HL Deb 09 March 1939 vol 112 cc78-136

LORD SNELL rose to move to resolve, That the policy of His Majesty's Government towards Spain since the beginning of the rebellion has been a failure and detrimental to British interests; that vigilance is now required to ensure that the pledges with regard to the integrity of Spanish territory are respected; and that every possible assistance should be given in evacuating and helping refugees and safeguarding those remaining on Spanish soil whose only crime is loyalty to their constitutionally elected Government and to democratic principles.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, at the very beginning of my remarks to-day I wish to say—I am sure with the cordial support of all your Lordships—with what real pleasure and relief I see the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in his place to-day. In extending to him the general welcome of the House I express the sincere hope that he is completely restored to health and strength. The least pleasant of my duties is the frequency with which I have to criticise the policy with which his name is associated. My dentist has a very provoking habit of informing me in moments of acute agony that what he is doing to me hurts him more than it hurts me, and I sometimes wish it did. I assure the noble Viscount that my task to-day gives me very little personal pleasure, but my sorrow is mitigated by the feeling that when the noble Viscount comes to reply to me the castigation which he will put upon me will be so stimulating to him that it will be a factor in his convalescence.

Now, my Lords, whatever your views may be respecting the recognition by His Majesty's Government of General Franco, you will admit that a matter so important should not be ignored by your Lordships' House, and in accordance with my duty I am providing the occasion for its consideration. The views of the Party for which I speak are well known on this matter and I need not rehearse them at any length. As, however, we are now parting with this issue of recognition for good or for ill, we want to say a final and strenuous word about it. We therefore formally and with complete sincerity disavow any responsibility for the situation which has arisen and we have neither excuse nor respect for the policy which produced it. If your Lordships will be good enough to refer to the terms of the Motion standing on the Paper in my name, you will note that the emphasis is placed upon our present and future responsibilities rather than upon what we regard as past failures; but it is quite impossible for me to suppress our very deep conviction that for the sacrifice of a democratically-elected Government in Spain, with all the broken faith and physical brutality attending it, His Majesty's Government, before both history and the conscience of mankind, bear a heavy and a shameful responsibility.

What has happened they intended to happen. They wished the end and they willed the means. They adopted, as we see it, a policy of fraudulent non-intervention; they consistently ignored the fact of effective intervention of foreign nations in the internal disputes of another country; and they seized upon the fact that a trickle of material and human aid had crossed the Spanish frontier in support of the legitimate Government of Spain to connive at the presence of these invading armies of foreign Powers. In support of this desired end, the Government tolerated repeated attacks upon British ships and lives. They remained passive while dangers to the vital communications of the Empire were steadily increased, and they thus gave aid and comfort to rebels against their rightful Government while denying to that Government the means of self-defence that were their undoubted right.

With this record of preparation, it is not altogether surprising that, without consulting Parliament, His Majesty's Government took the shameful initiative in recognising the Franco rebellion and in bringing pressure to bear upon France to do the same thing. M. Daladier has put upon record the part played by His Majesty's Government. He said: On the 22nd of February we received advice that the British Government considered the hour had come to recognise General Franco and that we should wait no longer. The Government have now the temerity to ask the nation, in the name of political realism, to approve their action and to applaud their decision. They ask us to believe that such recognition was inevitable. But it need not have been inevitable. That is our case. If the legitimate Government of Spain had not been starved as well as betrayed, they would have produced an entirely different situation. If you deliberately deprive a starving man of food until his bodily powers are exhausted, you are not entitled to say that his death was inevitable. That he will die is certain and foreseen; that he does die is your responsibility.

The loyalists of Spain were compelled, with one arm handcuffed behind their back by British and French policemen, to fight not only the traitors to their own land but also the armed might of two foreign nations. We did not await events, we actually forestalled them. Only a week or two ago, before the act of recognition, a British warship organised the surrender to Fascism of Minorca, one of the last strongholds of Democracy in the Mediterranean. We have indeed been obedient followers of General Franco ! "All these things will I give thee if thou wilt fall down and—recognise me." In effect His Majesty's Government said: "Of course we planned to do so all along, but it was more convenient to wait until now." The Times recently committed itself to the statement that "recognition now is an act of appreciation." It was indeed. It was also the culmination of a policy.

Let me now recall some of the true realities of the situation. Two and a half years ago Spain had a democratic Government elected at least as honourably as His Majesty's Government were elected. There is no doubt about that. His Majesty's Government went to the country to defend to the death the League of Nations, and everybody knows the way in which they have kept their promises. The Government so elected in Spain were friendly to this country. They had not endangered any of our interests and had aimed at no foreign domination or aggression. That is one reality. Another is that a traitor General rebelled against that Government and was assisted by foreign arms, men and money. A third reality is that this rebellion was conducted with unexampled brutality. The useless massacres of Badajos and Guernica, the bombing of towns, and the senseless machine-gunning of fleeing women and children, are only samples of the acts of the rebel commander that we have now recognised. Now a decent English gentleman has to go to Spain to deal with a man whose appropriate garlands of victory would be the battered bodies of thousands of beautiful Spanish children.

A final reality is that the Government inherited from the Labour Government a peaceful Europe, a world disposed to peace and to disarmament. They have brought the country to the brink of irreparable calamity. This National Government bid fair to be known in history as Britain's "National Decline and Fall Government." The Government appear indeed to have no constructive contribution to make to humanity's need for better international relations. Of wise planning towards that end there is no sign. The world cries aloud for peace through comprehension and reorganisation. His Majesty's Government offer "appeasement"—and the very word which they have chosen to describe their motives and their policy is in itself revealing. Appeasement! It indicates that they have no plan of their own, no sense of direction, and nothing in the way of reconstruction to offer. It appeases by the method of retreat.

I must now leave the tragedy of the past for the anxious problems of the present and the future. There is first of all our responsibility for the lives and freedom of the defeated loyalists. The recognition of Franco is unconditional. No guarantee for their safety has apparently either been demanded or granted. The Prime Minister has said that unconditional recognition of Franco was given because it would have been "inhuman to prolong the struggle."


Hear, hear.


But, my Lords, is there no touch of inhumanity in leaving brave and helpless men to the mercy of a man who has such a record, and who has all the characteristic limitations of the incompetent? His Majesty's Government may tell us that they have some assurances from him. Do they accept those assurances? Coming from such a source, what are such assurances worth? A man who has betrayed the Government of his own country will not hesitate to betray the Government of ours. Only two days ago there was an official wireless announcement from Spain which said that: The great democracies … once more wish to present General Franco with the opportunity of being magnanimous. … General Franco does not need pacts of surrender to enter Madrid. … Once General Franco says that he will not admit one single condition the great democracies can keep their humanitarian manœuvres to themselves. That is the gentleman to whom the lives of these men are to be entrusted in the future.

Only "criminals" are to be punished, we are told. Did His Majesty's Government get any definition from this "great Christian gentleman" of the word "criminal"? Who is a criminal in his eyes? We may be perfectly sure that it will not include anyone who is a professional traitor; but that it will most certainly include hundreds of loyal Spanish soldiers. Of that there is no doubt. Yet what is their crime? These men did what every Englishman would do, I hope—resist a foreign-led attack on their nation. These men, who are to be handed over as sheep to the slaughter, have made their names immortal by their fidelity and their bravery. Men do not suffer as they have suffered, nor endure as they have endured, for anything less than a deep spiritual conviction. Criminals they may be in the eyes of the man who is to decide their destiny, but for my part—and I believe I am supported by millions of my fellow countrymen—I offer them a respectful homage.

I understand that General Miaja is already on the list of those who are to be regarded as criminals. If that were to take place it could only be paralleled if, in the American Civil War, General Grant had sacrificed Robert Lee. We have given General Franco a free hand with regard to the future of these men, and I want to say, in all sincerity, that they deserved better things at our hands. While we have been imitating the priest and the Levite, they have been saving the peace of Europe, and perhaps of the world. They have been keeping war from our shores, and defending Democracy. If peace has been preserved in Europe up to now, a decisive reason is not a bargain made at Munich, but the sterner arguments of Madrid and Barcelona. To these Spanish "criminals," and to the Chinese peasants and the Ethiopian natives, we owe the fact that, as we have been told, our "tails are again up."

There is a point in my Motion concerning the integrity of Spanish territory. I hope the noble Viscount, when he comes to reply, will be able to say something reassuring about that. Unless there are factors that we do not know, the outlook appears to me to be grim. There is no guarantee that the impeccable man who now rules over Spain will not connive with his spiritual associates in Rome and Berlin to make the Mediterranean a dangerous sea of trouble for us. The Corriere della Sera has said quite recently that: From a strategical point of view the victory of General Franco clears up and modifies the situation in the Mediterranean and, in consequence, of entire Western Europe. France loses her overland route of communication with North Africa, which is the quickest. Gibraltar is rendered practically useless. I venture to suggest that such statements cause us justifiable alarm.

Then there is also the question of religious freedom in Spain. Let Catholics, let the great Roman Catholic Church, note the future awaiting their Church. The National Zeitung tells us what it is to be: No Government, no dictatorship, will hold Spain unless they have the courage to break down the arrogance of the Catholic Church, which was still able to strive under the last king. Its power over secular and religious affairs … must be broken. The Catholic hierarchy in Spain, or some portion of it, gave their support to General Franco. That was their right if they so wished, but they now will have to receive their wages. The last point which I desire to mention is the hard problem of the refugees, the consideration of which I must leave to subsequent speakers, but I venture to implore His Majesty's Government to co-operate in its solution. I am sorry if in these remarks I have appeared to be unfair or ungenerous, but it is a subject that arouses my very deepest feelings, and in dealing with this question I felt that I had at least to say what was on my conscience. The only satisfaction which I get out of it is that this unclean business is now almost completed. Like Pilate, we can now take water and wash our hands, and, if we are fortunate, blush our way into forgetfulness. I beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That the policy of His Majesty's Government towards Spain since the beginning of the rebellion has been a failure and detrimental to British interests; that vigilance is now required to ensure that the pledges with regard to the integrity of Spanish territory are respected; and that every possible assistance should be given in evacuating and helping refugees and safeguarding those remaining on Spanish soil whose only crime is loyalty to their constitutionally elected Government and to democratic principles.—(Lord Snell.)


My Lords, we can all agree that the postponement of this debate from the date originally intended is no disadvantage, due as it was to the illness of the noble Viscount opposite, of which the noble Lord, Lord Snell, spoke so gracefully and with the full agreement of the entire House. I join in the hope that the noble Viscount is entirely restored to health. The fifth act of the Spanish tragedy has passed through many rapid scenes since the date of February 27, when animated discussion took place in another place on the question of the recognition of General Franco's Government, and other things have happened since the noble Lord's Resolution was placed on the Paper. The terms of that Resolution, some people might say, are in themselves perhaps more suited to the full-blooded declamation of a public platform than to the careful discussions of your Lordships' House. But it is evident from what the noble Lord has said that he feels most strongly regarding the whole situation, and it was impossible not to conclude while he was speaking that he would have liked to speak in far stronger terms than he actually did.

Considering the past for a moment, it is necessary to go back to January, 1936, when the Popular Government was formed, a Government of which I am bound to say, in my opinion, the Resolution speaks in somewhat flattering terms, which were repeated by the noble Lord, Lord Snell, in his speech. In the following July a military rising took place of a kind very familiar in Spanish politics, and that led to the formation of the Insurgent Party, which styled itself the National Party. It seems to me that the whole division of opinion that exists in this House and elsewhere depends on the opinion of what would have happened if the Spanish Government had been able to repress that rising almost at once, or within a few months of its coming into being. According to the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Snell, the sequel would have been the triumph of a soberly conducted Government, passing no doubt what some would consider extreme measures relating to the land, perhaps to the position of the Army, and to the privileges of the Church, but still a Government maintaining that degree of respect for law and order without which no Government is said to be a Government at all. On the other hand the view was held that if the Government had then succeeded, the more moderate clement in it would have been swamped by the violent element of revolutionary anarchy, that scenes of bloodshed would have followed, and that probably the officers of the Navy and Army and landowners and priests would have been liable in many cases to massacre. Those two entirely incompatible views have been held, and it seems to me extremely possible that neither of them is correct, but it would only be somebody who knows not merely one section of Spain but something of the whole of Spain who could give an opinion as to what the result of those proceedings would have been.

