HC Deb 13 May 1953 vol 515 cc1343-82

Motion made, and Question proposed. "That this House do now adjourn."— [Mr. Kaberry.]

8.25 p.m.

Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield, East)

I understood that the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor) intended to raise the question of Anglo-Spanish relations on the Adjournment. He does not appear to be here at the moment. I had been hoping to follow him after he spoke, but perhaps I may be allowed to open the Adjournment debate. No doubt the hon. Member will appear during my speech. It seems very discourteous to the Under-Secretary who is here to reply and who, I understand, has forgone a dinner engagement to do so, that the hon. Member is absent from the Chamber.

I think this is rather an unfortunate time to raise this matter of Anglo-Spanish relations. After the two days' debate on foreign affairs which we have had yesterday and the day before, in which there was shown to be a great deal of agreement on both sides of the House. it seems a pity that this bone of contention should be thrown into the Chamber. At the present time there appears to be a somewhat better atmosphere, of which we are trying to take advantage with a view to relieving tension, and if we made any approaches to Spain at this stage and appeared to be condoning the Fascist regime which exists there it would certainly make it more difficult to reach any agreement—if agreement is on the cards—with Russia and her allies.

It is also unfortunate that at this stage the United States should have reached an agreement with General Franco about the use of military bases and airfields in Spain in return for providing a certain amount of economic aid. It is unfortunate, if N.A.T.O. means what it says and if the Preamble to the Treaty— which supports the maintenance of democracy in the free world—is sincere, that one of its chief partners should make an alliance with a country whose regime is the complete negation of democracy. It undermines the purpose and the effect of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

It would be most unfortunate if anything were done now to put our relations with Franco on to a different basis from that which now exists. Admittedly, the relations are not satisfactory in many directions, but that is due to Spain herself and not through any fault of ours. In Spain there is, as it were, a political hangover from the civil war. The present regime was founded on Fascism. There was a civil war, in which those who were supporting democracy were striving to maintain it. Unfortunately, the Fascist element, backed by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, won the day and Franco, who was thereby installed in power by force, has remained in power and has continued to maintain a police State, not allowing any vestige of freedom to remain in Spain.

One can substantiate these accusations against Spain today by instances of what is occurring there. Only a few weeks ago I had occasion to draw attention to certain arrests that had taken place. There were some in Madrid and a larger number in Barcelona. Persons were arrested for no other reason than that they were organising opposition to the existing regime. They were not engaged in any terrorist activities, or in anything that would be considered illegal in this country; but because they were opposed to the Franco regime they were arrested. One of those arrested, Senor Centano, was imprisoned in Madrid, and within a very short time he is alleged to have com-mited suicide. The information we had was that he was driven to his death by the ill-treatment and brutality he received in prison.

What is important to bear in mind is that there are at present in the prisons in Barcelona—if that is where they are imprisoned: there is no definite information as to where they are in prison—a number of persons arrested who have not been brought to trial. There they are under arrest in prison, and they have not been given any trial whatsoever. They have been held so for many weeks, and political trials are, of course, a feature of the Fascist Franco régime.

What we can do is to make it known to the Spanish authorities that we strongly oppose the system which is being followed there of arresting people simply because they exercise what are the normal freedoms, the normal human rights—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hopkin Morris)

Order. What occurs in Spain among the Spaniards is not a matter within the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government, and I do not see what this has to do with Her Majesty's Government's relations with Spain.

Mr. Davies

I did not realise that it was out of order to criticise a foreign Government's policy on the Adjournment.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

So far as our relations with that foreign country are concerned, it is not; but otherwise it is.

Mr. Davies

What I am suggesting, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, is that our Government should make a protest to the Spanish Government against the holding of those people in prison and their not bringing them to trial. I do suggest to the Under-Secretary of State that action should be taken.

The second reason why I think that we cannot accept Spain as a member of the comity of nations of the free world at present is that there is still considerable religious persecution in Spain. There were Questions in this House over a year ago concerning an attack on the British owned Protestant church in Seville. Representations were made to the Spanish Government. Perhaps the Undersecretary of State can tell us tonight what has been the response of the Spanish Government to those representations, whether any compensation has been received, and whether steps have been taken to prevent further outrages of that nature.

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman saw yesterday an article in the "News Chronicle" headed, "Spain Plays Cat and Mouse with her Protestants." It was an objective, responsible article, in my view, which drew attention to the continued persecution of the 28, 000 Protestants in Spain. It said that the clergy were prevented from preaching and from holding Protestant services. That, I think, is something against which we should lodge our objections as occasion demands.

Then there are small matters which indicate that Spain is not anxious to establish friendly relations with us for one reason or another. There has been a most ridiculous business over the Coronation. No reference is allowed in the Spanish Press to the fact that the Coronation is shortly to take place in this country. I understand that British European Airways have had almost surreptitiously to advertise the fact that they are running flights to Britain so that people may attend the Coronation.

No advertisements are permitted and no reference is permitted to the Coronation. Why, I do not know. It is a matter for the Spaniards themselves, but it does seem to me to be a ridiculous position, when they want to establish friendly relations with us, that on this great occasion in this country they should forbid their people to hear about the ceremony which is to take place.

When I raised on the Adjournment some months ago the question of lifting the ban on arms to Spain, the Undersecretary, who replied, justified the fact that we were allowing Spain to purchase arms from this country on economic grounds. I subsequently put some questions to him concerning the quantity of arms which had been sent and on 1st April, 1953, he informed my hon. Friend the Member for Goole (Mr. G. Jeger) that military material to the value of £2, 500 had been sent to Spain from this country, that approximately £300, 000 of "common-use items" had been sent, and licences had been approved for the export of a quantity of wireless receivers and transmitters for aircraft and for 15 items of marine radar at a value of approximately £40, 000.

It seems to me most unfortunate that we should give the impression of condoning the Franco regime by lifting this ban on arms for economic gain when all we obtain is the petty sum of a few hundred thousand pounds. It is ridiculous that we should sacrifice our political principles and our moral principles to have some economic gain, and what makes it even more ridiculous is that the economic gain turns out to be almost negligible. Perhaps the Under-Secretary can tell us tonight whether there has been an increase in the sales of war material to Spain, where he still stands on his justification for sacrificing principles for economic gain and whether that economic gain is worth while. I very much doubt it.

I think that the moral loss that has resulted in lifting the ban on arms to Spain is far greater than can be recouped through sales to that country. After all, what is Spain doing to help us with our trade? There were Questions put to the President of the Board of Trade, again by my hon. Friend the Member for Goole, and, in reply to those questions, it emerged that Spain, although she has a very large sterling balance at present was not using that sterling balance to purchase goods from this country; in fact, she was putting obstacles in the way of trading with this country.

The President of the Board of Trade stated, in reply to a supplementary question: I am satisfied that the Spanish authorities could issue licences more freely than at present…."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th March, 1953; Vol. 513, c. 831.] That was the object, he said, of a meeting which was to take place. He made that statement on 26th March, 1953. I should like to know whether that meeting has taken place with the Spanish authorities and whether there has been any result from it. Is Spain now issuing licences more freely for the purchase of goods from this country? So far as I understand, the position is that we are buying considerable quantities of goods and materials from Spain and the adverse balance is stall considerable. Spain is doing nothing whatsoever to assist us to close the gap. She uses the sterling which she obtains from the sales of goods to us to purchase goods from our competitors.

When a country's trading relations with us are on that basis, is it reasonable for us to make friendly approaches to her and to bring our relations on to a more friendly basis? The reason why our relations with Spain are bad is not only because of the basis on which the Franco regime exists, the way in which it was created and the manner in which the administration is carried on, but because Spain herself is putting difficulties in our way.

