HC Deb 17 July 1940 vol 363 cc188-9
3. Sir Ralph Glyn

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can give any information as to the British residents in France who were embarked in French ships at Marseilles soon after the armistice was agreed between France and Italy and proceeded from that port to Oran; and whether steps are being taken to arrange for an exchange between French persons in this country anxious to return to France under the new circumstances and British residents who were in France and now find themselves at French African ports without any means of returning?

Mr. Butler

Full information on this question is being sought through the United States authorities. The second part of my hon. Friend's Question will receive the attention of His Majesty's Government.

Sir R. Glyn

Is there any information as to how many British subjects are in fact still in France?

Mr. Butler

We have not exact information. That is why we are seeking it through the United States authorities.

4. Mr. Lawson

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on what dates did British consular officers leave Nice, Toulon and Marseilles; had all other British nationals left before those dates; and were instructions sent from London regarding the evacuation of British nationals from southern France?

Mr. Butler

After consultation with His Majesty's Embassy at Bordeaux, His Majesty's Consuls-General at Marseilles and Nice left their posts on 18th and 19th June respectively. The British Vice-Consul at Toulon left for Marseilles on 17th June. In the case of Marseilles and Toulon, my information is that all British residents who at that time wished to leave were evacuated by sea from Marseilles simultaneously with the consular officers concerned. From the Nice district some 1,500 British subjects were evacuated by sea from Cannes, but several hundreds unfortunately remained for whom no transport of any kind could he obtained, in spite of all the endeavours of His Majesty's Consul-General. It was in these circumstances that the Consul-General, realising that he could no longer render any effective aid to British subjects by remaining at Nice, left by road for Spain and was able to arrange with the Spanish frontier authorities for the entry into Spain of a large number of British refugees from France who had found their way to the frontier. He is now in the South of France but is not allowed by the French authorities to act in any official capacity. Instructions were sent from the Foreign Office by telegraph on 15th June advising His Majesty's Consul-General at Marseilles, who was in touch with His Majesty's Consul-General at Nice, to co-operate with the Sea Transport Officer and to evacuate British subjects by any British ship available. Appropriate instructions were also issued by the Admiralty and the Ministry of Shipping. The hon. Member will no doubt appreciate the difficulty of providing British shipping for purposes of this kind at a moment when very heavy calls were being made on it for the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force and Allied Armies in France.