The noble Lord condemns without any reserve the entire action of His Majesty's Government, and I think it is fair to express my opinion that if the Spanish Government had succeeded in quelling that rebellion there would not have been in reality any danger of a general turning by Spain in the direction of Communism, possibly to the disadvantage both of France and of ourselves. I think that what has happened in the last few days, that is to say, the suppression of the Communist element in what is left of Government territory, shows—what I have always supposed to be the case—that the full-blown Communist faith has little or no support in Spain itself. The fortunes of war having gone the other way, have we, as the noble Lord said we had, reason to dread the opposite danger—that France and ourselves will have to fear the conversion of Spain into an imitation either of Germany or of Italy (I am not quite sure which) and that therefore our French friends and ourselves will find ourselves in the awkward position of having a presumably hostile country on our flank? Well, I trust most sincerely that that risk does not in fact exist. But at the same time I think it cannot be denied that His Majesty's Government have incurred considerable danger in the line which they have taken on the question of intervention.

I take it that the case of His Majesty's Government is something like this. They would say: "Well, there ought to have been none of this evasion of the rule of non-intervention, but, after all, the presence of a few thousand foreign troops more or less in Spain is not so serious a matter as to warrant us in incurring the probability, if we attempt to check it, of starting a war which may involve the whole of Europe and possibly the whole world; therefore it is better to acquiesce." I wonder. Did that risk of a general war really exist in at all the degree which His Majesty's Government seem to suppose? We do not know precisely what occurred. Mr. Anthony Eden never had the chance of pursuing whatever line of policy he thought would be the soundest, and when the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Halifax) came into his present office it was too late to make any change. The Government had decided on their line, and there could be no question of departing from it.

I cannot help feeling that there is a body of opinion, not only confined to the regular Opposition nor to those who do not support His Majesty's Government, who feel that, to go back to the days before the War, somehow or other Lord Salisbury, Lord Rosebery, or Sir Edward Grey would have been able to state the position of this country rather more strongly than His Majesty's Government have found it possible to do. If that is not so, the alternative is not a pleasant one to consider. Assuming that His Majesty's Government have done everything that they could, that can only mean that the position of Britain in the councils of Europe is not what it was before the War. It is painful even to think of accepting that as a necessity of the situation.

With regard to the situation in Spain, we must all agree that it is not possible that His Majesty's Government should address a formal lecture to the Government of Spain on the way in which that Government are to treat their own nationals, any more than they can do so to the German Government or the Russian Government. It is obviously contrary to all diplomatic practice to engage in a lecture of that kind, and any such formal representation, unless it was to convey a threat of the possible use of force, would unquestionably be absolutely ignored by those to whom it was addressed. But that does not mean that friendly conversations, unpublished conversations, may not take place in both capitals, and even in other capitals, between the representatives of the different countries, talking over the difficulties of the situation and expressing candid views as to the way in which they should be met. Apart from that, outsiders—people not in the Government—can express their views frankly in urging action or inaction by a particular Government.

I am bound to say that I am not quite sure that the manner in which the noble Lord, Lord Snell, couched his very direct criticisms of the Spanish Government is a real help to the cause which he desires to serve. I do not think expressions of the kind used by the noble Lord, arising of course from the very strong feelings of humanity and justice by which he is actuated, really help the probability of humane and generous dealing with those on whose behalf he speaks. I most entirely agree that we should all desire to see severe measures—capital punishment—confined to those who, in the strict sense, can be convicted of crimes such as murder, or robbery, or other crimes which undoubtedly have been committed, and it is a satisfaction to express that view, which I trust will, by various indirect means, be conveyed to the Spanish Government as representing practically the whole body of British opinion.

So far as expression of outside opinion is possible, I confess that it is impossible not to feel anxiety of a different kind on behalf of the various nationalities of which Spain is composed. Take, in particular, the Basques. The Basques, as we know, went through their suffering in the spring of 1937. How it was that the Basque community joined up as they did with the Government forces, I always think has been rather difficult to explain. Nobody can suppose that the ordinary Basque peasant studies the theories of Karl Marx. I think the explanation would be—and it is one which ought to commend itself to the noble Lords opposite—that they dreaded their extinction as a separate community. As I say, it ought to appeal to noble Lords opposite because their position is in a way analagous to that of Ulster fifty years ago, when Mr. Gladstone introduced his Home Rule Bill and when Ulster thought that its identity was threatened. I do feel that if the present rulers of Spain attempt to do away with the different distinctions of race and language which have in a way made the Peninsula so remarkable, and if they do this in a sort of attempt to copy the methods which have been pursued in Germany and in Italy, they will be making a most grievous mistake and will alienate a great deal of the sympathy which in some quarters they might obtain.

Lastly, as regards the independence of Spain, of which the noble Lord has spoken so fully, I cannot myself believe that Spain with all its splendid traditions in letters, in art, and in resistance to foreign domination, would ever consent to be dragged at the heels of any other country. That, I think, would be the most dreadful end to this unhappy business, which in many ways has been so deplorable, and I am afraid in many ways disgraceful. But there exists the possibility of a complete recovery, and we hope, as friends of Spain, that it will not be long postponed.


My Lords, listening to the speech of the noble Lord who introduced this Motion, I could not help thinking of a saying of, I think it was, Professor Huxley, that there is no more hopeless tragedy in life than the conflict between a theory and a fact. Nobody would wish to associate anyone so agreeable and urbane as the noble Lord with a tragic end, but I think most of your Lordships will agree, listening to his speech and hearing what he said, and still more thinking of what he refrained from saying, what a striking example of that conflict between theory and fact was that speech, and indeed the whole attitude which his Party has adopted. He challenges His Majesty's Government all along the line in the Motion, not only for the past—and I will say a word about that in a moment—but even on the recognition that has taken place. As regards recognition I really find it absolutely impossible to follow him. All legal precedents—and I am certainly not going to trouble your Lordships with a long list of quotations—are against him. There is not a lawyer in this House who would challenge the statement that legally the test of recognition of a Government is whether that Government is in fact in effective control of the greater part of the country which it claims to represent. That, there is no doubt about it, is the legal position.

What, then, was the position with which His Majesty's Government were faced? Not only was General Franco in control of the greater part of Spain, but nobody was in control of the other part of Spain at all. It is quite impossible to pretend that a certain number of no doubt very eminent gentlemen who had for the moment vacated Spain and were either in Switzerland, or in Paris, or in transit between the two, could be regarded as a representative Government of anybody except, possibly, themselves; and indeed, when they, or some of them, did return to that part of Spain which they could still claim to represent, it became evident from the happenings of the last 24 or 48 hours that they did not represent even the fraction for whom they still claimed to speak. They very wisely, very rapidly, and fortunately for themselves, vacated the scene of action. In those circumstances, in law, what other possible course could have been open to His Majesty's Government except to recognise the Government which was in fact in control of the greater part of Spain?

So much for the legal position. But it may be said that there are occasions on which other considerations must override all precedent. Far be it from me to say that such occasions may not arise. What earthly good would have been served by refraining from recognising the Government of General Franco at this moment? Could it have served British interests to do so? If so, in what way? I apply the test of the noble Lord. Could it in any way have served the interests of anybody in Spain? What could have been the result? Indeed, I think, if I do not misinterpret his speech, he admitted himself what it might have done: it might have encouraged some people to fight on. It might have encouraged more useless bloodshed where far too much blood has been shed already. He asks my noble friend the Foreign Secretary how he can reconcile what has been done with his conscience. In all sincerity I ask him, if he had been in Lord Halifax's place, had he been Foreign Secretary and a member of a Government could he have reconciled with his conscience the taking of action the only result of which could have been that Spaniards would have hopelessly gone on fighting, with more casualties of a more tragic kind, casualties not only to the combatants but to non-combatants, and a still increasing bitterness, at a moment when all our efforts should be directed to try and assuage the bitterness between the factions on both sides?

I think the facts are uncontroverted, and His Majesty's Government would have been guilty of a great dereliction of duty, and would have served neither the interests of this country nor any party in Spain, had they refrained from recognising General Franco's Government. I have no means of knowing what were the precise conversations which took place between His Majesty's Government and the French Government. In the conversations which took place it was obviously right that His Majesty's Government should say to the French Government what they honestly thought was the proper course. I only know the published evidence. The Foreign Secretary will correct me if I am wrong, but I do not believe there is a vestige of evidence for suggesting that there was at any time any difference of opinion between His Majesty's Government and the French Government as to what was the proper course to pursue.

Then the noble Lord goes back and challenges the past. Again his theory is supported by a very convenient ignoring of facts. In his Motion he says the course of action of His Majesty's Government has been against British interests. I deny that entirely. What was the supreme British interest in this matter? Surely it was to localise the war. They could not stop it happening, and they could not stop it going on, but surely the interest of the British Government was to localise the war, to keep that war, if it had to take place, in Spain and not to allow it to swell into a world war. Whatever may be said of any other part of the policy of His Majesty's Government, so far as that supreme British interest is concerned their policy has certainly succeeded—just as, I believe, the policy of the noble Lord, had it been adopted, would have failed.

The noble Lord—and it is a very easy thing to do—scoffed at the policy of nonintervention. Incidentally, I always feel this difficulty when I listen to the speeches of members of the Labour party about non-intervention. They blame other people for intervention, and they blame His Majesty's Government for not intervening: Whatever I do, whatever I say, Aunt Tabitha tells me it isn't the way. There is a certain lack of logic in that attitude. A great deal may be and can properly be said against intervention, but do not let it be supposed for a moment that the intervention has been all on one side. The noble Lord spoke to-day of the intervention by the Germans and by the Italians. Well, nobody is going to minimise either the scale or the scope of that intervention. But do not let us suppose for a moment that they stand alone. There was not a word about Russian intervention. Not a word. If we really are to go into an inquiry into the order of time in this matter, I am not at all sure that the evidence of history will not show that Russian intervention took place before any other intervention.

In this matter I have only one interest, the British interest, and I am a noninterventionist, but in appraising intervention and non-intervention, in fairness we should have a true picture presented. When we talk about Italian and German intervention, in common courtesy to Russia do not let us forget the scale of Russian intervention. I think, too, that the noble Lord should not have forgotten the International Brigade, to whom his leader in another place paid such a striking tribute that I think a battalion or even a division of that Brigade was called after him. There was the International Brigade. Brigade is rather an elastic term for a force which, on a conservative estimate, must have much more closely resembled an army corps than what we in the British Army have hitherto understood by a brigade. I am not defending intervention—I am against intervention by anybody—but I do say that when we are speaking about intervention we should try to get a fair picture of the intervention which has taken place from a very great many quarters. I am not sure that I have exhausted all the quarters from which it came, but I have said enough for my argument.

I think there is a great deal that can be said against non-intervention, but there is also a great deal which can be said, if I may say so quite respectfully to the noble Lord, in favour of both countries and people minding their own business. But do let us be consistent. Really I think the noble Lord is an opponent of intervention when it takes place on the side which he is not backing at the time. So far as His Majesty's Government are concerned—and it is they who are charged—they certainly have not intervened. Indeed, I think the charge against them is that they have refrained from intervening. They have been guilty of no intervention of any kind except where the cause of humanity could be served. Either on the side of the "Reds" or on the side of the "Whites," on the side of the Government or of the insurgents, by whatever name you like to call them, quite irrespective of Party, side or interest, His Majesty's Government and His Majesty's Fleet have gone to succour sufferers in any part of Spain. I am not at all sure that in the years to come that form of intervention will not be more gratefully remembered by the people of Spain than any other form.


Is the noble Viscount in favour of that continuing just now?