I do not see any reason why we should woo Franco at the present time. It is most unfortunate, from the point of view of the people inside Spain, if we give the impression that we are assisting Franco to maintain his régime, that we support what he is doing and that we want to bring him into the comity of free nations in Europe and the Atlantic Community. It is most unfortunate for those inside Spain, the vast majority of whom, I am certain, are opposed to the Franco regime but are helpless and are unable to get rid of the régime because of the political persecutions which exist. If we give this wrong impression, that we are supporting Franco at this time, it will discourage the Spanish people and drive them finally into the Communist camp.

The argument put up in the House from time to time—the hon. Member for Eastbourne is most discourteous to the House in not being here to take his Adjournment debate—is that we should support Spain and bring her into our alliance in order to keep Communism outside Spain. The surest way of driving Spain to Communism is to maintain Franco and to discourage the democratic forces in Spain, or those in Spain who still believe in democracy, by supporting his regime. They will then, in despair, be driven into the Communist camp.

Spain has become of great significance to the democratic world. It was in Spain that the first real fight against Fascism occurred, a fight which, unfortunately, failed tragically, but the memory of democracy's first fight against Fascism lingers on and we want to keep the memory alive. We do not want, for the sake of economic gain, in the false belief that we are strengthening ourselves against Communism, to wipe out the memory of what occurred in Spain, to sacrifice our principles and now to condone what we have previously condemned. If the Western world is sincere in its determination to preserve democracy it cannot accept into the membership of free nations a country in which all the human rights which are man's inheritance are denied.

8.49 p.m.

Air Commodore A. V. Harvey (Macclesfield)

We have listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies). Let me say at the outset that my views about Franco are similar to his own, but not regarding the 30 million proud people who live in Spain. The hon. Gentleman had the benefit of being the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the Labour Government and is well versed in all the difficulties about this matter. If he thinks that by making the speech which he has done tonight the Spaniards will overthrow Franco and issue some more licences for trading, he is making a very great mistake. The one way to keep Franco there is to abuse him in the House of Commons.

The hon. Member has talked about a "political hangover." How long can one go on having a political hangover? There are in Spain 30 million people, mostly peasants—a great many of them living on a very narrow margin, with just sufficient to eat, suffering from frequent great droughts—and the upper class, which has great wealth, is a small percentage. I should have thought that the purpose of our discussion was to see what we could do for Spain to improve the standard of living of the people there in exactly the same way as we are doing under the Colombo Plan and in Yugoslavia. Franco is very insignificant compared with 30 million men, women and children. Let us be a bit big about these things.

I have no time for Franco whatsoever. I have been to Spain once, two or three years ago. I questioned many people about Franco. They told me, "We do not think much of him, but we could do much worse." That was the consensus of opinion I got after speaking to all types of families. We have got to try, to the best of our ability, to improve their economic position, and the one way we can do it is to trade with them as a nation. We shall not do much by abusing the Spaniards, or the Russians or anyone else if we want to trade with them.

The hon. Member talked about armaments going to Spain. The figures that he quoted show that the amount is negligible. As I see it, the equipment that is being sent to Spain is not of very high quality and certainly is not very modern. They are no advertisement for British engineering. If we are going to send armaments to Spain let us send good ones. When I was there two years ago the American air mission, over 100 strong, was concentrating on propaganda for American aircraft. I spoke to our air attache, who was a young wing commander. I asked him how he got around Madrid, and whether he had a motorcar. He said he had not, that he went on a bicycle. That is not the way to run our affairs.

My own firm, Handley Page, of which I have the honour to be Deputy-Chairman, last year had a visit from a Spaniard who wanted to buy 25 Canberra aircraft, an order for which had not been allowed by the Ministry of Supply. The Canberras are not the latest aircraft. In fact, they are one of the oldest types of jets, but the Spaniard would be very glad to have taken them, and British workers would have been employed on their construction.

If we do not take advantage of this market the Americans are going to do so. Then we will only try to do so when the Americans are in. I saw this happen 15 to 20 years ago in China. The Americans got in first. I am not suggesting that we should bolster up Spain and build up for that country a great air force and a great army. But we have to trade with other nations to live, and if we do not supply Spain with military aircraft we shall not supply her with civil aircraft, which in our case can improve our economy and build up our trading position.

I do not agree with the hon. Member for Enfield, East in what he said about Spain not being accepted in the comity of nations because of what Franco did 15 to 17 years ago.

Mr. Ernest Davies

And is doing still.

Air Commodore Harvey

He is not doing it to the same degree. If we could have better relations with Spain Franco might mend his ways, which would be something. We will not do it by abusing him. Regarding the armaments which went to Spain, they are nothing compared with the 52 Rolls Royce Nene jet engines, which the previous Government handed over to Stalin, and these have been used to shoot down American and British pilots in Korea. It does not make sense to me at all.

I would ask my hon. Friend the Undersecretary of State to pass on to his right hon. Friend the view that we should do our best to improve our trading relations with Spain. We shall not get rid of Franco by abusing him; but if we develop our trade he might respond. We could go slowly, but let us get the trading relations going and so help 30 million people who desperately need help.

8.55 p.m.

Mr. J. McGovem (Glasgow, Shettleston)

When this debate was being initiated I understood that it was with the intention of discussing the relationship of this country to Spain. I have taken time and energy to discover a great deal both about Spain and about the attitude of the Spanish people towards the Franco régime.

I have always been opposed to every form of dictatorship of any kind on principle. I do not choose my dictator. I am opposed to all dictators. I cannot follow the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) when he talks about Franco as a dictator, and then is prepared to advocate support for Tito's opposition to Stalin. We are either going all out against every dictator or we are selecting one dictator and condemning another.

Mr. Ernest Davies

I appreciate my hon. Friend giving way. Does he not appreciate that there has been a great difference between the developments in Spain and Yugoslovia since the war; that whereas Yugoslavia is advancing towards democracy and is liberalising the régime, in Spain there has been no such advance?

Dr. H. Morgan (Warrington)

Where is the evidence for that?

Mr. McGovern

I could question a great deal of that, but I want to confine myself to the question of why Franco was thrown up in Spain.

I always desire a cordial relationship with every country. I believe that this country should try to evolve peace on the basis of a friendly relationship wherever there is evidence that another country is prepared to go 50 per cent. of the way towards that friendship. Although I have the utmost hostility towards all dictators, I believe that even though we have not got a friendly relationship with the Soviet, it would be madness at this stage, when the world is shaken to its very foundations, if we did not go that 50 per cent. of the way on their coming part of the way.

I was twice in Spain during the Spanish civil war. I aroused tremendous hostility even in my own area, amongst people of my own religion, because I opposed the Franco regime and supported the Republican Government in Spain during that civil war. Yet there was a time when Franco was thrown on top because of the intervention of Russia. I remember going to Spain with Professor Challaye of Paris University to investigate the cruelties and the massacres of Socialists, Liberals and Nationalists by the Communists on the orders of the Russian secret police.

I met the Russian secret police. Professor Challaye and I went to their very den with an interpreter because we found that we could not get into the prisons of Spain without their sanction. We met two young men and two young women in charge of the headquarters when we tried to get into the prisons at that time. Even though we had permits from the Ministers of the State, they got us nowhere, because we needed the sanction of the Russian secret police, who were on top at that time. The whole civil war changed and, because of that, masses of the population who were previously backing the Government went willingly behind Franco because they felt that there was an even more deadly enemy than the one they were fighting internally at that time.

I remember discovering another thing which might be amazing to hon. Members. I went to Spain four or five years ago to find out how things were, and if we could get a change. I remember meeting an American consul and a French consul and one or two British officials. We had a dinner at a house in Barcelona and discussed the position. During the discussion I raised the question of the ending of the civil war in Spain that bolstered up Franco at that time.

