HC Deb 27 January 1944 vol 396 cc864-6
Sir Malcolm Robertson

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has any statement to make on the rupture of relations between Argentina and the Axis Powers.

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir. The House will recall that; on 27th September, 1943, His Majesty's Government publicly announced their disappointment that successive Argentine Governments should have maintained a policy of neutrality which left Axis nationals free to conspire on Argentine soil against the interests and security of the United Nations. In their reply the Argentine Government reciprocated our desire for friendship, but denied that it was still the case that harm might come to the security and interests of the United Nations from action organised from Argentine territory. The Argentine Government added that should, nevertheless, any incident occur, punishment would be swift and inexorable, and they reaffirmed their determination to work for closer relations with this country.

Some little time later, His Majesty's Government decided, on the basis of information in their possession, to detain the Argentine national Helmuth on his way from Argentina to Europe. The information which, as a result, we were subsequently in a position to furnish to the Argentine Government, led to the latter's decision, made public on 22nd January, to hold an investigation into the existence of an enemy espionage organisation on Argentine territory. The announcement also stated that a number of persons had already been detained, and that appropriate sanctions would be applied against those responsible, in order to put an end to all activity contrary to the international policy of the Argentine nation.

On 26th January, the Argentine Foreign Minister announced that his Government had decided to break off relations with Germany and Japan.

His Majesty's Government welcome the news that Argentina has, as they have always desired, at last abandoned her neutrality.

They confidently expect that the formal act of rupture will be followed by immediate and effective action against the whole spy organisation, and that not only will German and Japanese officials and those of other enemy or enemy associated countries be expelled from Argentina as soon as possible, but that steps will also be taken to put an end to all undesirable enemy activity on Argentine soil. It is by such action that the Argentine Government can most effectively and quickly dispel the anxiety inspired by a number of recent developments in that country, which I need not further specify.

I may mention that we have already told the Argentine Government, in reply to a request from them, that we shall be glad to help them in their investigations. I must add that His Majesty's Government have been in the closest touch throughout with the Government of the United States of America, and that the exchange of information and views between our two Governments has been of the fullest, frankest, and most cordial nature.

Mr. Lipson

Are there any other Governments in South America which have not broken off relations with the Axis?

Mr. Eden

No, I think not.

Sir Alfred Beit

Will the Foreign Secretary say whether it is proposed to return Consul Helmuth to the Argentine?

Mr. Eden

I should like to have a little notice of that Question.

Mr. Neil Maclean

Is it not the case that, in a number of other South American Republics, this infiltration has been going on over a number of years, and that most of the Republics in South America published the details of the Nazi conspiracy, particularly in Brazil and in Peru; and will the right hon. Gentleman make inquiries from the Governments of these two Republics, particularly, and from Colombia as well, as to what has been going on and what those Governments have found out?

Mr. Eden

As I have said, our information—and events show that it is good information—did lead us to believe that the Axis embassies in Buenos Aires were the centre of this espionage activity. I am sure that judgment was correct.