HC Deb 07 July 1961 vol 643 cc164-6W
Mr. Longden

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will make a statement regarding negotiations with the Government of San Marino about that Government's claim against Her Majesty's Government for damage suffered by San Marino during the war.

Mr. Heath

In October, 1945, the Government of the Republic of San Marino presented Her Majesty's Government with a claim totalling 732 million lire as compensation for damage caused to San Marino by the bombing carried out by units of the Desert Air Force under British Command on 26th June, 1944, and thereafter by the occupation of San Marino by the German Armed Forces fighting against the Allied Forces in August, 1944, by the fighting in San Marino after the entry of the Eighth Army in September, 1944, and by the presence of allied troops after the capitulation of the German forces in Italy.

Her Majesty's Government made clear that although they much regretted the damage caused to San Marino they could not accept any liability to pay compensation for it.

Her Majesty's Government have throughout maintained that their action in bombing San Marino was justified on the basis of the information available to them at the time, to the effect that the neutrality of San Marino had been violated by German forces.

In 1949, as a gesture of sympathy for the suffering and losses caused to the citizens of the Republic through no fault of their own, Her Majesty's Government made an offer of an ex gratia payment of £26,000 in respect of the San Marinese claim against Her Majesty's Government. This was renewed on several subsequent occasions and the necessary sum was twice voted by Parliament; but the Government of the Republic of San Marino maintained their decision not to accept any such offer. They asserted that the neutrality of the territory of San Marino had not been violated before the bombing of 26th June, 1944, occurred and that they had taken strenuous measures to safeguard the neutrality of their territory.

In February, 1952, the Government of San Marino agreed to limit their claim only to compensation for damage caused by the bombing on 26th June, 1944, as they considered—and still consider—that the damage which occurred after the bombardment on 26th June, 1944, was the responsibility of the German Armed Forces.

In answer to a Question on 2nd July, 1952, the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs referred to the fact that up to that time, the Government of San Marino had adduced no evidence in support of their contention that it was the Allied Forces who first violated their territory. In May, 1953, however, the Government of San Marino addressed a further Note to Her Majesty's Government enclosing various documents in support of this claim. Her Majesty's Government gave the most careful consideration to the evidence submitted by the Government of San Marino. As a result of this examination, Her Majesty's Government came to the conclusion that there may be some reason to doubt the reliability of some of the information on which the original decision to bomb the territory of San Marino was based. In addition they accepted that the documents submitted contain substantial evidence of the firm measures adopted by the Republic during the war in order to maintain the Republic's traditional policy of neutrality and to deny military occupation of its territory to the German forces. Her Majesty's Government are nevertheless unable to alter their original view that they are under no legal liability for the consequences of the raid.

There is however a long history of amicable relations between this country and the Republic of San Marino, and Her Majesty's Government attach considerable importance to maintaining this cordial relationship. For this reason and after careful consideration of the evidence produced by the Government of San Marino, Her Majesty's Government have offered to the Government of San Marino to increase their original offer to the sum of £80,000 as a gesture of sympathy for the sufferings of the people of San Marino as a result of the bombing of 26th June, 1944, and as a token of regret that it should have been Allied Forces under a British Commander which were obliged by the harsh ex-which were obliged by the harsh exigencies of war to inflict damage on the territory of San Marino.

The Government of San Marino have accepted this payment and in so doing have agreed to withdraw all claims against Her Majesty's Government in connection with any damage to the Republic caused by British Forces during the war.

Parliament will be asked in due course to vote the money by means of a Supplementary Estimate to the Foreign Office Grants and Services Vote. In the meantime an advance is being obtained from the Civil Contingencies Fund.