A former consul, not of this country, gave me the most amazing evidence which confirms a thing I have often suspected but never proved. He said that at one stage in the civil war there came the discussions between Hitler and Stalin which ended in the Hitler-Stalin pact. Hitler, through the intervention of Mussolini, said to Stalin, "Prove to us that you have good intentions. The Mediterranean is important to us if war should take place. Pull your secret police out of Spain and stop giving assistance. Give no encouragement to the Communists, and then we can discuss terms." It was on that basis—that Stalin should order his supporters to come out of Spain and tell the Communists that the war was over, that he, having used them, could throw them aside—that the Hitler-Stalin pact was made the basis of the sell-out in Spain.

Mr. W. Griffiths (Manchester, Exchange)

I quite agree that there were some Russians assisting the Republican forces in Spain. I understand my hon. Friend to be arguing that that was one of the reasons which threw the Spanish people behind Franco, but my hon. Friend will remember—because he was taking part in the campaign of this country at the time—that there were much greater numbers of Italian troops and German troops and aircraft taking part on the other side.

Mr. McGovern

I never attempt to dispute that because it began, as I say, as a real struggle of the democracy of the Spanish people against Franco, and the civil war declared by the military caste. But the conflict so changed its character that at a certain stage I, as a Socialist, had to choose between Franco and Stalin. It made my position impossible, and I had to withdraw, believing that the victory of either side would be no gain to the general working class or democratic forces of the world. I know all the lies told about Guernica and so forth. It was the trial of forces that went into the war.

Mr. Geoffrey Bing (Hornchurch)

What does my hon. Friend mean by saying that all this about Guernica was lies? I was there. What does he mean?

Mr. McGovern

I say that the propaganda put out by the Catholic Press about Guernica having been carried out by internal forces was propaganda lies. Professor Challaye and I were nearly done to death. We were pursued everywhere because we came to investigate the massacre of Socialists and others by Communist forces in Spain.

Five years ago I went back with my wife. The Spanish Consul in London offered to have a car meet me at the frontier and to put me up at an hotel. I said, "No. When I go to a foreign country I do not go as the guest of that country. I want to investigate and be free to say what I have found when I come out of that country." This is what I found by close investigation five years ago. I met the right-hand man of Don Juan, the Pretender to the Throne, and I met Conservatives and Catalonian nationalists. Every person in the country of any standing whom I met was prepared to assist in the creation of a provisional government for a period of 10 years. That Government would combine all the forces in Spain except the Communists. They would not be included in any provisional Government set up in Spain because so much had been learned about them.

As I said to the Spanish Consuls in this country, when I returned in company with the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick), I found out that tremendous things were happening there. For example there is a man in Barcelona called Mr. Pola, who is described as the friend of everybody. He never does anything wrong. He is the head of the Franco secret political police. If a bill is posted up anywhere in Spain, for example, if the Catalonian nationalists demand a form of Home Rule—incidentally, under the regime there my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) would be incarcerated as a nationalist in spite of his Socialism—all the people who have a political record are roped in.

Supposing, for example, I had been brought in. Mr. Pola would meet me and say, "Well, McGovern, we have brought you in. Bills have been stuck up and we want the utmost information about who did it. You must know something. There are a chair, sheets of paper, a pencil and a pen, a packet of cigarettes and some matches. Coffee will be brought in. I will come back in an hour. You write down anything you can think of that will help us."

He comes back in an hour and finds that I have written down nothing. I may know nothing or I am unwilling to write down anything. He says to me, "You cannot help us? There is nothing you know? I wish you could help us. You will not get away tonight. You will get away tomorrow. But do not be worried. Nothing will happen to you." These are indisputable facts. I obtained them from people I met at the British Embassy who had been through it all and who were crippled for life as a result.

These people have been taken downstairs, stripped and put in a chair with steel bars round it which were electrified. They had been pushed from side to side and rubber truncheons used on them to try to extract information from them. Rifle butts had been dropped on their insteps. In some cases the bones in men's feet were broken. They might have been rendered unconscious without any information having been obtained from them. The next day they would be brought up and put back in the chair, and Mr. Pola would come in and call out, "Who did this?" He would then begin to curse and swear and put on a show that he had warned people not to do this sort of thing. Then after Mr. Pola had gone into another room and done a bit of shouting, the victim would be taken away by car and placed in a home, and would probably be a wreck for life. That is the result of the Franco régime.

I asked for permission to go to the Carcel Modella Prison. I had an interpreter with me. I found that 750 people were at a concert. It was a public holiday and a holy day. The 750 people included fathers, brothers, sons and daughters of the prisoners. I found a most amazing attitude among those people. They rose from their seats and cheered the prison governor and the civil governor of the town. The whole thing was unnatural to me. I have never heard prisoners cheering their warders—even in Glasgow.

I was for two hours on the platform at the concert. Afterwards toys, made by the prisoners, and fruit and sweets were given out to the children present. I asked the governor of the prison how many prisoners he had there, and he said he had 2, 250. I replied, "I have seen 750. I have been in the prison before, during the civil war, when the Communists held 600 anti-Fascists caught in Madrid, who had been criticising the Communist rule. The other prisoners are on a balcony behind an iron and steel grill. Could I see them?"

The governor was becoming uncomfortable. I told him there must be 1, 500 I had not seen, and he replied, "You would be near dangerous men who were taken with bombs and machine guns in their possession." I said, "Surely they have no machine guns or bombs in their possession now. I am prepared to take the risk if you will allow me to see them." I also raised the matter with the civil governor, but I could not get in to these men. I decided that the whole thing was such a fake that I would withdraw from the prison. I left and made a statement at the end.

I saw a suit of clothes, belonging to a young man who had been beaten up, taken out of a safe in the Embassy in Barcelona by the British Press officer. It was a light suit soaked in the blood of this young man, who had died after he had been beaten up. These are things which I know have taken place in Spain.

I was even prepared to advocate, with others in Spain, that in order to get a change the Spanish people should offer a very substantial pension to Franco and that a provisional government under a monarchy should be set up for at least 10 years, at the end of which time a plebiscite would be taken so that the people could say what they wanted. My investigations in Spain lead me to believe that they are a most difficult people to deal with, probably because they have never been brought up under a democratic system. I could give many examples.

When I went to Madrid I found that there were 10 men before a court charged with bomb throwing and with placing bombs at different points in Madrid. The evidence was that they had had Communist support coming over the Pyrenees from France, from international and French Communists who were supporting all these activities in Spain. I questioned the leader of the Communist bomb throwers closely. He was in court. He had been masquerading for a considerable time as a leader of the Catholic Youth in his town outside Madrid. Infiltration was being conducted to such an extent as that.

People must be realists. All these things drove the people of Spain more and more to say that unless they had some form of strong rule it meant that Moscow and the Communist party would take control in Spain. I have said this to many people, often to those who are by-products of the Franco régime: the longer that regime exists, then in my opinion the nearer we get to a Communist State in Spain. Russia appears all the time as the only State or Power that is supporting internal action to try to get rid of the regime, and as one extreme breeds another, so the Spanish people are driven to the other extreme.

I admit that, in my own mind, there is turmoil as to what is the best course to pursue in this situation. Do not let us forget, however, that, when the people of Spain see that Marshal Tito is met at a pier in London by the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, T.U.C. members and political leaders, who all go dining with Marshal Tito, they say, "Is this a one-way traffic? How is it that they are opposed, in principle, to dictators? They cannot be, because here we have the evidence that they are prepared to meet them."

Why, even the other day, hon. Members of this House cheered to the echo the announcement that the Prime Minister was prepared to meet Stalin and was prepared to discuss a settlement—[An HON. MEMBER: "Not Stalin."] No, not Stalin; he has gone to another place. Hon. Members cheered to the echo.

