HC Deb 28 July 1943 vol 391 cc1554-8
16. Mr. Ivor Thomas

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what conditions need to be fulfilled before Rome could be regarded as an open city?

Mr. Eden

If the Italian Government approached us in this matter we would consider the question in the circumstances then existing.

Mr. Thomas

Now that we are aware that an invitation has been given to the Italian Government, it would surely be desirable for the House to know whether the conditions are reasonable or not?

Mr. Eden

I think my answer pretty well covers the subject.

Sir A. Southby

Will my right hon. Friend continue to bear in mind the excellent results which have flowed as a result of our bombing of military targets in Rome?

21. Mr. Hannah

asked the Secretary of State for Air what damage was done to the Basilica of S. Lorenzo during the recent bombing of Rome?

The Secretary of State for Air (Sir Archibald Sinclair)

The air photographs so far taken, which were necessarily taken from a great height, do not reveal any damage to this Basilica, which is only 800 yards from the S. Lorenzo marshalling yards. The hon. Member will no doubt be aware, however, of the statement issued by Radio Vatican defining in detail the extent of the damage.

Mr. Hannah

May we take it that the fabric of the church is untouched, so far as we can learn?

Sir A. Sinclair

I am afraid I cannot add to the hon. Member's information about the damage to the church. The damage to the marshalling yards was exceedingly satisfactory.

Mr. I. Thomas

Will my right hon. Friend make these photographs available to hon. Members, for their own inspection? In view of the proved impossibility of bombing targets in the vicinity of Rome without damage to ancient monuments, could this policy be revised?

Sir A. Sinclair

I do not think it would be advisable to ask for facilities for showing these photographs, because hon. Members could not really obtain any information from them.

25. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether the instructions given, and the precautions taken, to avoid the destruction of objects of religious significance and cultural value in Rome were of an unusual character; whether intimations similar to those conveyed to the people of Rome have been, or will be, conveyed to inhabitants of other centres of aerial attack; and whether the announcement of the American President that no response was made to his proposal that Rome should be declared an open city has also been conveyed to the Italian people?

Sir A. Sinclair

All practical precautions were taken to avoid damage to religious and cultural buildings in Rome. As for the second part of the Question, it has been made clear, by broadcast and leaflets, to all the people in the occupied territories in Germany and Italy that the Allied nations intend to attack from the air all centres working for the Axis war machine. Repeated warnings have been given that any civilians who remain in the vicinity of such centres do so at their own risk. As regards the last part of the Question, I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Information that the B.B.C. Italian programmes have conveyed this information to the Italian people on a number of occasions.

Mr. Sorensen

Were the instructions which were given and the precautions which were taken of an unusual character? In view of the new regime in Italy and the change in the political situation there, if a satisfactory reply is given by the present Government to Mr. Roosevelt would Rome then be declared an open city?

Sir A. Sinclair

The second part of the question is hypothetical. As for the first part, I have nothing to add to my original answer.

Mr. Logan

Has the Minister made it clear to the people of Rome that Mussolini wanted the favour of bombing this country, and could he send them a list of the churches which have been bombed here?

Sir A. Sinclair

I think my right hon. Friend the Minister of Information has made that abundantly clear.

Sir A. Southby

Had we not better wait to see which way the cat jumps before we ease up on our aerial bombing of military targets?

Sir A. Sinclair

Most certainly. The Prime Minister said yesterday that our policy is to visit Italy with an avalanche of fire and steel.

Professor Savory

Has not his Holiness the Pope himself declared, through Radio Vatican, that Rome could easily be made an open city?

Sir A. Sinclair

I am sure hon. Members have seen the pronouncements of the Pope, which have been published in the newspapers.

Professor Savory

Have they been sent to Eire?

Mr. I. Thomas

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that it is not our policy to exact an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth? Will he also agree that it is impossible to avoid damage to ancient monuments when bombs are dropped from a height of 20,000 feet?

Sir A. Sinclair

I can assure the hon. Member that the policy of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is entirely foreign to our thought. We are concerned only with bombing important military targets. We cannot be prevented from bombing important military targets because, unfortunately, they happen to be close to ancient monuments.

Mr. Sorensen

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the same principles of discrimination that are applied to Rome are being and will be applied to other centres?

Sir A. Sinclair

The same principles are applied to all centres. We must bomb important military objects. We must not be prevented from bombing important military objects, because beautiful or ancient buildings are near them.

Mr. George Griffiths

Was there any discrimination shown when both Italians and Germans came over this country?

Sir A. Sinclair

No, Sir.

47. Sir Charles Edwards

asked the Prime Minister whether any official reply has been received to the repeated request to the Italians to capitulate; and whether he is satisfied that the apologies for bombing Rome serve any useful purpose and that these requests and apologies are not having the opposite effect to that desired?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)

No, Sir. No official reply has been received to the message in the name of the President and myself, unless the disappearance of Mussolini is to be construed as his own reply to it. As regards the second part of the Question, His Majesty's Government have not made any apology for bombing the marshalling yards near Rome. On the contrary, if they are repaired and hostile military traffic is resumed, they will no doubt have to be bombed again.

Commander Locker-Lampson

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether Mussolini is in the South of Ireland or not?

50. Sir T. Moore

asked the Prime Minister whether he can give the House any information as to the political, military and social consequences of the recent air-raids on Rome?

The Prime Minister

All my information on this subject is highly encouraging.

Sir T. Moore

My right hon. Friend will, of course, appreciate that I put the Ques- tion down before his stimulating description of the fantastic events of the last few days.