Certainly I am in favour of humanitarian action continuing, and I have every reason to believe that His Majesty's Government will lose no opportunity of intervening for the purpose of taking humane action. Really I was amazed at the travesty of a story which the noble Lord presented about Minorca. According to him, His Majesty's Government sent a cruiser in order to take away Minorca from loyalist Spain, or whatever I am to call it, and to hand it over to the insurgents. What on earth could be further from the facts? What I understand happened was characteristic of the action of His Majesty's Fleet. It quite naturally fell to the lot of the British Government, when there was a chance of getting a settlement between the people who were warring in Minorca and the people in Spain, to provide through the agency of a British ship a meeting ground where the parties were able to meet and come to an agreement. If that is to be characterised as a wicked form of intervention, I do not know what the noble Lord desires. It seemed to me almost equal to the curious view he expressed that the Catholic Church was likely to suffer far worse depredations and assaults at the hands of General Franco than it had suffered at the hands of other persons who had occupied other parts of Spain.


May I interrupt the noble Viscount? I quoted from a German newspaper. It was not my view.


If the noble Lord does not associate himself with what was said in the German newspaper—well then, I do not know why it was quoted. There is one thing which I think might be open to criticism. I have always felt that there was a good deal to be said—no doubt a great deal may be said on the other side—once this war was in full swing and once the parties were, as they were, very equally matched in combat, for granting belligerent rights to both sides, not in order to give advantage to one side or the other, but simply for the reason that when belligerent rights are granted to the parties to a war everybody knows where they stand. A perfectly recognised code of International Law binds both combatants and neutrals. I always felt that an extremely difficult task was set the British Navy in telling them to go out and navigate a wholly uncharted naval legal sea. It might have been a much simpler business all round if belligerent rights had been granted. That, however, would not have satisfied the noble Lord: if belligerent rights were to be granted at all, according to him, they should have been granted to one side and not to the other. I will therefore not pursue that argument, as I do not think it is really germane to the debate.

But in his assessment of Spanish feeling, I really think that the noble Lord and his friends could only maintain their theory by complete subordination of facts. He is indeed a master of a rather cynical political maxim: "Never make a mistake in your logic; the facts remain at your disposal." But what are the facts? Again the noble Lord has pictured to us an insurgent Spain with no national backing, a few disgruntled generals only able to make their way with foreign aid. Surely nothing could be further from the truth. If Spanish feeling had been as one-sided as that, I do not think General Franco would have won many victories. I am quite sure of this: that he could never have held and administered the country behind him with hardly a rearguard left to control it. I am not a partisan of either side. I am sure the real truth is that on both sides thousands and thousands of Spaniards fought and died for what they believed to be right, and if we want to appraise this tragedy of Spain and the actions of Spaniards, whatever their colour, we shall do it better by looking back in our own history to our own Civil War, when passions ran high, when people felt sincere convictions; or to the time of the American Civil War. Surely the hope of all true friends of Spain to-day must be that this fratricidal strife may cease and that Spaniards may join in building up a great country worthy of its gallant people and of its great past. I am quite sure of this: that my noble friend and this country will not be in a worse position to help in that reconstruction of Spain by the Spaniards because they have not been guilty of any intervention except the offering of humane aid wherever and whenever they could.

The Motion goes on to say that vigilance is now required to ensure that the pledges with regard to the integrity of Spanish territory may be preserved. I entirely agree with the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, that very much depends on what you mean by a Motion of that kind. The vigilance of an understanding friend may be of great value; the meddling of a mischievous busybody may do nothing but harm. I would make just two observations on that part of the Motion, and they are these. The best way to make a man break a promise that he has made to you is to go about all the time saying you are perfectly certain he is not going to keep his word. Of course, if you do that, the man says: "You never were at one with me; you never believed me." I cannot imagine a greater encouragement to anybody to break his word. That is not the attitude that His Majesty's Government take in this matter, and they would be very unwise if they did take any such attitude.

I would also say this, and it is a view which I share with the noble Marquess from such experience as I have. The Spaniards are a proud and independent people. I wonder if any of your Lordships remember the story told of the Duke of Wellington. When the last Marshal of France in the last French Army had been defeated and driven across the Pyrenees, the Duke is reported to have said to the General Franco of the day: "I have driven out the last invader of Spain." The answer of the Spaniard is said to have been this: "Yes, Excellency, you have driven out a very had stink by a stink not quite so bad." That story certainly has an element of truth. It has come down for more than a century; it shows the pride of Spain in Spain and the determination of Spaniards to keep their own country. For my part, from such knowledge as I have I should not envy the man who tried to make Spain a satellite State. In a long and difficult task I think the Foreign Secretary has rightly interpreted the mind and wishes of his fellow-countrymen. He has served their interests, and he has served the interests of world peace. His position and theirs have not suffered at his hands, and I believe that not only the majority of your Lordships but the majority of the people in this country are profoundly thankful that in these difficult times the conduct of foreign affairs has been, and remains, in his charge.


My Lords, I hate to find myself opposed to the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition, because in debate he is one of the most courteous members of your Lordships' House. The noble Lord said he was going to make a strenuous speech. He has certainly done that. It was also a controversial one, and I realise quite well that it was absolutely sincere. But he has made certain statements and pointed out certain implications which should not go out of your Lordships' House without another interpretation being put upon them. I realise that the noble Viscount, when he speaks, will answer some of the noble Lord's arguments, but perhaps he is still under a corner of the cloak of nonintervention, and may not wish to descend into the depths of controversy as I propose to do. The noble Lord has made a case for his Party, and also, of course, a case for those who oppose the National Government. With all respect to him, I do not think I have ever heard arguments so futile. This is another occasion when the Labour Party seem quite unable to face up to reality. The noble Lord stated that he had no respect for Government policy. It has been pointed out in this House time and time again, and the noble Viscount who has just sat down pointed it out, that the policy of non-intervention adopted by the Government was the only policy that the Government could have carried out. If any other policy had been carried out, there was every danger of war in Europe.

The Labour Party used to be a peace party, but now they are the most ferocious and bellicose of people. I cannot understand it. I am not going to stress that point, because we have thrashed it out so many times in this House. The truth is that the whole of the noble Lord's arguments, with all respect, are based on false premises. For two years he and those who think with him have been enveloped in a blinding mist of false information and mendacity. Those, I think, are not too strong words. The noble Lord objects to the sinking of British ships. However much that is to be deplored, with all fairness it must be remembered that these seamen—some of them not of British nationality, although a great many were—were running a blockade, just as the blockade was run in the American Civil War. They took their risks, and took them gladly. They knew the risks they were taking, and they did it with hardly a complaint. The outcries and squeals come from the Red propagandists in this country, who wish to exploit those gallant sailors for their own ends. I am not blaming the noble Lord, nor am I blaming Lord Strabolgi, who spoke in this House on this subject a short time ago, because I am sure they are perfectly sincere in putting forward their own case, but there are many on the other side who consider that the prestige of this country has been weakened because we have allowed this bombing of British ships. I, on the contrary, think that our prestige has been enhanced, because foreign countries now know that we still have men here who are prepared to face death in order to carry out the contract they have made, and we have officers and men who are still ready to show that old adventurous spirit which has made this Empire great. I do not think that our prestige can possibly have suffered in any way.

The noble Lord has made the well-worn and misleading assertion that this has been a war between Fascism and Democracy. Franco has not called himself a Fascist, nor has he bound himself to follow the example either of Italy or of Germany. He is first of all a Spaniard, and he will probably govern the country in the Spanish way, which is not necessarily the Italian or the German way. The truth is that Franco is a man who rose to save his country from Anarchy and Red Revolution. Franco may be called a counter-revolutionary, but certainly not a Fascist, and before he is given any ideological name let us wait and see what Government he gives to Spain. With regard to the so-called democratic Government and democratic principles mentioned in the Motion, how many of your Lordships remember the Proclamation which was made by Franco at the beginning of the Civil War. It was given scant publicity by the British Press, because the British Press, with few exceptions, has always been biased against the National Government. Franco, in his Proclamation asking for recruits, said: It is the duty of every man to enter into this definite struggle between Russia and Spain. That is the only Proclamation he made, and if it had not been perfectly true, and understood by every Spaniard, then he would have required to use other words and give other reasons. Were the agents of Russia in Spain really the agents of a democratic country trying to convert Spain into the ways of democracy? It is evident that the so-called democratic Government was nothing more than a myth.

The noble Lord has spoken of Franco's vengeance and brutality, the inference being that Franco has been carrying out brutalities in Spain in the past. That is entirely a misconception. The Nationalist Government have a settled policy with regard to prisoners. They are taken care of, fed and looked after. After a time they are released with the exception of some whose dossiers are in the hands of the police and who are accused of murder. When captured these men are brought before a competent court and tried. Sometimes they suffer the supreme penalty, and sometimes they are reprieved. Who are these men whom the Nationalists accuse of murder, and to whom the noble Lord—I could not understand it—did homage? How can he pay homage to murderers? Who are these men? They are the leaders of irresponsible bands who have been guilty of the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Spanish men and women on Red territory, without trial. I do not want to speak of things of which we all know, but it is beyond doubt that not only in Madrid but in many other Spanish cities people were pulled out of their beds, hauled into the streets, and there shot, the results of the night's killing being left lying about the streets until they were removed. In Spain I met a lady of British birth who lived in a house over-looking the spot where these victims lay, and she told me that she had counted up to 10,000 corpses. I have reason to think that her statement can be accepted.

I shall, of course, be told that there is nothing to choose between the savagery on one side and the other, but I ask your Lordships to compare the methods of Red Spain as they are known with the methods of order and justice carried out by the Nationalists. I ask your Lordships to consider this. Suppose a murderer entered one of your houses in London and took out the son of the house and shot him. Would you not consider it just if the murderer, when caught, was brought before a Judge and jury, tried, and given the supreme penalty? Would you consider that right, as is apparently the opinion of the noble Lord, or would you consider that the Judge and jury were carrying out an act of vengeance? There is no doubt, speaking generally, that there have been acts of savagery on the part of Russian Spain, and methods of order and justice on the side of the Nationalists.

Of course we all deplore the senseless slaughter of civilians in modern warfare, but the implication of the noble Lord is that there has been deliberate bombing and machine gunning of women and children. It is unfortunately true that civilians have been machine gunned on the roads, as occurred in the retreat from Barcelona. It is impossible to say whether there were troops with them, but I think it is probable. If there were it was legitimate; if not, it was disgraceful. But the point that I want to make is that these things are not being done by the order of General Franco. I do not believe for a moment that he would have given instructions for the bombing of women and children. There are of course such things as military objectives, and I lay the responsibility on the Barcelona Government for the slaughter and misery that these people suffered. They were driven out of the towns, and told to fly, and were caused to fly north by the lies and propaganda of the Barcelona Government. The result was that many of them were slaughtered and the Republican Government are responsible entirely for that slaughter.

I am glad, and I am sure your Lordships are glad, that at long last the Government have recognised the Nationalist Government. However ardent supporters we may be of the policy of His Majesty's Government, surely there are times when we may in your Lordships' House criticise a part of that policy with which we may not be in entire agreement. I am very sorry that General Franco's Government was not recognised ten months ago, because it would have made for very much greater friendliness with the new Spain. As it is, we waited until the fait accompli, and we are now in exactly the same position as we were after the war between Italy and Abyssinia. Of course, I realise that our Government had really a very difficult role to play, and no doubt it was a matter of high policy—perhaps high internal policy. There is probably some good reason for it. I only hope that General Franco, having been a democrat, will have a sense of humour and that he will realise it is sometimes necessary to throw a sop to the wolves. I apologise for this continual assertion and counter-assertion in Spanish matters. I am sick and tired of it, and I am sure your Lordships are. But when statements are made which have been made to-day in your Lordships' House I think they ought to be answered. Somebody has got to answer, and that is my justification.