Mr. George Jeger (Goole)

Is my hon. Friend not ignoring the elementary fact that Tito and Stalin were both fighting on our side during the war against the Fascists, whereas Fascist Spain was aiding our enemies and even sent the Blue Division to fight against our ally Russia?

Mr. McGovern

That was all right as an intervention; I know more about the position. The role of the Communists and of Russia is to switch from one side to another and snatch at anything which they think may bring an advantage. When they put food and munitions into Spain, sent their International Brigade into Spain and put leading Communists into the country, they did it because they thought that they could turn Spain into another satellite Communist country. Therefore, they were not fighting Fascism —do not let us make any mistake—they were fighting for international Communism, to extend their leadership, not limit it.

When we say these things about having friendly relations with Spain, all this questioning takes place regarding friendly relations with other States, and they say "Why?" I, too, ask why? If it is a case of condemning as a principle, negotiating with any system or with any man who controls a system based on thuggery, all I can say is that what is happening in Spain under Franco is happening a thousandfold more in Russia and the satellite States. Do not let anyone try to tell me that any change of heart has taken place; it is only a change of tactics. [An HON. MEMBER: "That does not make Spain any better."] I do not say that it does, but it does not make Russia any cleaner.

My hon. Friends must get one thing quite clear. They must know where they stand on this issue, and I am trying to help them to be clear on what their attitude is to dictators. Are they opposed to dictators willy nilly or are they going to approve the Prime Minister's action in the matter of trying to meet Malenkov and Tito, and, at the same time, say that we must on no consideration have any truck or connection with Spain?

My political intelligence and experience proves that the longer we adopt an antagonistic attitude towards the leader of any State, no matter who he is, then the more certainly shall we be driving the people of that country more and more behind their own leader. We shall not be loosening the bonds, but tightening them, and, therefore, in my estimation, after this long period since the end of the civil war in Spain, there is a need for some new approach to this problem. It is not going to be found by complete antagonism.

I have tried to understand the real reason why members of my party are so antagonistic towards one form of dictatorship and yet go about the country demanding the appeasement of another form of dictatorship which is as ruthless and as cruel to human beings as is possible. Having been in Spain during the civil war and seen Communist brutality and ruthlessness, the massacre of so many men—Bob Smillie's grandson was taken to Valencia prison and done to death—and having met men during the civil war who were afterwards taken out of their homes and whose bodies, riddled with bullets, were thrown out of motor-cars, how can I be expected to believe that at this stage there is anything to choose between one side and the other?

The Spanish people are the unfortunate victims because they began by defending themselves against the Franco regime and, in the end, had to defend themselves against both Franco and Stalin at one and the same time. Do not let us have any nonsense about this. There are millions of people in Spain whose conceptions and principles are as good as those of anybody in this House. I have met them and discussed with them the proper approach to this problem.

Four years ago, I spent five weeks in Spain—my wife thought it was a strange way of spending a holiday—and spent 15 and 16 hours a day talking with all sections of the community, with anarchists right down to Catalan nationalists. When the right hon. Gentleman says, "Give us an approach and we will consider extra licences," does that mean that he is going to judge Spain by the amount of trade they do with this country? The idea that "it is better to be bribed than killed," seems to be growing in Spain more quickly than I anticipated.

If in the present struggle for the defence of Western ideals we are prepared to compromise with dictators in Russia, Poland, Hungary, Roumania, Czechoslovakia, Albania and Eastern Germany, why should we stop suddenly when we come to Spain? As I have said, I loathe all dictators, but the way to consolidate a dictator is by attempting to overthrow him from outside. There must be a gradual loosening of the chains.

I think that if we were prepared to say to Spain in clear and unmistakable language that we are prepared to apply the Marshall Plan to her, to give her economic assistance, and to bring her into the United Nations on condition that a liberalising process is begun in Spain, and that Franco should show the way, such a declaration would do more towards changing the attitude of the Spanish people and the Spanish Administration towards this country than anything else. I say that because it would force the present regime, through popular opinion in unknown places, to make that change in order to give the people of Spain the peace and prosperity that they want.

I repeat that I am opposed to all dictators, and I defended my principles even when it seemed that a Parliamentary seat was in doubt because of the attitude which I adopted on the Spanish question. I will defend the working people wherever they are, in their hour of need, but do not let it be said that we are going to continue this war of attrition and antagonism towards Spain after we have made so many offers of appeasement to other brutal dictators in the world.

9.25 p.m.

Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)

The House has listened with great interest to the most impressive speech that has been made by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern). He goes even further than I do in this matter, although I share very largely his sentiments, so far as the Spanish question is concerned. Certainly, he did well to refute the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) that the Socialists in Spain were a democratic organisation, aiming at a liberal régime.

We know that the people of Spain, like the men who murdered Sotello, were not by any means liberal by inclination. It was a struggle, as the hon. Gentleman said, between vicious elements on both sides. The Communists on the one hand and the Fascists on the other used that dispute as a proving ground for their ideologies. Therefore, we can clear that amount of ground. There is no question at all of anyone fighting to defeat Fascism in Spain in the Civil War.

Mr. W. Griffiths

The hon. Gentleman has made the point that at the end the Civil War degenerated into that kind of struggle. It is a fact that in July, 1936, Franco and the military clique revolted against the freely-elected Government of Spain. The Civil War was conducted on the Republican side at least, and at the outset, by people representative of the majority parties elected to the Spanish Parliament. That should be clearly understood.

Mr. Shepherd

All I ask the hon. Member to do is to read the history of Spain at the time of the election of the Government until the Franco Revolution. He will see accounts of acts of violence such as the murder of Sotello which happened long before Franco took over. I am merely saying—not that it is important but because we must get our minds away from the view expressed by the hon. Member for Enfield, East—I am merely saying that there is nothing to choose between either of the sections in Spain who fought the battle.

Having said that, I agree with the hon. Member for Shettleston that what we have to aim at in Spain is a more liberal regime. I say right away that I do not think there is any prospect at all of getting a democratically elected Government in Spain, because the form of government they have known for so long is so entrenched, and the instincts of the people are not particularly democratic. The Spaniard is probably the most anarchistic man in the whole of Europe. These democratic tendencies are not pronounced. We should need some sort of arrangement whereby the regime could be progressively liberalised before any attempt could be made to have elections in Spain.

Anything short of that would result merely in the return of the Communists. I believe, as one who has taken some interest in Spanish affairs for some time, that the Labour and Left-wing elements in this country and France are responsible for Franco being where he is today. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] I have discussed this matter with Liberal Spaniards, who desire to get rid of Franco much more than do hon. Gentlemen oppo- site, and who have admitted freely to me—

Mr. Bing

Does the hon. Gentleman think it was the fault of the Left-wing generally that they obtained a majority in the election, and that they ought not to have got themselves elected as the majority in Parliament?

Mr. Shepherd

A great deal of discussion could take place on that majority and the means by which it was obtained; but I do not want to go into that history because I do not think it is really very relevant to what I want to say to the House tonight.

I am putting the point that we have to approach this problem with the idea in our minds that there was not in Spain an element which was really liberal. We have to decide this problem, on the one hand on the basis of accepting Franco in the sense of, "Here is a man who can be accepted into N.A.T.O.," and on the other hand from the point of view of saying, "Not only do we want to keep him out of N.A.T.O. and the comity of nations, but we want no trade with him at all." I think that the hon. Member for Enfield, East is ridiculous when he says that he is going to oppose reasonable trade with Franco or, as he has been saying for a number of months and even years in this House, that we should not supply arms to Spain.

Mr. Ernest Davies

I never suggested that we should not trade with Franco. What I said was that the trade was very one-sided at present and that he was not using sterling to obtain goods in this country.

