HC Deb 11 March 1940 vol 358 cc809-10
1. Mr. Arthur Henderson

asked the Prime Minister whether he can make a statement on the divergence of views which has arisen between the Italian Government and His Majesty's Government over the imports of German coal into Italy?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)

Yes, Sir. I am glad to say that on 9th March agreement was reached with the Italian Government on this subject. It now appears that the instructions issued by Italian authorities for some of the vessels in question to call after 1st March, in spite of our announcement of the date after which control would be exercised, was based on a misunderstanding. Recognising this misunderstanding, His Majesty's Government have agreed to release the ships which have been detained with their cargoes. On the other hand, the Italian Government have undertaken, on their side, that the remainder of the Italian coal ships now in port will leave in ballast, and no further Italian cargo steamers will be sent to those ports to load coal.

I have no doubt that there will be genuine satisfaction in this country over this solution of what might have been a troublesome dispute by the application to the problem of common sense and good will. It may be hoped that the way has now been opened for a resumption of negotiations between our two countries for the furtherance of trade to our mutual advantage.

Mr. Thorne

Is there a possibility of our being able to supply more coal to Italy than recently?

The Prime Minister

That, no doubt, will be the subject of further discussion.

Mr. Kirk wood

In his original reply the Prime Minister said that common sense had been applied. Could not that same common sense be applied to the general situation all over the world at the moment?

The Prime Ministers

It would require more people than one to apply common sense.

32. Mr. Kennedy

asked the Secretary for Mines whether he has any statistics enabling him to state the tonnage of German coal imported into Italy during the six months ended 29th February?

The Secretary for Mines (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)

I regret that the information is not available.