HC Deb 18 April 1940 vol 359 cc1110-2
45. Mr. Arthur Henderson

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any statement to make on the conference of British diplomatic representatives recently held in London?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)

Yes, Sir. His Majesty's Ambassador at Angora and His Majesty's Ministers at Athens, Belgrade, Bucharest, Budapest and Sofia have now left, or are leaving, the United Kingdom to return to their posts after their visit to this country for purposes of consultation. During the nine days or so in which they have been here they have examined, under the chairmanship of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the outstanding problems presented by the situation in South Eastern Europe. His Majesty's Ambassadors in Rome and Moscow, who are also in this country, have assisted at these discussions. The Heads of Missions concerned, who have all been received in audience by His Majesty the King, have had the opportunity also of meeting myself, the Minister of Economic Warfare, the Minister of Information, and members of the Cabinet, with whom they have discussed the questions in which these Ministers are specially interested. His Majesty's Representatives also had an opportunity of hearing from Lord Swinton some account of the new United Kingdom Commercial Corporation and of the work which the Corporation intends to carry out in order to develop and place permanently on a broader basis the trade exchanges between this country and South Eastern European States.

These consultations, which have now been concluded, have afforded evidence of the close interest which His Majesty's Government take in the countries concerned. The purpose of the discussions has been, in accordance with the settled policy of His Majesty's Government, the preservation of peace and the promotion of security in the Balkans and Danubian countries. No one of these States, between whom it is the desire of the Allies to see the growth of a mutual understanding, has any cause to fear that the Allies or their forces will ever threaten their independence or integrity.

In the economic field the discussions have been conducted on the basis that it is the policy of His Majesty's Government so to develop their relations with these countries as to ensure, so far as possible, a lasting increase in their commercial exchanges with them.

Mr. Henderson

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether his reply also means that any threat to the freedom and independence of any of the South Eastern nations will be a matter of grave concern to His Majesty's Government?

The Prime Minister

I have already expressed the concern which His Majesty's Government feel for the situation in the Balkans and their desire to promote peace and to establish security in that region.

Mr. Thorne

I take it that this country does not want to pinch anybody else's country?

Mr. McGovern

No, we have enough—all that we can handle.