Mr. Shepherd

The hon. Member says that now, but constantly he has been sniping at my right hon. Friends for their attempts to improve trade relations with Franco.

I do not like Franco any more than do hon. Members opposite, and I think that I have written more against him than perhaps any other member of the Tory Party. But it is sheer nonsense to say that one is going to oppose Franco at every possible point. I think that hon. Members opposite have very sound reason for saying that as things stand one should not admit Franco into N.A.T.O., that N.A.T.O. presupposes a belief in certain ideals and that as Franco does not subscribe to those ideals he cannot become a participant. But, short of that, we should do what we can to secure trade with Spain and get a more reasonable understanding between our two countries. By that means we could create conditions in which the Spanish people themselves could take decisions.

There has been a great deal of confusion on this question of what we should do with Spain, because people are apt to think in terms of being anti-Communist. I do not want to think in terms of being anti-Communist. I want to think in positive terms of being pro-democratic. The things that matter to me are the rights of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion, and I think the Western world has done a disservice, during the last five years, in talking anti-Communism day and night. What they should have been talking about were the positive values of democratic society. We have heard far too little of that from the Western Powers in recent years. We believe that we have right on our side, and we should try to put forward the positive and real values of democratic society.

I join issue a little with the hon. Member for Shettleston over the question of Yugoslavia. There is a difference—which I think the House should appreciate— between the attitude we are justified in taking towards Yugoslavia and that which we may be justified in taking towards Spain. First, it has never been suggested that Yugoslavia should enter the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. There we are on all fours. What really matters is whether the action we take is going to strengthen or weaken our democratic ideals and the democratic countries.

Support of Yugoslavia tends to weaken and split the East; support of General Franco, in a general sense, tends to weaken and split the West, so that there is a case for looking rather differently at the two cases of Spain and Yugoslavia. It is only a question of expediency, and a matter which is on the conscience of all hon. Members whether we are really justified in trading with Tito when we know that his régime is offensive to our Western ideals.

I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will try to look at the question of Spain with a little more realism, and try to put out of their minds the battle that took place in 1936. Neither of the adversaries was very worthy. There are still 30 million people in Spain. They are a very proud people, living under very bad conditions and under a régime of which we do not approve, but it is surely our duty to do what we can to bring about better conditions there—to trade with Spain and to have normal, friendly relations with her.

In diplomatic affairs it is well known that if one makes an enemy one does no good. It is much better to have a friendly foot in the camp. In that way one can often influence trends. All this antagonism towards Franco, so wildly expressed by some hon. Members, is irrational and, on the whole, designed to achieve precisely the opposite of what they have in mind. I hope that in future hon. Members on both sides of the House will try to get a different slant on this question of Anglo-Spanish relations. I support the Government in what I believe to be their view, because I think we should be as friendly as we can even though Franco is not helping very much at the moment. We should trade as much as we can, but stop short of bringing Franco into N.A.T.O.

9.36 p.m.

Mr. George Jeger (Goole)

I am in agreement with quite a large part of what the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) has said, but I think he is very muddled on the question of Spain, particularly about the origin of the Spanish Civil War. He is obviously either unaware of, or chooses completely to ignore, the fact that the Republican Government, against which Franco rebelled in 1936, was freely elected in accordance with the highest form of democracy that the Spanish people were aware of at that time. I am not saying that it was the equivalent of our form of democracy, but we often make the mistake of thinking that our democracy can be absorbed by other nations who have not been practising it so long as we have.

Mr. Shepherd

I wish the hon. Member would read of the activities of the conforming commission after the election. If he had read them he might not be so enthusiastic.

Mr. Jeger

I have read all the evidence about the election in Spain. I spent a considerable time there between 1936 and 1939, when I was doing relief work on the Republican side, and I think I know a little more about it than the hon. Member would give me credit for.

The hon. Member wants us to preach the virtues of democracy to Spain and try to approach them in a more friendly fashion. I wonder whether he is aware that there is a very strict censorship in Spain, and that the 30 million Spanish people, through their newspapers and their radio, are being denied the knowledge that we are shortly to have a Coronation in this country because it might put unpleasant and suggestive thoughts in their minds about the virtues of a monarchy—and a democratic one at that. I wonder whether he has seen the reports in "The Times" and other newspapers, by Spanish correspondents, about the sort of propaganda which is put out in Spain.

The hon. Member wants more trade with Spain. He is not alone in that. While joining with us in hating the Franco régime the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey) also urged us to embark upon more trade with Spain. He says that we should refrain from abuse and see how we can help her. He thinks the best way is to trade with her. We have been trying to trade with her. I put down a number of Questions recently about the results of our trading with Spain, and I received the reply from the President of the Board of Trade that our trading relations were most unsatisfactory. He said: They have, however, done little as yet to carry out their undertaking … He also said: I am satisfied that the Spanish authorities could issue licences more freely than at present, and that is the object of the meeting which I have arranged."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 26th March, 1953; Vol. 513, c. 831.] In other words, a gesture towards having more trade has been made to Franco Spain. How has it been received? Franco is apparently ready to buy arms from us, but very little else. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Macclesfield said we should sell Spain arms; and not out of date arms but up to date ones at that. I wonder whether he has envisaged to what use those arms might be put, and against whom they might be used? It is very interesting when a Government want to buy arms.

Air Commodore Harvey

I said it was useless selling old equipment because it would not be an advertisement for British engineering if we did not sell them modern material. As to the hon. Gentleman's question about against whom would the arms be used, I suggest that the answer is they would be used against any country that attacked Spain, probably Russia.

Mr. Jeger

Judging from the Spanish Press they are prepared to use them, first of all, against their own people who may be revolting against the tyrannous régime that Franco imposes upon them, holding them down by his armed police; and furthermore, and this hits nearer home, they may be prepared to use them in an attempt to regain Gibraltar. I would remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the Spanish Press has recently been inveighing against us as an imperialist nation occupying Gibraltar illegally, and that it has been calling upon the Spanish workers in Gibraltar to rise in revolt against us.

Air Commodore Harvey

The hon. Gentleman should not be so innocent. This matter is raised every three months in the Spanish Press. If the Spaniards wanted to take Gibraltar they could have done so during the war, probably with very little difficulty.

Mr. Jeger

Perhaps they had reason for not wanting to do so at that time. Perhaps they were not quite so strong as the hon. and gallant Gentleman appears to think they were.

If the matter is raised regularly every three months in the Press, that is a responsibility of the Spanish Government, who exercise so great an influence and so strict a censorship upon the activities of the Spanish Press. The British Press is free, but the Spanish Press is entirely in the hands of Government-sponsored syndicates, and nothing can appear in the Spanish Press without the licence of the official Spanish censor. Therefore, if there is a regular three-monthly campaign in favour of regaining Gibraltar for Spain it must be inspired or encouraged by the Spanish Government, and they are the Government to whom the hon. and gallant Gentleman wishes to sell new and up-to-date arms.

I have noticed that hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House are always prepared to ignore or excuse tyranny and the evils of a police State if it is socially pleasant or if it is profitable business. That seems to colour their attitude towards our relationships with other countries, whether they are Fascist or whether they are democratic, but we should never forget that we should be earning the hatred, the enmity, the disappointment and the suspicion of other nations that profess democracy as we do if we were to enter into closer relations with Franco Spain, which fought against our allies during the war and which has never changed its Government or its attitude since.

Attention has been drawn to our attitude towards other dictatorship countries, but those dictatorship countries did not fight against us or our allies. That is a cardinal point which should never be forgotten. There has been no change of heart whatever in Spain. The Spanish Government are still in power by force. They are still a Government of repression, and they are still a Government who carry out arrests of persons without trial. They are still a Government governing a country where a knock on the door at night means not that the milk or the newspapers are being delivered but that the secret police have arrived to take away somebody who, perhaps, has been guilty of a little political or trade union activity or speaking and has been reported upon.

My hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) has graphically described already what happens to those people when they are taken away and held in a military prison, and the torture that is applied to them. Their relatives often are not informed of their destination or of their fate until a long time afterwards. In other words, all the horrors of the pre-war Nazi State are repeated in the Franco State of Spain today.

It is abhorrent to us on this side of the House, who really and sincerely believe in democracy and freedom, to find that our Government may be jockeyed by some of its own supporters and by big business and trading interests into having more friendly relations with a Fascist power of that description. I do not believe that we can win Franco over to a belief in democracy by extending the hand of friendship to him or by supplying him with up to date arms.

Appeasement is one of the things we should have learned by now never pays. Hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House and right hon. Gentlemen, too, who occupy leading positions in the Government today, should think back to the days of their appeasement of Hitler and Mussolini and to the results that came from that appeasement.

I hope that in spite of the discourtesy of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor), who should have been here tonight to raise this matter on the Adjournment, this debate will have been profitable and that the Under-Secretary will have learned in clear terms what we on this side of the House think of the Franco régime. If there is any possibility of the hand of friendship being extended further towards that régime he should think twice about it and encourage the forces of democracy by withholding the hand of friendship from Fascism.

9.46 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)

The more I listened to hon. Members on the other side of the House, the less I understood their reasoning. I could not follow their argument that we should not try to bring about more friendly relations with Fascist Spain when at the same time they are quite eager to bring about better relations with Russia and Yugoslavia. I do not believe that we shall bring peace to the world by such arguments.

I was amazed by one argument put forward by the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies), when he suggested as a reason for not trying to improve our relations with Spain that we must keep alive the memory of the first fight against Fascism. If we are going to govern our relations with foreign countries by trying to keep alive hatreds of that kind we shall never improve relations in the world. We have to get rid of those hatreds whether they relate to Fascist countries or Communist countries. We have to try to forget the past and treat them as being foreign countries, without taking into account the kind of Government they have.

The hon. Gentleman also made the point that it would make it more difficult to bring about better relations with Russia if we were to try to bring about better relations with Spain. I cannot see why the Russians should object to our trying to improve relations with Spain when they themselves made a pact with Nazi Germany in 1939, when we were trying to bring them into the anti-Fascist camp.

There is one question which I want to ask my hon. Friend. Once or twice during the past two or three months I have asked him whether any steps can be taken to end the system of visas which exists between this country and Spain. I think I am right in saying that they exist in both directions, and that Spain is about the only country in Western Europe with which we still have to have visa relations, if I may so describe them. It costs an English person visiting Spain about 24s. to obtain a visa and a Spanish person roughly the same amount, I think, to come to this country. I would ask my hon. Friend whether any steps have been taken to end that system. The last time I put that question he held out the hope that possibly at the beginning of the tourist season the Government might give that matter consideration. I hope that consideration has been given to it and that this system will be ended.

9.50 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

I want to ask the representative of the Foreign Office further questions about certain developments in Spain. The hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) objected to Spain being invited to join N.A.T.O., but it seems to me as if Spain is to be called upon to be part of the system of alliance which we now know as N.A.T.O. There have been certain developments in recent weeks, upon which there have been comments in the Press, which seem to indicate that Franco Spain will become part of the Western democratic alliance.

I do not quite understand how any hon. Member can object to Franco Spain being brought into N.A.T.O. when, at the same time, as the result of American policy, it looks as if Spain, although not theoretically in N.A.T.O., is now to be part of the political and strategic alliance which we know as Western democracy. I should like to know to what extent the American Government have informed the British Government of the negotiations with Franco for the establishment of bases in Spain. During the last three days there have been articles in the "Manchester Guardian" in which it has been clearly stated that American air and naval bases are now to be established in Spain and that America frankly recognises that Spain will be a part of the Western alliance.

If we object to Franco Spain being in N.A.T.O., are we not also entitled to object to American bases in Spain becoming a part of the political and strategic framework of Western democracy? If we believe that, for one reason or another, Franco Spain should not be allowed in N.A.T.O., are we not entitled to make our protests when American bases are established in Spain in precisely the same way that they are being established in this country?

The negotiations between America and Spain have been going on for some considerable time. A certain school of American military experts say that it is likely to be of more strategic benefit to America to establish bombing and naval bases in Spain than in Britain. One reason given in a recent article by one of the military writers in the "New York Times" was that it would be cheaper and, from every point of view, easier for America to have her bases in Spain rather than in Great Britain, France or Western German, because General Franco has no trade union movement to contend with and the result is that he can get his bases built much cheaper than they can be built elsewhere in Western Europe, where the Americans would have to pay higher rates of wages because there are strong and active trade unions in those countries.

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

I am not sure whether my hon. Friend is now arguing that it is better for America to have bases in this country or better for her to have them in Spain.

Mr. Hughes

I am arguing about the implications of American policy. My hon. Friend will understand as I develop my argument. I am pointing out the inconsistency of hon. Members in objecting to Spain being brought into N.A.T.O. and, at the same time, allowing Spain, through this intricate arrangement, with America, to become part of Western strategy and the Western alliance.

I want to know to what extent America has informed this country of what is taking place, to what extent the British Government has been consulted and to what extent the British Government has approved this indirect admission of Spain into N.A.T.O. and her use as part of the so-called military strategy of Western democracy. There are very peculiar people in this N.A.T.O. alliance. There is Turkey and no one can say that Turkey is a democracy. There is this idea that by a sideway any country can be brought in by some arrangement with America, so that we are finding ourselves lined up with countries like Fascist Spain. One reason for that is that it is cheaper for the Americans to have their bases in Spain, and there is also a school of American strategists who hold the view that Britain will be knocked out of the next war very early and that the war itself will then be fought from behind the line of the Pyrenees. That is not only a reflection on us, but on France.

One of the reasons why the Americans are coming to an agreement with Spain is that they calculate that their military expenditure can be much lower if they have these bases in Spain. As an instance, to install a telephone in Great Britain for the American armed forces costs 19 dollars; in Western Germany, 16 dollars; but in Spain it is only 9 dollars. The result of that, whether we like it or not is that we are to have Fascist Spain in this conglomeration of so-called Western democracies, which is part of the alleged American alliance, which is not democracy at all.

I should like to know from the Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs to what extent our Government have been informed of this, and to what extent are they in agreement with this policy of America, or whether it is a question of the American Government acting unilaterally and simply using Spain for their own particular purposes?

I agree to some extent with my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), but certainly not with the whole of his argument by a long way. When we think of Spain we must not think merely of General Franco, but of the 30 million half-starved peasants living under a cruel, tyrannous régime. We must think how far our policy affects them. I recall my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston standing up very courageously and putting his point of view during the time of the Franco War in Spain, when one of the leading Catholics in Glasgow was speaking in favour of Franco. I always remember how my hon. Friend courageously stood up in that great hall, facing a howling mob, and speaking out for democracy against dictatorship.

I do not see that we shall help the 30 million people in Spain by the kind of trade suggested by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Macclesfield, namely, that we should compete with the Americans in supplying bombers to Spain; because that is what it comes to. I would have no objection if we were sending to Spain the machinery, the tractors, the necessary trade to raise the standard of life of the people of Spain. I do not want to see the people suffering from the results of living under any kind of totalitarian dictatorship. I do not think they are being helped by being brought into this system of a so-called Western democracy and having these air and military and naval bases planted down on Spain. That will not help the people of Spain. That is not the way to reconstruct the economic life of Spain.