Already the mist is lifting. People have got their heads up. General Franco is no longer the ogre that he was. Fascism versus Democracy, the savagery of the Nationalists—all these things are coming out into the sunshine and are being seen in their proper light. The miasma of false propaganda, which has been going on for two years in Red territory, will not clear until the verdict of history has shown the nonsense of it all, and I do not think that it will be very long in coming. I believe the Red Sea is a good place to see a waterspout. The column of water is getting thin. The spate of false information and false statement which has been going up to the skies for so long is diminishing. I am told, and I know it is true, that a gun will dispel a waterspout, and when the verdict of history fires that gun all this flood of mendacity will fall down into that blood-red sea from which it emerged.


My Lords, the noble Lord who moved this Resolution will probably not be surprised to hear that his impatient attack on the Government made little or no impression on me, and I rise, like previous speakers, to express my congratulations to the Government upon the complete success—not the failure—of their policy with regard to Spain. I do so with all the more pleasure and all the more sincerity because it occurs to me that the British Government are the only Government to come out of the business with comparatively clean hands. Let me recall the circumstances. There were five Governments who possessed, or thought they possessed, interests in Spain. There were ourselves, there were the Soviet Government, the German Government, the Italian Government and the French Government. Let me point out quite shortly what happened.

The Soviet Government had been at work before the war began. It might almost be said that the war was the result of their work. They had long looked upon Barcelona as a centre for developing their activities, and the war came as a godsend to them. Ever since the war began they have done all they possibly could to help the Republican Government in various ways, and it would be interesting to know how many millions they have wasted in attempting to achieve their purpose. I pass to the French Government, and I regret to say that the record of the French Government is an extremely unsatisfactory one. M. Blum, if I am not mistaken, was in office during the earlier portion of the war, and the result was that there was a continual flow of men and military supplies of all kinds to help the Spanish Republicans. It reached such a pitch that, as I have read in evidence which was brought before the French Parliamentary Committees, military material was sent to Spain in such quantities that it seriously depleted the stocks of the French Army.

Now I pass from France to Germany. Well, we all know the part that Germany has played and the assistance that the Germans gave to General Franco. It was probably very much more valuable than the assistance which he obtained elsewhere, but they were clever enough not to make too much of a parade of it, and they never boasted of their achievement. They were content with solid achievement. The case of the Italians was quite different. Signor Mussolini was quite unable to restrain his intense desire to show that his countrymen were the equals, if not the superiors, of anybody else. He trumpeted his successes all over the world. Naturally attention was concentrated upon him, and a lot of foolish people thought that it was owing to the Italians that General Franco eventually won the war. Of course nothing of the kind happened.

What was the case with us? We were absolutely neutral all through. If we erred at all it was in the direction of being too severe with regard to General Franco. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, commented on that particular point. I have always thought, as I think he did, that it was a very great pity that His Majesty's Government did not make up their minds to recognise General Franco and accord belligerent rights long ago. There would have been nothing unfair about it, and the war would have terminated probably a year or two ago. An enormous number of lives and an incalculable amount of money would thus have been saved. I do not know what reason actually prevented His Majesty's Government from recognising General Franco. No doubt the noble Viscount when he speaks will give the reasons, and they will probably be technical reasons. But surely the broad principle with regard to according belligerent rights or recognising a revolutionary government depends en- tirely upon the support behind the movement. If it is a purely military revolution, of course you do not accord anything of the kind, but the case for according belligerent rights to General Franco was every bit as strong as the case of the Southern States fighting in America, or the case of the Greeks fighting against the Turks, and many others.

I repeat that it was a most unfortunate thing that this decision was not made earlier. I have a very strong suspicion in my mind that His Majesty's Government did not take this step, not because they were frightened of the noble Lords opposite—of firebrands like the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, and the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and Mr. Gilbert Murray and people of that kind—but because they were prevented from doing so by the French Government. The result is that France is now flooded with refugees, and it would not surprise me if before long they came to us and said we ought to share the burden. It seems to me that they brought this misfortune upon themselves. It was they who were responsible for it, and, although I am the last person to deprecate any humane work, it does not seem to me that they have any claim upon us.

The attack of the noble Lord upon the Government was so fierce that I can hardly think that he believed in it himself. When, for instance, he talked about prisoners being handed over like sheep to be butchered by General Franco, surely he cannot have meant it seriously. Can he produce any instances in which General Franco has maltreated prisoners, or committed any atrocities of any kind against combatants? I am quite sure that he can not do anything of the kind. Of course one must make allowances for people who have backed the wrong horse. In this case the horse they backed was recommended to them by their own particular military and naval adviser, the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, who acts in that capacity during his spare time. I might add that not only were his prophecies in this particular case upset, but he told us not very long ago that the Czecho-Slovak Army would fight to the death and would probably beat the Germans. I am afraid that the noble Lord's reputation as a war prophet will suffer considerably. However, that is not a very important point.

What strikes me about the whole business, putting myself in the position of the Opposition, is the deplorable and cruel fact that Spain is no longer attached to the democratic principle at all. The democratic principle is at a complete discount in Spain at this moment. There is nothing whatever to show that the Spaniards are enamoured of what is called the democratic principle. It seems to be quite the other way about. I observed that the noble Lord was very much concerned as to the future. In his Resolution he not only evidently envisages the prospect of cruelties being inflicted on combatants, but he is also very much alarmed on behalf of the people who admire the democratic principle. All that sounds very well on paper, but what has fidelity to the democratic principle to do with murder and outrage? Surely he would not say that the murders that took place during the retreat of the Catalan force the other day had anything to do with the democratic principle? It seems to me grotesque to suggest anything of the kind. Why on earth should people who entertain those ideas be molested by General Franco? I am not sure whether General Franco is a very intelligent man, because he completely despised all attempts at propaganda on his behalf and took no trouble to defend himself, thereby allowing his opponents to have it all their own way; but I cannot believe that he is a man who has not got sufficient sense to realise that government would be impossible if he had an outraged minority living under him. I consider these people are perfectly safe and have nothing to worry about at all.

Evidently the noble Lord is concerned, and I can read into his Resolution an aspiration that we should do our best to safeguard the democratic principle in Spain. I sincerely hope we shall do nothing of the kind. What the Government is in Spain does not concern us in the least. It does not matter whether it is Fascist or Socialist, Conservative or Liberal. What we want is a Government that will be friendly to us. The besetting fault of this nation is that it always thinks it knows better than other people how they ought to be governed. We have got into endless trouble in the course of history through trying to force forms of government on people who did not want them in the least. I sincerely hope we shall not commit that mistake this time. All we ought to strive for is to see that our own interests do not suffer and that our nationals in Spain do not suffer. If we try to introduce some ideas suggested by noble Lords opposite and by their friends in the country we shall assuredly come to grief, because nobody will support us. As long as we confine ourselves merely to the object of restoring Spain to a stable, peaceful condition, there our work ought to end. If we set to work to try and graft other ideas upon the Spaniards and try to mould them according to what we think is the right form of political ideas, we shall infallibly come to grief.


My Lords, I do not propose to follow the noble Lord in the greater part of what he has just said. I heard him denounce the democratic principle with great fervour, and indeed I was not surprised to hear that from his lips. He said that nothing could be more ridiculous than for the present Government to assist in maintaining the democratic principle. Certainly I should not go to the noble Lord with that object. But I do not propose to go into the rest of his arguments at any length. He was good enough to refer to me as a firebrand. That I do not mind. Indeed I call it rather a compliment, on the whole, considering the quarter from which it comes. Certainly it was rather strange, in the case of a noble Lord who objects to firebrands, that a good part of his speech should be taken up in denunciation of most of the Governments in Europe. But I do not propose to deal with that part of the case at all.

The Resolution before us has three parts. The first part deals with criticisms of the present Government and of their conduct in this case. I do not propose to say anything about that for two reasons. In the first place the matter has been very fully dealt with by my noble friend Lord Snell, and to a great extent by my noble friend Lord Crewe. I am sure it will also be dealt with by a good many other speakers in this debate on one side or the other, and I do not feel I can add anything useful to what has been said. I cannot pretend to be of the opinion of the noble Lord who has just sat down, that the policy of the Government has been a great success, unless their object was to secure the victory of General Franco. That is sometimes thought in certain quarters. I prefer to think that was not their object, but that they really did mean to be perfectly neutral in their conduct. My only criticism is that when they found that nobody was really prepared to act on the principles of non-intervention, they would have done better to have abandoned that plan altogether and not allowed it to drag on, a miserable farce, for months and months when everybody knew that none of the negotiators were really in earnest except, perhaps, ourselves. That is all I desire to say on that part of the subject, because I know there are many noble Lords who desire to address your Lordships, and I do not want to take up more time than I can possibly help.

Of the other two aspects of the Resolution, one is an expression of the wish that the independence of Spain may be maintained. I do not believe there is any difference of opinion in your Lordships' House on that point, and I hope we may receive an assurance from the Government that they also think it of great importance. It is on the other point I wish to say a few words—and I shall keep them as short as I possibly can—that is, the subject of refugees. We know that literally hundreds of thousands of Spaniards are now refugees in France. We know that, in all probability, their numbers will be increased when the remainder of Spain is occupied by the troops of General Franco. That may be reasonable or it may be unreasonable, but it is a fact. I have heard, and I have no doubt many of your Lordships have heard, the most heartrending accounts of the condition of these unhappy people who have fled because they thought they were in danger of immediate slaughter, and very likely through no fault of the French Government have, in fact, suffered grievious hardships. I feel that is a very strong case and it is one that would appeal, I hope, to every noble Lord present. Certainly it must appeal to all of us who feel that we have, wittingly or unwittingly, not treated the late Government of Spain with quite the same impartiality that we designed no doubt to exercise, and certainly with not quite the same favour as we have treated their opponents.

Here are these people to whom we are in a degree responsible. I am not talking for the moment, and I am not going to talk, about the so-called criminals, or the possibilities—I hope they will not eventuate in actual facts—of extensive executions by the victorious party. That is a terrible consequence of civil war on both sides. There is a tendency to regard everybody on the other side as a traitor and guilty of high treason, and therefore liable to the severest penalties. It is quite true that in the only civil war we have had in this country both sides treated their opponents with extraordinary leniency and clemency, and at the Restoration I doubt whether anybody was executed. I think there were some people whose bodies were dug up and their ashes scattered, but I do not remember anyone being actually executed. But that is a very rare case. Normally the successful party thinks it even necessary or desirable to slaughter a great many of his late opponents. Anything that the Government can do to mitigate that danger I hope that they will do.

There was a statement made on very high authority that the Government would not facilitate the escape of any of the beaten party from the portion of Spain which has not yet been occupied by General Franco. It is possible the statement was misunderstood, but as it reads in the public prints this morning it is very disquieting. It certainly looks as if the Prime Minister of this country was not prepared to do anything to assist these miserable refugees unless General Franco gave him leave to do so. That is a new doctrine so far as I know in our attitude to political refugees, and I earnestly trust there has been some misapprehension as to what was really meant by the Prime Minister. But I do not want to deal with that; I want just to say a word about the refugee question.

These Spanish refugees are only part of what has now become the enormous question; what are you to do with political refugees? They come from Spain, as we know in reference to this Motion, and there are of course a whole class of them that come from Germany, and quite a large number from CzechoSlovakia, from Hungary, and I believe from Poland. Certainly there is a danger of their coming from Poland. There are hundreds of thousands of them, probably running into millions by now. These people are dumped down on to the other countries, being generally just excluded from the country from which they are flying. Either they are actually excluded, or they fly because they are in danger of capital punishment. It is a frightful question. What should be done with them is a question of immense complication. I do not pretend that it is a simple matter. There are provisions for settling them in Guiana, I believe. And there is the question, which touches another very burning question of the day, how far some of them, the Jewish ones, can be accommodated in Palestine.

