asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the Spanish Ministry of National Defence issued on 14th March a note alleging that General Veidt, Commander Neudorfer, Commander Hermann, Commander Schultze, Captain Schroeder, Commander Fischer, and Commander Zielberg were German officers taking part in the insurgent offensive in Aragon; and whether in view of these allegations, he will cause immediate inquiry to be made in Berlin by His Majesty's Ambasador to ascertain the present whereabouts of these indivduals and whether they are, as alleged, members of the German armed forces?
What are the means taken by the Non-intervention Committee to find out these facts? Have they developed any system of finding them out? If such matters are brought to the notice of His Majesty's Government do they, of their own accord, submit them to the Non-intervention Committee?
The representations made by His Majesty's Government to the Vatican were not such as to call for a reply. I understand, however, that the Vatican are deeply interested in the prevention of air attacks on civilians in Spain, and they are no doubt taking such action as they consider best calculated to achieve this end.
The hon. Member has asked a question on that subject before, and I have told him what steps the French Government and our own are taking. I now tell him again that the Vatican are taking presumably their own steps, and are not associating themselves with the steps that we are taking.
asked the Prime Minister which nations, being members of the Non-intervention Committee, have expressed themselves as unwilling, or have not expressed themselves as willing, to accept the British proposals as a basis for discussion; and what steps have been taken in the last five weeks either to persuade such nations to change their point of view or to amend the British proposals so as to make them acceptable to all members of the Committee?
asked the Prime Minister, in view of the protest sent by His Majesty's Government to General Franco with regard to the bombing of Barcelona, whether he will give a definition of what is held to be an open town; and why the town of Barcelona, in which are situated the seat of government, the offices of the government departments, military bases, munition factories, docks, and railways available for the transport of troops and munitions, is classed as an open town and, therefore, immune to attack?
As explained to the House by the late Foreign Secretary on 2nd February, the rules of international law as to what constitutes a military objective are undefined, and pending the conclusion of the examination of this question which, as he stated, was being undertaken by the competent Departments of His Majesty's Government, I am not in a position to make any statement on the subject. The one definite rule of international law, however, is that the direct and deliberate bombing of non-combatants is in all circumstances illegal, and His Majesty's Government's protest was based on information which led them to the conclusion that the bombardment of Barcelona, carried on apparently at random and without special aim at military objectives, was in fact of this nature.
Yes, Sir. British undertakings in both areas in Spain are being carried on so far as circumstances permit. There have, however, been numerous instances on both sides of the assets of wholly or partially British-owned enterprises benig seized without compensation by the authorities. As regards the losses suffered by firms with a substantial British interest in the territory under the control of the Spanish Government, by processes such as collectivisation, workers' intervention or intervention by the State, I would refer my Noble Friend to the reply given to the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Donner) on 13th December last.
asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the official statement of General Franco last week that the number of foreign combatants in the Nationalist forces has decreased by about 20 per cent. compared with a year ago; that the number of foreign troops only reaches 5 per cent. of the total forces in the Army, and that no other foreign combatants are on their way to Spain; and whether these facts have been presented to the Non-intervention Committee in connection with the proposals for the withdrawal of foreigners from Spain?
asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the statement of General Franco last week declaring that the status quo in the Mediterranean will not be modified by any act of the Nationalist Government; that no territory will be taken from Spain for the profit of a foreign Power, and that the essence of his movement is the independence of Spain and the territorial integrity of Spain; and whether he will note this declaration of Spanish independence and express Great Britain's interest in the freedom of that country at the conclusion of the civil war?
Yes, Sir. My attention has been drawn to this statement. It is the desire of His Majesty's Government that, whichever side is victorious in the present conflict, the independence and territorial integrity of Spain should remain intact.
asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the specific information that a large number of volunteers have entered the frontiers of Spain under the control of the Government of Barcelona in violation of non-intervention and since the general acceptance of the principle of the British proposal for the withdrawal of volunteers; that 25 officers of superior rank have been supplied to the Barcelona Government in recent months by France; whether he has the details of the quantities of tanks, aeroplanes, lorries, heavy guns, field guns, machine guns, automatic rifles, and cartridges supplied to Barcelona from foreign sources; and whether he is aware that practically the whole of the munitions and materials captured in recent actions is of foreign manufacture, supplied by countries which are partners in the Non-intervention Committee; and whether he will bring these facts to the attention of the Non-Intervention Committee?
asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the statement by His Majesty's Government that the bombardment of the civil population of Barcelona and other Spanish towns is a violation of the principles of international law, His Majesty's Government will now permit the Spanish Government to purchase anti-aircraft guns and fighting aircraft; and, if not, by what means does he propose that this vital rule of international law should be upheld?
Any such alteration in the list of prohibited war material as is suggested by the hon. Member could obviously not be undertaken by His Majesty's Government alone. As regards the second part of the question, they believe that the rules of international law can best be upheld by themselves adhering to them and by reminding those who fail to do so of the condemnation which their action is bound to call forth from all civilised peoples.