The American theory is that in the first stage of a third world war the so-called Western armies will be driven back across France over the Pyrenees. That is another reason why the Americans are saying—

It being Ten o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Mr. Kaberry.]

Mr. Hughes

I thought that was a Guillotine, Sir. To some extent I agree with trade relationships being open to Spain, because I cannot see that we are entitled to impose economic sanctions upon a people because of the character of the Government that oppresses them. I hope that the people of Spain will not become part of this strategy, which will mean that, in the long run, they will suffer because of being participants in a third world war.

I should like to see the end of tyranny, of Fascism, of dictatorship in every part of the world, but I do not see how we shall bring about a more liberal régime in Spain by bringing Spain into all these military plans which impose heavy taxation upon the peasantry of a country, which involve national expenditure not on education, not on raising the standard of life through social services, not on agriculture, but casting it into the vortex of a military régime which involves all the people of a country not only in the dangers of war but in the economic preparations for war, which mean heavy burdens upon the workers and peasants in all countries.

10.2 p.m.

Mr. C. E. Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)

In the uncertain and changing world in which we live there is one constant factor upon which we can always rely, namely, that any debate in this House upon the subject of Spain always brings an acrimonious discussion. I have often wondered why. I am not sure that I know the answer, but I can at least throw out one theory. I believe that hon. Gentlemen opposite, if they really searched their hearts, would probably be a little ashamed of themselves for the part they played in the late '30s in leading Hitler to believe that under no circumstances would Britain fight.

Mr. G. Jeger

Has the hon. Gentleman forgotten Chamberlain?

Mr. Mott-Radclyffe

In retrospect they say in psychological expiation, "We fought for Red Spain." I will give it to them that they fought for Red Spain, that they went out with the International Brigade and fought with the Communists in Spain while their party in this House was voting solidly against every increase in every Service Estimate, by which alone we could have convinced Hitler that we were prepared to fight.

I have often wondered, had the Communists been successful, what sort of a map could have been produced in Europe after the collapse of France in 1940. Hon. Gentlemen opposite might like to reflect for a moment on how the map of Europe would have looked in those circumstances. I have not been in this House very long, but in the short time that I have been here, I do not think I have ever heard a better debunking speech or one delivered with more sincerity or more conviction than the speech of the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern). He answered in advance the comments of the hon. Member for Goole (Mr. G. Jeger), who followed closely after.

The hon. Member for Goole seemed to think that if any arms were supplied to Spain from America or any other source Gibraltar was going to be attacked—

Mr. G. Jeger

I said it might be.

Mr. Mott-Radclyffe

It might be. It is perfectly true, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey) said, that almost regularly at monthly or three-monthly intervals some one in Spain makes an inflammatory speech or some journalist writes an inflammatory article about Gibralta, but the hon. Member must get out of the Abadan frame of mind. If, because of inflammatory speeches and the writing of inflammatory articles we are to become frightened about our position in Gibraltar, we ought to have got out of the Canal Zone long ago.

Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)

And we shall be.

Mr. Mott-Radclyffe

The hon. Member says that we shall be; that is because no doubt he thinks we ought to be and is not prepared to stand up for any of our rights under Treaty obligations— [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is a perfectly logical point of view but not one which hon. Members on this side of the House will accept.

Mr. Fernyhough

Does the hon. Member suggest that we should have sent gunboats to Abadan? Is he suggesting that in 1956, when the Treaty expires, we should go into Egypt by force if they do not want us?

Mr. Mott-Radclyffe

We have been debating the Canal Zone at some length in the last two days and I do not want to go back into all that. I merely said that because a newspaper article is written about Gibraltar there is no need for hon. Members opposite to get in a panic as, happily, they are no longer on this side of the House.

The hon. Member for Goole also said that if there were a knock on the door in the middle of the night in Spain it would not mean that the milkman had arrived or that the newspaper man was bringing newspapers but that it was probably the secret police: we ought not, therefore, in any circumstances to have truck with the head of that Government, trade with them, or have any kind of friendly relationship with that State. But when, on Monday, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in his speech in the foreign affairs debate, threw out the suggestion that at some future date he hoped there might be circumstances in which a meeting could be arranged with Mr. Malenkov, did the hon. Member say, "Oh, no, because occasionally behind the Iron Curtain a knock on the door in the middle of the night does not mean that the milk is being delivered"? Did he say, "Oh, no"? Of course not; he cheered.

I think that I can sum up the attitude of hon. Members opposite towards Spain in one sentence. Their attitude throughout may be even summed up in the one word, and that word is "hypocrisy."

10.9 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Bing (Hornchurch)

I do not want to delay the House for more than a few moments because I am sure that the Under-Secretary wants an opportunity to reply, but the speech we have just heard from the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe), and some other speeches from hon. Members opposite, might well have been made had we not fought the last war.

Many of us—some of us in this House, perhaps, have more responsibility than others—some who took a minor part in the war had a great responsibility for persuading people on our own side to go to their deaths. We said, "We must risk our lives" and were perhaps persuading people to take more risks than we were taking ourselves. For what purpose? It was to rid the world of Fascism. Where did we find it in the world? In Germany and Italy and in Spain and the only reason that we did not have Spain fighting against us was because Spain decided that she could aid Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany more by staying out than coming in.

What is the answer given to the people who were killed by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey). He says, "Let us fulfil what everyone was fighting for. Let us sell them arms." Those were the actual words, "Let us sell them some of our up-to-date arms."—

Air Commodore Harvey

The hon. and learned Member must be fair about this. I said that the equipment which had been sold was very out-of-date. If we were to sell armaments let us at least sell something more modern. I did not say the latest. If we do not do it America will. The hon. and learned Gentleman must remember that if we want to sell tractors and motor cars and other goods they will not be accepted unless we supply the things they require. We have to generalise.

Mr. Bing

Nothing demonstrates better than that the division between the two sides of the House on this matter. I think I speak for almost all my hon. Friends on this side of the House when I say that we fought against Fascism and did not fight to rearm Fascism in Spain once again. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). Where people are poor and living in misery we ought not to deprive them of the things which could in some degree relieve their misery. But it is useless supplying goods to a Government of the Franco type which exists and is maintained by people who wish to keep the ordinary working class in misery. It is impossible to relieve the misery of such people by supplying goods from outside when the regime is designed to make them miserable.

The remarks of the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) show that most of the hon. Gentlemen opposite have not altered much since 1914. The hon. Member for Cheadle thought there was something wrong about the Spanish elections and, therefore, that justified fighting a civil war. Would he say that because his own party have more seats proportionately than they are entitled to we should call out the Army and have them removed? That was his argument, and it is typical of the arguments advanced by hon. Gentlemen opposite.

We have heard a lot of talk about the need for having certain standards. I wish to mention one matter which I hope will not be taken amiss by my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern). On many occasions he and I have spoken against the oppression of people for their religious beliefs, particularly the Roman Catholic people in Northern Ireland. But in my view it is equally wrong that people should be attacked because of their Protestant beliefs and if there is one place in Europe where religious persecution is taking place it is against the Protestants in Spain at this very time.

Mr. McGovern

I meant to mention that. If the reports about the persecution of Protestants in Spain are true I condemn it roundly. I do not stand for the persecution of any person on political, religious or racial grounds and I abhor the idea of any section of people being persecuted because of their religious belief.

Mr. Bing

I wish to make it clear that we on this side of the House regard the Franco régime as a continuation of Fascism, of something we fought against in the war and which caused the deaths of a good many better people than ourselves. We do not believe that we should send arms to Spain in order that they may buy tractors or anything else afterwards. In the same way that, in the 19th century, the speeches in this House did more than anything else to establish the traditions of liberty and freedom there should go out from this House today a condemnation of the Franco régime and an expression of our view that the sooner it is ended the better.