When you come to deal with the matter here in this country you find that it is a frightfully complicated matter. Three Departments at least are affected—the Foreign Office, the Home Office, the Ministry of Labour; and in some cases the Board of Trade. The methods by which they are to be dealt with by the international authorities are almost equally complex. In these circumstances I venture very earnestly to press on the Government that they should consider the whole administration of this question. I know it is complicated, but it really belongs to the same order of complications that occurred in some respects during the War. The expedient usually employed then was to put some particular branch under a Minister altogether and give him complete control, subject of course to proper consideration for other Departments. Indeed, only in that kind of way will you get any satisfactory method of dealing with them. But it is not only the Government. My complaints such as they are do not touch the Government directly very much. So far as I have had any relations with Government Departments in this matter—and like many of your Lordships I have had appeals made to me to save particular refugees—I must say that when I have been able to get in touch with the proper official he has generally shown the utmost consideration and done his best to help the case in question. But in addition to the Government, there is a number of societies and organisations that exist for assisting. Some I have no doubt are excellently efficient. I am not going to mention any names, but some are very much the reverse of efficient, and the result is that you are told to apply to such and such an assistant and you find it impossible to get any answer at all out of them.

I do not think one ought to blame anybody very much, because the urgency of the question and the complication of it is so great that it must tax anybody's exertions to deal with it properly, but I think the Government ought to deal with it very seriously as one of the gravest questions they have to face in these troublous times. This question of refugees is really tremendously serious. It is not merely—bad as that is—the hardship that afflicts each refugee; it is the great international question involved as well. I beg the Government to treat the matter as a matter of first-class importance and urge them to consider whether it would not be possible to create one single Department which could deal with all refugees of all the different kinds. I should myself like to see the international side of it dealt with under the League of Nations, because I think they have great experience in this matter and have dealt with many refugee questions quite admirably. I should like to see all the Evian Committee absorbed in the League of Nations system, which I think would deal with the matter far better than the Evian Committee has been able to deal with it. In any case I would urge the Government to treat the matter as one of first-rate importance, and to consider whether some drastic alteration of the present official method of dealing with the matter could not be adopted.


My Lords, I do not propose to follow the noble Viscount in the matter of refugees further than to say that I entirely repudiate the notion that we have any special responsibility, or indeed beyond humanitarian grounds any responsibility for the refugees from Spain; and in any case the unhappy Jews, whether they be Jewish by race or by religion, ought to have priority over them. I am not going to speak about the question of the recognition of General Franco. I propose to go further, and to defend General Franco himself in his actions and policy from first to last. I am perfectly free to confess that I feel with some bitterness on this question on account of the outrages to religion which have occurred in Spain, but that is not the fundamental ground on which I base my case. I base my case on this, that the Government against which General Franco rose had forfeited all moral authority. I do not suppose that anyone in this House would argue that a legal Government ought never to be resisted. I am sure all Liberals would approve of the two successful risings against our own Governments in the seventeenth century. I imagine they would also approve of the rising of the American Colonies against us—at least, the whole Apostolic succession of Whiggery down to Dr. Murray and Professor Trevelyan would so approve.

I take it a little later than that. In the year 1860 there was a very strong, and I think a predominant, legal opinion in America that any State in the Union had the right to secede if it chose. There was good legal ground for that, because actually when they began their first changes of the Constitution in the last decade of the eighteenth century several States did formally secede in order that the reconstruction might be easier. Anyhow, there was so strong a legal opinion that it deterred President Buchanan from any strong action. Well, what was to happen in that case? I suppose you could have got a decision from the Supreme Court in two or three years, but in the words of that eminent Liberal, Lord Bryce, "The swords of the soldiers cut the knots of the lawyers," and Lincoln was determined to take action, whether legal or not, because he could not see States of his own Union seceding in order that they might continue their social and economic system on the immoral basis of slavery.

Now I would come to something later still. In this case I do not appeal for a moment to noble Lords opposite, because they would not admit my premises, but it is an argument valid for any Conservative who may still be in doubt. In the years 1912 to 1914 the whole Conservative Party considered that it was a grave constitutional outrage to force on the people of Ulster, without an Election, without the consent of the whole people of the United Kingdom, a Government against their will. This was not from any special love of the Ulstermen. It is true that some supported them on religious grounds, but among a great many Conservatives there was no particular liking for the Ulstermen. They did not want to be too closely associated with them. In my own case, of course, it just happened—though it was quite an irrelevancy—that I was in actual theological agreement with their opponents, and so in fact was the Chief Whip of the Conservative Party. But the point was not whether Ulstermen were a likeable or a tolerant set of people. The whole point was whether they ought to have a Government forced upon them without moral authority against their will. The whole Conservative Party without exception—I think absolutely without exception—were ready to back them in their resistance. If you take it as a question of pure legality, we were abetting an illegal conspiracy, though, of course, the Government dared not prosecute. If the late Lord Birkenhead was in it up to the neck, my noble friend Viscount Cecil was at least in it up to the diaphragm.

If Sir Edward Carson had a good case General Franco had a very much better case. Sir Edward Carson feared oppression as the result of what was thought to be the unwarranted act of the Imperial Government. In the case of General Franco it was not his fear of oppression; it was his knowledge of what was going on. Long before General Franco's rising there had been a series of events which showed that the then Government had lost all control and were letting it slip to others through their hands. There was arson in many cases, not only of churches but of political clubs, assumption of authority by illegal bodies, systematic tampering with and weakening of the Army, and they suspended their own Constitution so as to be unhampered in anything they did. And all this in peace time. Finally, when it came to the murder of the leader of the Opposition by policemen in a Black Maria, it really was time for somebody to do something. In a situation such as that, what are good citizens to do? Are they merely to sit quiet, allow outrage to go on, see their country going on towards the abyss and wait on the chance that on some future occasion they may still be alive and able to put a vote in the ballot box, or are they to strike to the best of their power? I am thinking of the line of Mr. Browning: While God's champion lives, wrong shall be resisted. Because they were soldiers, were they not on that account to do what they could to save their country? They were the very people who could do it, and if they could do it they ought.

Of course, now we know very well that the Communist rising was preparing all the time. The Anglican Bishop of Liver- pool is a witness of the fact that in the Canaries there was a whole list—and in many other places too—of people who were on the black list to be shot as soon as the Communists came into power. That list included not only clergy but professional men, and most of the doctors on the island. That stigma of outrage has gone on from first to last. If noble Lords have read carefully the occasionally contributed articles in The Times—The Times itself took a somewhat frigid, detached attitude—you will remember that those correspondents gave wonderful accounts of continued outrage right down to the late murder of hostages on the French frontier. This cannot be denied. This is the dilemma the Republican Government have been in: if they ordered or deliberately allowed these outrages, they were fiends; if they were unable to stop them, they were unfit to govern. I do not know which horn of the dilemma critics of General Franco would take.

It is no part of my case that the progress of the National army was wholly unblemished; it would, of course, be foolish to suppose it could be in a civil war. The stories of massacre at Badajos and Guernica have been disproved. But I am quite ready to believe that it would be really against human nature if it were not so. There was doubtless many a hasty drumhead court-martial and swift execution to follow. But what I do say is that there was nothing in the least comparable to the indictment that could be set up on the other side at any time during the war. And also at the beginning, do you suppose that the advancing armies were or could be in a judicial frame of mind? When they marched up through part of Andalusia and Estremadura, on every hand they had reports of the most appalling outrages. For example, could they be very cool in their minds when they heard that a number of honest women had been ordered by a Communist court to undergo the most horrible outrages? It is not in human nature that they could.

The cause of the Nationalists has been prejudiced, and was particularly prejudiced early, by various factors. For example, it was a military revolt, and ever since Cromwell's time that has not been liked in England. Then there were the Moors. Their number, of course, has been greatly exaggerated, and Moors were equally employed by the Republican Government to quell the insurrection by General Sanjurjo. Then there was the Church: that again excited prejudice in some circles in England, partly owing to the extraordinary fallacy that the Church still enjoys her ancient privileges. As a matter of fact, I think it will be found that the Church, first and last, had very little to do with the struggle except to suffer. Then, of course, after the events of last autumn the cause of the Nationalists, with many others, was prejudiced by the mass hysteria and perverted thinking which arose after the settlement of Munich.

In this connection and in many others we have seen very strange phenomena. I might almost say, in the words of Mr. Burke, "I live in an inverted order." That charming hymn to St. Jingo which was the solace of my childhood is now sung on Socialist lips, except that they sing "We do want to fight" and not "We don't." Then, again, the Foreign Secretary said the other day that no statesman in this country would be in favour of a preventive war. If he puts the emphasis on the word "statesman," no doubt he is right; but, judging by the speeches which have been made, I can hardly doubt that many who think themselves statesmen are distinctly in favour of it, and were in favour of a preventive war by intervention in Spain. Then there are some remarkable phenomena connected with the clergy. It has sometimes been alleged—I do not know with what justice—against the Church of England that they are too subservient to the State and that they have seldom found a champion like Bishop Phillpotts of Exeter, to stand up to the Erastian lawyers. Now it appears that some of them, so far from adopting that attitude, are attempting to dictate the policy of the State.

Last July I saw an article, or a memorandum, or a petition, signed by a large number of Church dignitaries in which they said that for the sake of International Law we must protect the profiteering ships in Spanish harbours, although the Government had warned the country generally that that might lead to a general war. I have sometimes wondered what the definition of clericalism is, but I imagine that what it amounts to is the abuse of ecclesiastical influence in temporal affairs. If this urging of a dangerous policy on the Government is not clericalism, I do not know what is; and it is clericalism of a peculiarly dangerous kind, exactly what brought Scotland to ruin at the battle of Dunbar when the Kirk forced poor General Leslie, against his will, to give battle to Cromwell in the plain. So I may say that we have the new Jingoes, the new Machiavellians, the new clericals and the new profiteers, and the Labour Party support them all. I do not think there is much more that I can say.


Hear, hear.


Go on.


I am really rather tempted by what I hear opposite to say a little more! Certainly we must say one thing: that though we have done, I think, our duty, and we could not, except in one particular, have done otherwise, we have not earned the gratitude of the new Government. The best we can say to them in the way of friendship is that we have been abused by their Republican opponents for having betrayed them. In that connection I rather think the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Snell, will do a certain amount of good. One point, however, that I do want to make was made before by Lord Newton, and I hope some reply will be given to it: what was the real reason for not giving belligerent rights? It seemed the natural thing to do, according to precedent. The only defence I have so far heard is that circumstances were different because there was intervention by other Powers. Why was that not done? Why should it have made a difference? I cannot help thinking, as has already been said, that the real reason was that we could not get the French to agree and we did not like to go ahead without them. If there is another and a better reason, I shall be glad to hear it.

When I see accounts of military dangers of the future resulting from the present position in Spain, I cannot help thinking that some people have apparently forgotten that there is such a thing as a French fleet, let alone a British one, and that if French communications can be cut, so can Italian; that if Africa is to be the scene of possible operations in the future, Africa can be reached from the Atlantic as well as from the Mediterranean. I do not expect any such condition to arise, but it is purely futile to suppose that all the dangers are against us or against France and none against anyone else. I should like to add that, if Portugal had been overrun and had become a Soviet State, our position in the Atlantic would have been very different from what it has always been. I do hope we shall cultivate good relations with the new Government. I do not object to what someone referred to as "harmless talks in private," but to adopt a hectoring or a pharisaical air towards them would utterly undo the purpose of our policy. They deserve the fruits of their victory. They have fought for all those things for which men fight best: for their faith, for their liberty, for the traditions of their nation, for the honour of their women, for the security of their possessions; and I thank the God of Battles that they have won.


My Lords, I think your Lordships have been very fortunate this afternoon in being able to hear a number of different points of view about the Spanish situation. We have listened to some very interesting speeches in defence of General Franco and the present Spanish Government, of which I think your Lordships will agree that the last was the most logical, comprehensive and eloquent. It is always a pleasure to listen to a case that is well put, even when one disagrees with it. We have also heard a partisan of the refugees from Spain. I should like to make a few remarks as a partisan of British interests in Spain and the Mediterranean. I shall start from a proposition which I believe, miraculous as it may sound, will command the assent of every member of your Lordships' House. It is this: That the primary aim of British policy towards Spain for the last hundred years has been the maintenance of the independence and neutrality of that country and her Dependencies. We have done everything we could under Liberal, Conservative and Labour Governments to prevent Spain from becoming a pawn in the political game of any of her great and powerful neighbours. Ever since Wellington helped to drive Napoleon out of the Peninsula, excepting for one brief period of French dominion in the middle of the nineteenth century, we have succeeded in preserving a Government in Spain strong enough to stand on its own legs and to pursue a policy dictated by Spanish interests, and we were rewarded by the neutrality of Spain during the Great War.

