied that this law has been cancelled by General Franco's assurances to Britain in return for the recognition of General Franco; and whether he can now make a statement on the steps he proposes to ameliorate the suffering of the people who would be affected by the operation of this law?

Mr. Butler

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Mr. Garro Jones) on 9th March, to which I have at present nothing to add.

Mr. Watkins

Do I understand from that answer that the British Government are prepared to use their influence to prevent this wholesale persecution of large numbers of people in Spain?

Mr. Butler

I said on the last occasion that we are making further inquiries in regard to the matter, and until the' are completed I am not in a position to make any further statement.

Mr. Watkins

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when those inquiries are likely to be completed?

Mr. Butler

I hope as soon as possible.