According to our information, the recent movements of Spanish troops in southern Spain are a natural consequence of the measures of demobilisation which are being taken by the Spanish Government. His Majesty's Government have neither asked for, nor received, any explanation from the Spanish Government on the subject.
Have not His Majesty's Government in recent days sent reinforcements to Gibraltar, and are they satisfied that there are sufficient defence forces there now to ensure its defence?
Is it not a fact that demobilisation of troops from Morocco makes it necessary for them to proceed to the South of Spain; have there not always been garrisons in that part of Spain, and is it not a fact that troops returning to Morocco must go to that part of Spain?
asked the Prime Minister whether he has further information regarding the forcible detention of a British merchant vessel and its crew in Palma; whether any assurances have now been received from General Franco regarding the payment of compensation to British shipowners and to the dependants of British seamen who were killed when engaged, legally and in accordance with the Pact of Non-intervention, in the trans port of food and commodities to and from Spanish ports; and whether he is pressing for immediate redress and fulfilment of the pledges regarding these and other matters given by General Franco and accepted by His Majesty's Government?
His Majesty's Ambassador at San Sebastian was again instructed on 21st April to press for the release of the steamship "Stangate" As I informed the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) on 6th February, the Spanish Government have never denied their liability to pay compensation in cases of deliberate attack. Arrangements are now being made for the examination and presentation of claims.
There was a proposal, as the hon. Member will be aware, that a special tribunal should be set up to consider deliberate attacks on British shipping, but the shipowners did not finally like the suggestion, and it was therefore not proceeded with. Apart from that particular suggestion, I presume that the claims will be dealt with by a tribunal after the cessation of hostilities, in accordance with the usual precedent.
What is to happen to these people, who are still detained as prisoners by General Franco—sailors carrying on their legal business, whose ships have been detained by General Franco without any explanation being given? Are the Government satisfied that this should continue with impunity?
I have not said that we are satisfied. What I said was that in the case of the particular ship with which we are dealing we have pressed for its release, and will continue to press for it.
Cannot the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that the Government will do more than send polite notes to General Franco, but will take immediate steps to see that these men are released? They are fellow-countrymen of ours who are held there prisoners—not prisoners of war; will not the Government demand their release?
The kind of tribunal to which I have referred was evolved as the result of negotiations between the then Burgos authorities and His Majesty's Government, and the negotiations reached an advanced stage.