At the present time a benevolent and Spanish Government in Spain is more essential to us than it has ever been before, because now that our fate is manifestly linked to that of France we are doubly vulnerable, and any threat to the security of our ally undermines British security as well. That is why the self-sufficiency and good will of those who rule in Spain is of paramount importance to us to-day. Looking back about three years, before the Civil War had broken out, there was in Madrid a friendly Parliamentary régime whose foreign policy was not dependent on the wishes and influence of any other Power. Now—and here I dare say the Government will not agree—we find ourselves, as I sincerely believe, confronted by a military dictatorship in Spain, whose political sympathies are naturally with Berlin and Rome and no longer with London and Paris, and whose foreign policy is likely in the future to be largely governed by dependence on the Axis Powers.

The new Spain—I hope I am wrong—looks like another satellite revolving round the twin authoritarian planets. This radical change of policy in Spain, which to my mind is most detrimental to British interests, is obviously due to the victory of General Franco on the field of battle, and nothing contributed more to decide the issue than the refusal of France and England to sell war supplies to the Republican Government; that is to say, the practice of non-intervention by the Democracies after it had been abandoned by the Dictatorships. The only possible justification for a policy so disastrous to our Mediterranean interests was that it averted a general war. But surely the risk that Italy would attack England and France for selling arms to Spain was much less than the risk of a similar calamity resulting from opposition to Italian colonial claims in Northern Africa. If the Government are prepared to take the greater risk of resisting Italian territorial demands at the expense of France, it should surely have faced the lesser risk of incurring Signor Mussolini's displeasure over Spain.

But the inevitable result of persisting in non-intervention, after others were openly intervening, was to give carte blanche to the Dictators in Spain. No wonder they regard the Spanish War, not as a domestic quarrel between Spaniards, but as another phase in the long struggle between the rising Fascist Powers and the decadent plutocratic Democracies, and no wonder they hail General Franco's success as another triumph for the Rome-Berlin Axis over London and Paris. In their eyes, at least, we and our ally have lost the war. We must surely admit that our caution, whether justified or not, has lost us our position in Spain and the Western Mediterranean.

Does any one seriously believe that Signor Mussolini will evacuate Spain and its Dependencies the moment Franco's victory is complete and the last Republican stronghold has fallen? No country, including of course our own, honours its promises unless they happen to coincide with its national interest. What could be more contrary to the interest and prestige at home of Signor Mussolini than to sacrifice thousands of Italian lives, and squander millions of Italian lire, without being able to show any tangible benefit as the result of his long campaign? It may be said that, however much the Italians want to stay, Franco has promised that all foreigners will leave Spanish soil as soon as he has sovereign authority over the whole of Spain. There is, of course, no reason to doubt the sincerity of an assurance that expresses the heartfelt desire of every patriotic Spaniard, and every Spaniard I ever met has been patriotic. Unhappily, there is every reason to doubt that the Generalissimo will be master in his own house. We have not forgotten that Minorca was bombed against orders at the very moment that negotiations were in progress for the bloodless surrender of the island.

On this point there could be no more valuable evidence than that of General Sir Charles Harington, for many years Governor of Gibraltar. Referring in an address to the Royal Empire Society to the repercussions of the September crisis on Spain, he said: My information, for what it was worth, was that General Franco had wished to be neutral, and that Herr Hitler had told him that he could be, but that he would use his bombers from Spanish aerodromes"— meaning, of course, the military aerodromes in Northern Spain, within easy striking of the ports and industrial centres of the South of France. No, I greatly fear that the new Spain will be used as a strategic outpost of Italy and Germany much in the way that Germany used Turkey in the years immediately preceding the Great War. There will certainly be no open infringement of Spanish sovereignty, and no crude snatching of Spanish territory. There will probably be a spectacular withdrawal of the Italian divisions that won the war, with much of their equipment, but Majorca is likely to become the Pantelleria of the Western Mediterranean, the Canaries will be turned into another Heligoland, and Spanish airports in foreign hands will remain a devastating threat to the security of France. That is the approximate price we have paid for the luxury of non-intervention. Whether, as we believe, it is a price our country cannot in the long run afford, the future will show and the historians will decide.

I want in conclusion to ask His Majesty's Government to continue and if possible to increase the admirable humanitarian work which they have been doing for the victims of the Spanish War. That at any rate is something about which all Parties can agree. I am referring particularly to the imperative need of assistance for present and future refugees from Spain. Most of the refugees from Catalonia are in camps still in the South of France, and the noble Viscount the Foreign Secretary told the House about a fortnight ago how anxious the Government are to help the French Government with their truly tremendous task of providing for 400,000 destitute people. May I ask the noble Viscount if the Government have yet received any reply from the French Government as to the kind of help that would be welcomed by our friends in France?

There is, besides, the no less urgent problem of potential future refugees from the large area in Central Spain at present controlled by the Republican Government, men whose lives and liberties would be in the greatest danger were they to fall into the hands of the present Spanish Government. Now it almost invariably happens at the end of a long and bitter war that the victor is animated by vengeance, and not by clemency, towards his broken foe. When we are referring disparagingly to foreign countries we ought to acknowledge our own sins and to remember our own conduct in the months immediately following the Armistice in 1918, and there is unfortunately every reason to anticipate that the victorious party in Spain will prove no exception to this uncharitable rule.

I was disturbed by a statement by the Prime Minister in another place to the effect that he was under the impression that people on the Government side would only be tried for criminal offences. I do not believe that that can be borne out by all the evidence—no doubt the Prime Minister had part of the evidence at his disposal—that we have at hand. In the middle of last month General Franco issued a decree, described by The Times newspaper as "the most important legislative achievement yet attempted by the Caudillo." This decree enumerates the purely political offences that will be punished by the Burgos Government, and it applies to "all persons who, from October 1, 1934, to July 18, 1936"—that is to say during a period of two years before the Civil War had begun— shall have contributed to create or aggravate the subversion of all kinds of which Spain has been victim, as well as all who since July 18, 1936, have opposed the National movement in fact or by grave passivity. The last two words presumably mean that people will be punished, not merely for serving the Republican Government, but for refusing to take sides in the war. In view of this grave public declaration of the fate in store for political opponents of General Franco, it is obvious that thousands of trade union leaders, Government officials, officers of high rank in the Republican Army, as well as prominent adherents of the political Parties represented in the Cortes, will be anxious to leave the country.

I should like to ask the Government if they could give any assurance that they will do everything in their power to facilitate their departure from Central Spain, and give them temporary shelter in this country until they can find a new and permanent home in Mexico—where I believe arrangements are in fact being made at the moment—or elsewhere. I was very horrified to hear—I hope the report is not accurate—that in another place to-day there was a statement that no British ships would take refugees from the central area of Spain without consent of the Spanish Government. I should like to remind the Government that refugees, supporters of General Franco, were taken from Republican Spain without the consent of the Republican Government, so that it would clearly be discriminating unfairly between two classes of equally necessitous refugees if this were to hap- pen. I sincerely hope that the Government will be able to say that it will help these people to leave the country, and that it will help to give them temporary shelter here or in France until such time as they can find a new and permanent home in other parts of the world.


My Lords, I would not care to deal in your Lordships' House to-night with controversial matters or military strategy. Those are academic points. I would confine myself to sympathy with Spain in her agony, and sympathy and admiration for the courage and self-sacrifice which have been shown by both sides. At the moment the situation is that the Franco Government has been recognised in Spain after a war whose duration probably has only been equalled by the American Civil War. What I have risen for is to remind your Lordships that under General Primo de Rivera the Spanish peseta reached a higher point than it has attained for many years past, and now that a National Government under General Franco has been recognised it seems natural that this House should consider the future rather than the past. It is for that reason that I venture to interpose in this debate to suggest that I hope the Foreign Secretary will be able to give the House some assurance that, now that the academic past has been sufficiently discussed, we shall apply ourselves to the practical future of trade with Spain.

I hope he will be able to inform us that when the new Ambassador to Spain has had time to investigate matters the actual amount outstanding in the clearing arrangement with Spain will be dealt with as a first matter. Fortunately, I understand that a joint committee of the Federation of British Industries and the Associated Chambers of Commerce has already been formed to secure a vehicle through which this can be practically examined, and the next step would presumably be to send some mission to Spain which would arrange practical means of developing trade with this country. It is for that reason I hope he will be able to give us some assurance that conscious direction to develop this trade to whatever extent is possible, within the limits of the situation as it then exists, will be given.


My Lords, this is an important subject introduced by my noble friend Lord Snell, and it is in the interests of Parliamentary debate that our side should be fairly presented. I therefore make no apology for trespassing on your Lordships' time for a few moments to deal with one or two points which have not been dealt with by my noble friend and the noble Earl who spoke from this side just now. This debate has had one pleasant feature, if I might suggest this to your Lordships. There has not been the exultation displayed that perhaps one might have expected, judging by our previous debates and the sentiments which noble Lords then expressed. I thank particularly the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, for the generous statement he made just now regarding the bravery of the combatants on both sides in Spain. I am sure none of your Lordships would wish to exult or gloat over the fact that democracy, as we believe it to be, in Spain has, for the moment, been defeated.

There is, of course, a confused situation in Central Spain, and it may be we can now only view the rebellion and its aftermath in retrospect. But looking again at the Resolution which my noble friend has presented to your Lordships, I cannot help being assailed by the fear that we are being too generous to the Government. We say that their policy has been a failure. I am not sure that that is quite the way to describe it. I am beginning to have the conviction borne in upon me, however reluctantly, that the whole of this policy of His Majesty's Government with regard to Spain has been deliberate and with malice aforethought, and the results are what were desired from the beginning.

With regard to the Government that has been recognised—the Government of General Franco—perhaps I might be allowed to make one thing clear on behalf of my noble friends and the Party for which I speak. We do not for a moment hold that because a Government is dictatorial in its form, or totalitarian, that that is a reason why we should not be on good terms with it. That is not our case at all. I would cite three cases of Governments of that description with whom, I am glad to say, our relations are most friendly. There is the Government of Portugal, which is dictatorial; there is the Government of Greece, with whom our relations are excellent, and I hope will remain so; and there is the Government of Turkey. These are three countries with Governments of a dictatorial nature with whom our relations are good, and I hope will continue to be good. I must mention another country with whom our relations have not been so good lately as they should have been, but I hope, from certain signs and symbols, they are going to be better in the future—that is Russia. One noble Lord said Russia was not a democracy. It has not the democratic forms as yet, and it might be described as a dictatorship, but the aim in Russia is to bring about democratic forms. I quite agree they have not reached that stage yet, but I hope, for the sake of this country and all we hold dear, that we are going to cultivate good relations with Russia. That is more than ever necessary in view of the recent events in Spain.

I only wish to make one other general observation in addition to those made by my noble friends already. I would suggest that in their whole policy in regard to Spain the Government have indulged in a desperate gamble. They are gambling on the Spanish régime that has now been recognised being able to throw off Fascist and Nazi influences. They appear to consider that this is likely to happen because the Italians are supposed to be unpopular in Spain, and I understand the Germans are also unpopular in Spain. That is a very slender reason on which to take this terrible risk—because it is a terrible risk—and the noble Lord, Lord Chatfield, and the First Lord of the Admiralty, both of whom are present, would not deny that the strategic risks of a hostile Spain are serious in case of war. Your Lordships are aware of the immense sums we are spending on armaments, and we should not be spending these immense sums unless there was a danger of war. That is why we are arming.

The Germans are not popular in Italy at the present time, but the Rome-Berlin Axis seems to hold. I am afraid that the Falangists in Spain, who are now becoming the dominant Party, are bound to Nazi interests. It was the other Parties—the Requetes and the Carlists—who did most of the fighting on Franco's side. The Falangists are now the most numerous in consequence. They have been keeping order behind the lines while the others were at the front. And they are bound hand and foot to the so-called ideology of Nazi-ism. If they attempt to change their direction of policy, I should not think that promises very great safety for the lives of their leaders or even of General Franco himself.

Might I reinforce what has been said by my noble friend Lord Listowel about the need to rescue refugees wherever we can? At the beginning of the Civil War in Spain the Royal Navy performed a great work of humanity in rescuing people who were in danger, without paying too much attention to what their political background was. Everyone has praised that work of humanity. Why is that now to stop? I should have thought there would have been more need of it now than ever, but in another place yesterday the Prime Minister declared that His Majesty's ships would only be allowed to assist fugitives with the assent of General Franco. At the beginning, as my noble friend Lord Listowel has pointed out, we asked nobody's consent to perform these acts of humanity. I should think this threatened change of policy would make the very worst impression in other countries. If we are ever involved in war, if we should have to face the great drama of war, I only hope that the United States and Russia will not establish a Non-Intervention Committee against us.

The other point I wish to raise—and this is of great importance—is the statement in all the newspapers last night and this morning about the declaration of a blockade by the Franco Government against the long coastline—300 miles or thereabouts—of Central Spain still in Republican hands, not an ordinary blockade apparently, but a "Sink at sight" blockade, with the warning that there are submarines prepared to carry out this ruthless policy. There are no submarines of the Spanish Navy at the disposal of General Franco and his Government. There were never any submarines on his side. The submarines that have taken service on behalf of General Franco are Italian submarines, and everyone knows it. I would like to know what the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack would say if this "Sink at sight" blockade is put into force. He is the guardian of law in this country, and we have all heard his great anxiety lest there should be any further breaches of International Law, any further breaches of the established law and customs at sea. I wonder what he is going to say if this illegal blockade is attempted. More important, what is the Foreign Secretary going to say, as it is he who is going to reply?

For our own good reasons we have not granted belligerent rights to either side, but even if belligerent rights were granted to the Franco Party that would not entitle them to sink British merchant vessels, whether inside the three mile limit or outside. The established law of nations is that arrested vessels must be taken before a Prize Court and tried, and their owners given an opportunity of being heard; and there are further safeguards for mariners voyaging at sea on their lawful occasions. I suggest to your Lordships, and particularly the noble Viscount, that it will be intolerable if this new precedent of the illegal sinking of merchant ships is put into practice and condoned now, and it may be most dangerous for us in future and a great handicap for the Royal Navy in some future trouble to safeguard British commerce, which after all is one of its principal functions.

I have added my plea to that of my noble friend with regard to refugees, and I have only one other suggestion to make. I should have thought it possible to take some of these unfortunate fugitives over to Morocco by arrangement with the French. I suggest that the French should not be expected to bear the whole cost, but that we should bear some of the cost. In spite of what Lord Rankeillour said, I do think we have a moral responsibility. We certainly have a humanitarian responsibility, and I hope the plea of my noble friends will not fall on deaf ears on this occasion. As for the future, I think we have a greater need than ever for vigilance, great firmness, and, in view of the worsened strategical position that may result from these events, more need than ever to support our friends and potential allies.


My Lords, my first word must I think be one of thanks to the noble Lord opposite for his extremely courteous reference to myself at the outset of his speech. I can only say that if the common enemy who temporarily laid me low should ever attack him I hope it will treat him as generously as it treated me. I wish that I could speak in such appreciative terms of the speech that the noble Lord proceeded to deliver. Along with every one of your Lordships I readily acknowledge the sincerity and the conviction with which the noble Lord spoke, but none the less I feel constrained to agree with the noble Marquess who followed him in the sense that I thought his speech was designed less to advance the cause for which he was speaking than to attempt to attack His Majesty's Government. No subject in the political experience of most of us has presented itself on which feeling has been running more strongly on both sides than Spain, and there has been, I venture to think, no subject on which it has been more difficult for most people to maintain, if not a dispassionate, at least a balanced judgment. Sides have been taken by many people on the basis of general principles which were by no means of universal application in the particular conditions of Spain, and all the arts of propaganda have been employed to reinforce the natural emotions of suspicion and fear to which, in the absence of full knowledge, the human mind is always apt to be subject.

I begin with the Motion itself, and upon the first section of it I would emphatically state at the outset of what I have to say that I do not conceive that any apology is required for the policy that His Majesty's Government have sought to adopt through the Spanish conflict. My noble friend Lord Newton indeed congratulates His Majesty's Government upon the complete success of that policy, and he says that because he remembers what has been the object to which that policy was directed. I pass by the charges that were made by the noble Lord who moved, and repeated in brief by the noble Lord who concluded, against His Majesty's Government of complicity in the events that have brought defeat to the Republican Government in Spain. The noble Lord, Lord Snell, said of us, "They wished the end; they willed the means." I do not know whether or not the noble Lord, Lord Snell, really believes that, but if he does believe it I am quite sure no words of mine would make him alter his belief, and all I can do is to assure him that any such charge as that against His Majesty's Government is completely untrue. The most important aspect of the policy that His Majesty's Government have sought to pursue consisted in non-intervention, which the noble Lord described as fraudulent non-intervention; and of that policy the elements are sufficiently well known to your Lordships to require no explanation. It is perhaps more important to examine for the moment what were the effects of that policy in fact.

I am not concerned here to argue the ethics of revolution; they were discussed by the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, and they were discussed also by Lord Rankeillour, who invited us to form a judgment as to where the respective balance of justification lay as between Sir Edward Carson and General Franco. But the essential object of non-intervention was, as we all know, to prevent the Spanish war from spreading beyond the borders of Spain. It is very easy now to forget how real at one moment, rightly or wrongly, that danger seemed to those who were charged with responsibility, and now that that danger has been averted it is, of course, quite easy to console ourselves with the reflection that those fears were always exaggerated. The noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, doubted whether that danger had ever been great. The best answer to that is that at the time the Spanish War started the general anxiety throughout Europe was great enough to bring all the countries of Europe together, and move them to agree, or try to agree, upon a common policy of non-intervention towards Spain. That, I think, is no small indication of the risks that Europe at that time thought she was running, and I am not ashamed to remember that His Majesty's Government were the first to adopt the suggestion of the then French Government, headed by M. Blum, which led to the common policy of non-intervention and to the attempt to isolate the germs of war.

No one will deny—I have never denied—that breaches of non-intervention have occurred, but I am not disposed on behalf of His Majesty's Government to accept blame for those breaches or to stand in a white sheet because of them. We have scrupulously honoured our own obligations under the Agreement; we have always regretted breaches by other Governments whether on one side or the other. But however much we may have regretted them, I have never been able to discover any way in which we could have stopped them except by recourse to force, to prevent which was the very object of the Non-Intervention Agreement. These breaches, as I say, undoubtedly occurred, and I remember my pre- decessor, Mr. Eden, once saying in the House of Commons that the Non-Intervention Agreement was a leaky dam. Quite true. But there is all the difference in the world between a leaky dam and no dam at all, and the fact does remain that by that dam, leaky or not, a general conflagration in Europe has been prevented.

All that seems to me so clear that I cannot help thinking that much of the argument of the critics is, consciously or unconsciously, based upon premises quite different. In part, the criticism seems to me to arise from a perfectly natural resentment at the spectacle of General Franco receiving, and deriving evident benefit from, foreign aid. Secondly, I cannot help feeling that some of our critics wished intervention to achieve an object which it was never designed to achieve—namely, the victory of the Republican cause. As to the first, as I said just now, I know of no remedy that at any time has been possible for such breaches of non-intervention as have occurred, except that of trying to counter them by a more large-scale intervention on the other side, and your Lordships can judge for yourselves what would have been the inevitable conclusion of that process. The second ground, if it be a real one, is also one on which His Majesty's Government are bound to part company with those who advance it. From the very outset we have refused to take sides in this conflict, and we have always maintained that it was essentially one for Spaniards to settle for themselves. Those who desired a Republican victory have alleged that non-intervention—I think the noble Lord who moved said as much this afternoon—actively aided General Franco. But, as my noble friend Viscount Swinton said with perfect truth, the noble Lord conveniently forgot that breaches of intervention have not been all on one side, and it is historically true to say that intervention on the side of the former Spanish Government, especially in the earlier stages of the war, was at least as active—and a great many people would put it higher—as on the other side.

If the former Republican Government were in fact debarred by non-intervention from, for example, the purchase of armaments in this country or elesewhere, General Franco on the other hand was debarred by non-intervention from the exercise of belligerent rights, which—because he had command of the sea—would have been of much greater value to him, and for denial of which those who sym-pathised with him here and in Spain have bitterly reproached His Majesty's Government. My noble friends Lord Newton and Lord Rankeillour asked me pointedly this afternoon what in fact was the explanation for the refusal of belligerent rights. Both were good enough to say that it was not because we were unduly frightened of noble Lords opposite, and that was true. The reason, as I think they will remember, was that that question was treated as part of a whole—not a basis completely logical, I admit—by the Non-Intervention Committee, and the grant of belligerent rights was made conditional upon the accomplishment of a certain process of action which in fact never became effective. Had the Civil War been an ordinary civil war, without the factor of foreign intervention, there is little doubt that belligerent rights would have been granted to both sides and General Franco would have secured the advantage of his superior sea power. The importance that has been attached to that question by critics of His Majesty's Government suggest that they were under no illusion as to what, from General Franco's point of view, was involved. The truth is that non-intervention has been shot at from both sides. It was no more popular in Burgos than it was in Madrid, and, therefore, I suggest that as applied by this country the policy of non-intervention was probably about fair in its effects on both the respective combatants.

The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, asked me some questions in his speech as to the notice that was published this morning by the Spanish Government concerning the prohibitions against shipping. As I am advised, according to the only text at present available, that notice is a prohibition against shipping entering Spanish ports between certain limits on the coast of Spain, or approaching within three miles of that portion of the coast. There is in the text of the notice, of which His Majesty's Government have advised all British shipping, no indication of any action against shipping outside territorial waters, and His Majesty's Government assume that action outside territorial waters is not contemplated. I wish to make it plain that if action outside territorial waters were taken, His Majesty's Government would be obliged to resist such action in the same manner as they have done in the past. I must also make it quite clear that His Majesty's Government would regard as a very serious matter the sinking of a British merchant vessel even within territorial waters, especially if due warning was not given and adequate steps taken for the safety of the crew. The instructions already given to His Majesty's ships direct them to give all necessary protection to British vessels which might be the object of such attack, and to retaliate even inside territorial waters against any submarine taking such indefensible action. I hope that that covers broadly the ground in regard to which the noble Lord addressed his inquiry.

But there is another element in all this which I think we have to bear in mind. It has been, of course, referred to in the course of this debate. So far as lay in our power without proceeding to intervention we have spared no effort to mitigate suffering on both sides. It is quite fair to say, and I was glad to hear the comment made on this matter that there is no Party difference between us, that through His Majesty's Government many hundreds of lives have been saved and many thousands have received relief. I do not occupy your Lordships' time by challenging the noble Lord's account of the episode of Minorca, because that was effectively done by my noble friend Viscount Swinton.

It only remains to say that I disagree with every word, I think, that the noble Lord opposite said. His Majesty's Government are entitled without fear of contradiction, and I think with some measure of pride, to say that there is no Spanish blood on the hands of any British soldier or sailor or airman, and not only that but there are many thousands of persons alive in Spain to-day who owe their lives to the efforts of His Majesty's Government. Perhaps I have said enough on the general non-intervention policy of His Majesty's Government, which I think is indeed adequately understood throughout the country. Let us make no mistake about what is, as it has been throughout, the real issue in this matter. I do not believe, in all the circumstances of the case, that anything less than recourse to force, which might well have come to involve all the resources of this country, would have secured the victory of the former Spanish Government. At that point I am content to leave that side of His Majesy's Government's policy.

