HC Deb 03 April 1940 vol 359 cc164-6
Mr. Noel-Baker (by Private Notice)

asked the Prime Minister whether the terms of the recent speech of His Majesty's Ambassador in Tokyo are an indication of any change in the Far Eastern policy of His Majesty's Government or whether it is intended to fulfil in the letter and in the spirit the policy of support of the National Government of China under the Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek?

Mr. Butler

My Noble Friend has given attention to the speech referred to which His Majesty's Ambassador made at a meeting in Tokyo of the Japan-British Society. It is not customary on such occasions for His Majesty's representatives to submit the text of their speeches in advance, but my Noble Friend is quite ready to accept responsibility for what was said. Meanwhile, I am authorised by the Ambassador to say that he had no intention of suggesting that the policy of His Majesty's Government had undergone any change or that it in any way diverged from that which has been repeatedly explained to the House. It follows from this that there is no question of His Majesty's Government changing their view as to what they continue to regard as the legitimate Government of China. Nor is there any question of a departure from the general attitude which they have adopted towards the Far Eastern question or any modification of their desire to see a settlement of the dispute on equitable terms.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is it not unfortunate that an impression should have been created in Japan that the British people condone aggression in Asia although they are resisting aggression in Europe?

Mr. Butler

I am not aware of any such impression, but I feel satisfied that the terms of my answer will dispel that impression.

Mr. A. Henderson

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in view of the misunderstandings which have been aroused by this speech, he will make it clear again that it still remains the policy of the Government that the provisions of the Nine Power Treaty must continue in operation until they are abrogated or amended by the mutual consent of all the Powers?

Mr. Butler

It has always been our endeavour to conduct our policy in the Far East in accordance with the principles underlying the Nine Power Treaty, and so to keep in step with the French and the American Governments.

Colonel Wedgwood

Has the Under-Secretary's attention been called to the following sentence in the speech of the Ambassador: Both countries —that is England and Japan— are ultimately striving for the same objective, and It is surely not beyond the powers of constructive statesmanship to bring the aims of their national policies into full harmony. May I ask whether His Majesty's Government will emphatically renounce views of that character?

Mr. Butler

It would serve no useful purpose, I think, to seize upon certain expressions in the speech. It is more valuable to accept the statement I made as representing the Government's policy, and I will go further and say that His Majesty's Government see nothing inconsistent with that policy in taking steps to improve their relations with Japan.

Mr. McGovern

Would you not ensure that we should have a war with Japan?