10.15 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Nutting)

It is customary for debates of this kind to be wound up by a Minister speaking on behalf of the Government, but I find myself in the difficulty that I have very little to add to the speech which was made by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern). The hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) who, in the absence of my hon. Friend, opened the debate, spoke in a familiar vein. He disagrees with the Government's policy. He would no doubt prefer to revert in full to the position of the policy which was laid down in the United Nations Resolution of 1946. I disagree.

I agree much more with the sound common sense of the hon. Member for Shettleston, although I would add to what he said that anyone in my position cannot determine their foreign relationships upon an ideological basis. Whatever we may think of dictatorships, of whatever form they may be, whatever shirt or colour of shirt the dictator may wear, we cannot determine our foreign relationship upon an ideological basis.

My view is that to ostracise Spain or any other country is both a foolish and a fruitless exercise. It got us nowhere in the past and will lead nowhere now. To the hon. Member for Enfield, East, who would like to revert to the 1946 position and policy, let me say this: that it was the Government of which he was Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs which realised how few dividends the policy of ostracism had paid, which accepted the inevitable and which agreed to the modification of the United Nations' Resolution. I think that was a wise decision, and I congratulate him upon it. although I wish his speech tonight had been more in the tone and temper of the speeches which animated the Government at the United Nations when part of the 1946 Resolution was rescinded.

It was a wise decision to rescind those parts of the Resolution which debarred Spain from membership of the specialised agencies of the United Nations, and which recommended the withdrawal of ambassadors. I think that the hon. Member's Government were wise to follow that United Nations decision by returning our Ambassador to Spain and also agreeing to Spanish membership of the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation.

I will come now to the policy of the present Government, and their actions in pursuit of it. Since the change of Government in this country, our policy has been to endeavour to bring about correct and friendly relations with Spain. In this endeavour, we have supported Spain's application for membership of U.N.E.S.C.O., and she is now a member of that organisation. We have lifted the ban imposed at the time of the original United Nations Resolution on the export to Spain of obsolescent war materials and other materials useful for civilian or material purposes, such as radar and aircraft engines.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey) suggested that if we were to send military material to Spain, we should send more modern military material. I cannot speak to that because the more modern types are required either by our N.A.T.O. allies or by our Commonwealth partners. The decision, as it was announced in the House by the Minister of State, and subsequently by myself, which we took to remove this ban was, of course, subject always to the proviso that the obsolescent war material that we were now prepared to send should not be required for either our N.A.T.O. or Commonwealth partners. The more modern types would be required, and we should therefore be precluded from sending them to Spain.

In the third place, since the change of Government, we have pursued a policy of the progressive resumption of naval visits, which I think have been successful and popular, both with the Spanish people and the Spanish Navy. This was certainly demonstrated when our largest and newest aircraft carrier H.M.S. "Eagle" recently visited Vigo. This policy, unlike the policy of ostracism, opens up the way to an improvement in our relations with Spain; and, above all, it opens up a useful market for the export of goods to a country from which we obtain certain essential strategic materials, such as wolfram, pyrites and the like. In the present economic circumstances of this country and of the world, we simply cannot afford to ignore any markets. The hon. Member for Enfield, East also asked me whether I had any figures to add to those which I gave to his hon. Friend the Member for Goole (Mr. G. Jeger) on 1st April last. The figures since 1st April have not yet been made up, but I have no reason to suppose that they show any major or very startling change or development.

The hon. Member for Enfield, East need not wax so eloquent about the terrific moral principles which are at stake. The hon. Member for Goole is really talking nonsense when he says that we are appeasing General Franco and wooing a terrible Fascist régime simply because we have decided that it is in the interests of the trade of this country to send to Franco Spain 15 items of marine radar to the value of approximately £40, 000. Is that a terrible thing to do? Is that condoning some terrible Fascist régime? I think we ought to keep these things in balance and in their true perspective.

The hon. Gentleman also asked me about Spain's sterling surplus. It is true that Spain has a large sterling surplus, but, unfortunately, the majority of it is spent outside the United Kingdom, in the Commonwealth, and, to some extent, in Europe, in buying materials. That has created a difficulty for our trade with Spain, and the discussions, to which the President of the Board of Trade referred in answer to the hon. Gentleman, began in Madrid with the Spanish authorities in April and are still proceeding. We hope that this difficulty may be overcome, but I really think that the existence of this difficulty and this surplus is not an argument for exporting less to Spain, but is surely an argument for trying to export more and for exploring fields for greater efforts.

While we hope for friendly relations, perhaps I should observe—because I want to be fair to the House and to the situation—that it takes two to be friends, and it is not entirely encouraging for me or for the Government that, despite what we have done, the response from the Spanish side has not been marked by consistent warmth. Indeed, on the contrary, there has been in recent months a recrudescence of anti-British comment in Press and radio which is, of course, as we know—may I put it very mildly— somewhat influenced by the Spanish authorities, and the policy of the Spanish Government plays some part, no doubt, in the comments which appear in the Press and radio.

This campaign has included some particularly objectionable references to Gibraltar, and while it has now died down, such gratuitous and silly pinpricks as the censorship of references to our Coronation in Spanish newspapers are now, apparently, the order of the day. I wish to put that on record because I wish to be quite fair to the House and to show that while we have shown our desire to work for friendly diplomatic and political relations we have not been altogether met by the other side.

A few months ago we made unofficial soundings about the possibility of negotiating an agreement for the abolition of visas, which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) for visitors to both countries, but here we met with a refusal. I do not say that the Spanish response was necessarily entirely unreasonable. Perhaps the Spanish Government felt that such a step would not be worth their while financially, whereas, of course, correspondingly, it was very much worth our while because many more British people go to Spain than Spaniards come to Britain. It is only fair that I should place on record, particularly as I have been asked the question, that we did make this offer.

The hon. Member for Enfield, East raised the question of political trials, and asked us to make a protest. I really cannot agree to do that. We have no locus standi whatsoever, but I can say that while we have no locus standi to intervene on behalf of Spaniards facing charges of breaches of Spanish law, we do send observers to political trials. I might say that I know of no other—I speak, I hope, without offence to the régime—totalitarian régime in which British observers from the British missions in those countries are allowed to attend the trials.

I was asked about the religious persecution, and in particular about the Protestant Church in Seville. So far as I am aware, no compensation has yet been paid, but Her Majesty's Ambassador in this, as in all other cases of the safeguarding of British interests, will press for action to be taken and to obtain satisfaction. The hon. Member asked that we should not develop relations beyond the basis which already exists. I was a little confused by his question. If he means that we should not invite Spain to join N.A.T.O., then I can assure him that we have no intention of doing that. But this does not mean that we are opposed to the negotiations now going on between the United States and the Spanish Government for a dollars-for-bases agreement

As I have previously said, the United States Government have been keeping us informed of the course of these negotiations, but I have no confirmation of recent newspaper reports that the agreement is on the point of being concluded. In any case, we have no objection in principle to such an agreement, which is a matter for the American Government alone, provided that it is not at the expense of N.A.T.O. and that it does not raise the question of Spanish membership of N.A.T.O. There is no question of Spain becoming a member of N.A.T.O. merely because she has concluded an agreement with America—a bi-lateral agreement of dollars for bases. It is no more a question of bringing Spain into N.A.T.O. because such an agreement should be made than it is of bringing Egypt into N.A.T.O. because we are on the Suez Canal.

I have indicated, I think, in the course of my remarks that although we have taken a few steps along the road towards a more normal relationship with Spain, the response has so far not been so encouraging as to warrant any acceleration of the process. In short, our policy is to develop step by step, not on a basis of ideology, but on a basis of mutual profit and interest.

The Question having been proposed at Ten o'Clock, and the Debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Half-past Ten o'Clock.