The second criticism of the Motion, which was developed, I think, by Lord Listowel, is that His Majesty's Government have allowed foreign Powers to establish themselves in Spain and so to prejudice the independence of Spain. It is not necessary for me to remind the House of the importance that we in all parts of the House have always attached to the maintenance of Spain's integrity and to the withdrawal of all foreign troops at the conclusion of hostilities from her territory. I do not wish to detain your Lordships by quoting at length the various assurances that have from time to time been given to His Majesty's Government and made public on that subject. I have them here, but I think they are generally familiar, and it is not necessary to remind your Lordships of them. It is, of course, quite possible to say that none of these assurances is worth anything; and I note that it is as a rule the people who say that who are often, in another breath, the very people who demand most loudly that explicit assurances should be asked for and secured. His Majesty's Government take a different view. They do not believe that those whose assurances have been received in good faith will fail to honour them in good faith; and I say quite clearly that if the contrary should ever prove to be the case, a very serious situation would at once arise. But they also believe, as has been put from more than one quarter in this debate, that the Spanish people are a proud race, who are of all peoples in the world the least likely to mortgage the independence or the integrity of their country to any foreign Power.

That brings me to the question of recognition, on which I must say a word or two. Whatever doubt there might have been a week or two ago, I cannot think that there can be any doubt now that the Government acted rightly in according recognition to General Franco. My noble friends Lord Glasgow and Lord Newton, indeed, think we ought to have done so long ago; but if it is true, as I think it is true and as Lord Swinton says, that the decision had to rest upon facts, His Majesty's Government were bound to wait until the facts were indisputably plain before doing so. What were the facts when we took our decision? General Franco was obviously in control of by far the greater part of Spain. The issue of the struggle could no longer be in doubt. I could foretell, and I ventured to tell the Cabinet, exactly what the line of criticism of the noble Lord opposite and others would be, but my certainty of the imminence of that criticism did not seem to me justification for encouraging men to pursue a perfectly hopeless fight of which the only result could be untold further suffering of themselves and of all their dependants. Since then the Republican Government have been dissipated and replaced, and by no stress of the imagination is it possible, as I suppose, to conceive that any useful purpose can be served by refusal to face the facts that are so indisputably plain.

I say nothing at all about British interests, which might be held to support the case for the establishment of closer and more effective contacts with what has now clearly become the controlling authority in Spain. I recognise the force of what fell from Lord Barnby, but I do not propose to mention this subject, because I know that in some quarters it is held in these days almost discreditable to suggest that there are such things as British interests, or that, if there are, they are things of which any British Government may rightly take regard! I was quite refreshed to hear the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, sitting beside—as he is now—the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, express himself so freely upon the theme that British interests might in fact now be considered. But even those who take that view will hardly challenge the argument which I have developed and about which I must say another word or two in a moment—the humanitarian side.

His Majesty's Government have not acted alone. I think the noble Lord opposite spoke of our having taken some initiative. We have not acted alone, and we were by no means the first to act: I think some nineteen countries had already recognised General Franco, and of course the French Government, with whom we were in the closest contact and with whom we had never had, as far as I am aware, the shadow of a difference of opinion, shared the views of His Majesty's Government and took action at the same time. It has been suggested that our recognition should only have been granted on clear conditions, and that General Franco should have given further assurances before recognition was accorded. We did not take that view. We thought, as I said just now, that recognition was a question to be decided on the facts, and we also felt that every purpose that His Majesty's Government are bound to have in mind was the better served by close contact with the ruling Government after recognition had been given than by endeavouring to make conditions before the action was taken.

There was, however, one aspect which has engaged attention this afternoon and to which we felt it was right to attach importance from the point of view of the effect it might have upon the prolongation of the war—namely, the fear on the Republican side that resort might be had to indiscriminate reprisals by General Franco. We did not feel justified in suggesting that a general amnesty should be granted. It might have entailed the liberation of persons guilty of criminal offences who ought rightly to be brought to justice. We did, however, feel justified, in order to remove a possible obstacle to the conclusion of hostilities, in asking for an assurance against the kind of general proscription of Republican supporters that the then Spanish Government believed themselves to have reason to fear. Although various assurances in that respect had already been received from Burgos, we did again request General Franco to restate categorically his intention in this matter. The reply, which has been made public, and which was read by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place a few days ago, seemed to us to go a long way to meeting our wishes in that respect. That reply stated that the Courts of Justice now functioning were confined to judging criminals in accordance with the established law and procedure as promulgated before July, 1936.

Since then, as we are all aware, there has been published the law of responsibilities setting up special tribunals to deal with those concerned in the Civil War, and I think the noble Lord opposite referred to this. In my view—and I think this view was shared by the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe—it would be quite impossible and quite improper for any foreign Government outside Spain to claim to be in a position to judge the blameworthiness or otherwise of any individuals, or, as he put it, to lecture the Spanish Government upon how they should carry on the task of government resting upon their shoulders. Whatever anyone may think of the new law, it is not without significance that it does not involve, as I read it, the sanction of the death penalty, which, for the reasons I have given, has always been the matter uppermost in our minds.

I have received during the last two days a number of inquiries on a subject to which the noble Lord addressed his remarks this afternoon, as to whether the Government can assist in the evacuation of officials and supporters of the late Republican Government. I can of course readily understand, and what I have said will I hope show I can easily share, the feeling of urgent desire in many quarters to save human life in these last days of a bitter fratricidal conflict, but I do not know whether those who make these proposals would propose that the British Navy, whatever the Spanish Government might or might not say, should force its way into Spanish ports and carry out this mission of mercy that they have in mind. It seems to me, with regard to this whole question of evacuation, that you are really faced with two alternatives. Either you must accept the assurances which we have received from the Spanish Government on the subject of reprisals—reprisals involving the death penalty—or you must assume such assurances to be valueless. If you accept the assurances the evacuation of thousands of Republican sympathisers obviously becomes unnecessary. If, on the other hand, there are those who do not accept the assurances given, they must, I suggest, quite apart from other considerations, be prepared to recognise that the immediate question raised by the suggested evacuation of some thousands of these Republican sympathisers from Madrid is only part—a part that naturally grips our imagination at the moment—of a very much larger question.

Lord Swinton was right, I think, when he said that he thought this country might have a very considerable part to play in exercising all the influence of which it is capable in the direction of allaying the bitterness and vindictive feeling that the events of the last three years, on one side or the other, have inevitably aroused. We have throughout sought to do what we can in this sense, and we are doing it now, but I would ask the noble Lord opposite to consider with all seriousness, whether he does not think we should certainly wreck any chance of doing anything useful—even if it were administratively practicable, which I do not think it is, to do what he suggested—if we tried to take action of the kind which is proposed. Moreover there is this, of which we must not lose sight. These matters may well at this moment, while we are talking here, be the subject of a very delicate exchange of views in Spain, which may, if they are in fact proceeding, result in a pacific and orderly settlement, and I cannot doubt that action by this country, on the lines proposed by some at this moment, must Immediately prejudice any hope there may be of such pacific issue in fact being reached.

There is also this. In the absence of any agreement between the Republican authorities and the Spanish Government no means would in fact be available to this country to exercise any judgment whatever as to the classes of persons in favour of whom it might be suggested that these measures of evacuation should operate. Accordingly, although I recognise that the noble Viscount, whose speech unfortunately I was unable to hear, deplores this conclusion, His Majesty's Government have reached the conclusion that the consent of the Spanish Government is a pre-requisite of any action to be taken in this regard by His Majesty's Government, but if any agreement can be reached between the Spanish Government and the Republican authorities who still exist I do not doubt that His Majesty's Government will do everything within their power that may seem necessary to assist its execution.


I am very reluctant to interrupt the noble Viscount, but it seems to me to be a matter of such tremendous constitutional importance. I thought it was perfectly well established up to now that a political prisoner who in fact is able to reach a British ship of war has always been received. There are hundreds of instances, the most spectacular being that of the Emperor Napoleon I. There are hundreds and thousands of instances of it having happened. I personally am most anxious that there shall not be laid down a new principle in this case, which has never been laid down in the treatment of political prisoners before.


I am extremely grateful for the noble Viscount's interruption. I was not seeking to lay down any new principle at all. All I am saying is that this new proposal that we should, under existing conditions, seek to evacuate, as it has been put to me, 5,000 to 10,000 and possibly more people, the culpability of whom in regard to crimes which might be alleged against them we have no means of judging, is not a proposal that we could in the present circumstances accept, and it is one which I do not believe we could carry out. We have in the past month, and only recently, said, and have given instructions I think to His Majesty's ships, that if there were political leaders and others whose lives were in danger they were fully authorised to carry on the traditional policy to which the noble Viscount referred, but that is an entirely different proposition to this proposed mass evacuation, which I think is not administratively feasible.

I think the record of this country on the humanitarian side in the main is one of which we have no need to be ashamed. We have been consistently concerned to assist, so far as we can in various ways, organisations which have been administering relief during the last two-and-a-half years in Spain. I need only remind your Lordships in a sentence of the help which the Navy has been able to give to the work of the International Commission for the assistance of child refugees in Spain, which has lately been undertaking wider work for a wider class of refugee. On the general question of refugees I will hold in mind what the noble Viscount said, and will certainly give it my attention. The British Red Cross Society and many other voluntary organisations have of course co-operated in the general work for the relief of human suffering. The Commission under the Chairmanship of Sir Philip Chetwode, although it has not been able to effect spectacular exchanges, has been able to play a not unimportant part in discouraging the passing of death sentences on large numbers of people on both sides, and in that way it has contributed to much saving of human life.

The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and perhaps another noble Lord referred to a problem that was raised a few days ago by the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon—namely, the refugees of military age interned in camps in South-Eastern France. I told the noble Lord on the occasion of that debate that the British Red Cross had sent a representative to investigate the position. This representative, Major-General Sir John Kennedy, who will be known to many of your Lordships, has now produced a full and extremely valuable report. That report makes no attempt to minimise the hardships that are involved, but does pay a warm tribute to the manner in which the French authorities and the French Red Cross have done their best to grapple with the extremely difficult conditions that there prevail. And it is right that we should remember that, in addition to the problem presented by refugees of military age, the French Government have also had to provide for some 300,000 Spanish women, children and old men, at a cost, so I am told, of not less than 6,000,000 to 9,000,000 francs a day. I have only within the last twelve hours received information from the French Government that the assistance of His Majesty's Government in helping to maintain refugees in the camps through the agency of the British Red Cross Society will be exceedingly welcome. His Majesty's Government accordingly have decided to make a substantial grant to the Society for that purpose. That work is now in hand, and I hope we shall see the effect of it within the next forty-eight hours in the camps on the spot.

I apologise for the length at which I have had to detain your Lordships, but the whole question has been so confused by partial information and by no means impartial judgment, that it seemed necessary to try to set out in some detail the considerations that have weighed with His Majesty's Government. I have no doubt that the line that we have sought to follow has been broadly right, and I cannot accept as well founded the criticisms that, made with due responsibility inside this House, are frequently made with complete irresponsibility outside it. And while I agree with the second part of the Motion that the noble Lord has moved and, within the limits that I have laid down, should be in agreement with those who wish to do whatever is possible to see the avoidance of vindictive measures for which no justification could be made, it is obviously impossible for His Majesty's Government to take any other course than that of asking your Lordships to reject the Motion, of which the principal purpose is to invite this House to condemn in general terms a policy which I believe has in fact both deserved and secured your general approbation.


My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount for his characteristically courteous reply, and I thank him also for his statement about the position of British shipping in the Mediterranean. I will not reply to the admonitions that I have received from him and other noble Lords to-day, but I will ask your Lordships to remember that, with many disadvantages, relieved only by the unbroken general courtesy of your Lordships, we have a difficult duty to perform. Our duty is not to admire Mis Majesty's Government, but it is to try to interpret what we believe to be the feelings of masses of people outside, and our strong feelings sometimes lead to vehement expression. We take our leave of this question and your Lordships must be generous enough to give us the right on this occasion to get our emotion off our chests and to say what we think ought to be said. If you will give me leave I beg to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.