In view of the fact that it has been proved many times in recent months that those who are using these methods of warfare care nothing whatever for verbal protests, is it not time that some concrete action was taken to protect civilian populations from military attack which the Government themselves condemn?
The last complaint submitted under the procedure of the Nonintervention Committee against the Italian and German Governments was on 11th November, 1936, that is before the system of international observation was established early in 1937. The committee found at that date that it was impossible to prove to their satisfaction that there had been a breach of the agreement.
In my answer to the question of the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) I gave the last date on which such a matter was brought before the committee.
As I stated on 21st March, in reply to a question by the hon. Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson), it is common knowledge that both parties in Spain have received help in men and material from foreign sources. The hon. and gallant Member will realise that it is extremely difficult to obtain confirmation of specific breaches of the Non-Intervention Agreement, and I cannot, therefore, give particulars for the accuracy of which I could not vouch.
Will the hon. Gentleman accept my statement that I have myself seen in Spain breaches of this agree- ment, in that I have seen the identity book of a pilot, who was brought down within an hour of my seeing it, showing that he was only commissioned on 31st October, 1937? Is not that a clear and authenticated breach of the Non-Intervention Agreement?
asked the Prime Minister whether he has received any reports from the representatives in Spain of His Majesty's Government, and whether he will inquire from General Franco's representatives in this country regarding the recent official declaration of the Valencia Government to the effect that 30,000 German soldiers have been landed in Spain since 14th March; and whether this declaration of the Valencia Government is borne out by the reports of His Majesty's representatives in Spain?
Is my hon. Friend aware that these allegations put about by the Valencia Government bear the same relation to the truth as the bogus evidence in the Moscow trials?
Will the hon. Gentleman look at the question I put two days ago? He will see that the 30,000 German persons to whom I referred were technicians—not the 30,000 storm troopers now referred to?
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether there were any Spanish insurgent ships standing by at the time of the sinking of the "Baleares"; if so, what were their names; and whether they made any offers to assist in the rescue of the crew of the "Baleares"?
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he will publish the list of names of the commissioned officers who were rescued from the insurgent vessel "Baleares" on 6th March; and whether any steps were taken and, if so, of what nature, to discover and verify the nationality of those officers?
I regret that I am not in possession of the names of the commissioned officers rescued from the "Baleares." As regards the second part of the question, I would refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Cumberland, North (Mr. W. Roberts) on 14th March last, to which I have nothing to add.
I am informed that at the time of the rescue the sea was covered many inches thick with oil fuel, and that all the survivors were smothered in it. They had to be scrubbed down, and the bulk of them were wounded. The hon. Lady must realise that, in these conditions, it is quite impossible to ascertain such particulars.
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the names and number of battleships, cruisers, flotilla leaders, and destroyers which adhered to the Spanish insurgents at the outbreak of the present hostilities in Spain; whether the insurgents are now in possession of any other warships of these classes; and, if so, whether His Majesty's Government have any information as to the origin of these vessels?
At the outbreak of the present hostilities in Spain one battleship, "Espana," four cruisers, "Almirante Cervantes," "Baleares," "Canarias" and "Republica," no flotilla leaders, and one destroyer, "Valesco," adhered to the insurgent cause. In the late autumn of last year, according to our information, General Franco's forces received four additional destroyers; and as my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs indicated on 16th March, there have been reports that these vessels were of Italian origin. There is no information which suggests that General Franco has received any other vessels of the classes mentioned.
Has the Admiralty, in addition to information about those classes, information as to the reinforcement of Franco's forces by a large number of Italian submarines?
asked the Prime Minister, in view of the fact that, on 16th October, 1937, Lord Plymouth stated that unless agreement on the Non-Intervention Committee was reached within a short space of time the British Government would reserve to themselves the right to resume complete liberty of action, whether the Government will fix a specific early date upon which agreement must be reached, failing which they will lift the ban on the supply of arms and volunteers to the Government of Spain?
His Majesty's Government have never wavered in their intention to do everything in their power to bring about a more effective application by the Governments concerned of the policy of non-intervention. At the time of the statement to which the hon. Member refers, the proposals of His Majesty's Government for the withdrawal of foreign volunteers were under consideration. As a result of their efforts, His Majesty's Government since that date have secured the adoption in principle by all the Governments represented on the Committee of the British plan of 14th July last. Moreover, as the hon. Member is aware, a new British formula in connection with the withdrawal of volunteers has been put forward for the discussion of the foreign Governments concerned. In these circumstances I am not prepared to tie the hands of the United Kingdom representative on the Committee in the manner suggested.
The last meeting of the chairman's sub-committee was held on 3rd February and no further meeting has yet been fixed. As regards the rest of the question, I have nothing to add to the statement which I made on 21st March in answer to a similar question by the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks).