Oral Answers to Questions — Spain.

– in the House of Commons on 30th March 1938.

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Photo of Mr Gordon Macdonald Mr Gordon Macdonald , Ince

asked the Prime Minister the number of claims for compensation made by His Majesty's Government against the insurgent authorities in Spain; the total amount involved; and what compensation has been received up to date?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

As regards the first and second parts of the question, I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 14th February last to my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson), of which I am sending him a copy. No compensation has been received up to date.

Photo of Mr Gordon Macdonald Mr Gordon Macdonald , Ince

Are the Foreign Office using pressure to see that compensation is paid?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

As I informed the House on a previous occasion, many of the claims now under consideration will have to wait until the conclusion of hostilities in order to ascertam the total amount.

Photo of Marquess of  Titchfield Marquess of Titchfield , Newark

Has compensation been paid by the Republican Government for losses to British trade?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

I should require notice of that question.

Photo of Mr Gordon Macdonald Mr Gordon Macdonald , Ince

asked the Prime Minister the names of the Governments that have made complaints under the procedure of the Non-intervention Committee and which of these have failed to satisfy the committee that there has been a breach of the agreement?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

Complaints of alleged breaches of the Non-intervention Agreement have been put forward under this procedure by His Majesty's Government and by the German, Italian and Soviet Governments. In no case was it possible to prove to the satisfaction of the committee that a breach of the agreement had occurred.

Photo of Mr Gordon Macdonald Mr Gordon Macdonald , Ince

In the case of the complaint by His Majesty's Government, did the Government do what it could to get this complaint substantiated?

Photo of Mr George Strauss Mr George Strauss , Lambeth North

In order to substantiate a complaint has the Committee to be unanimous?

Photo of Mr Ernest Thurtle Mr Ernest Thurtle , Shoreditch

Is it not clear that the Non-intervention Committee is impervious to all reason and argument?

Photo of Mr Henry White Mr Henry White , Birkenhead East

asked the Prime Minister what form of inquiry is being undertaken to ascertain whether the steamship "Stanwell," bombed in Tarragona harbour on the 15th March, was the object of a deliberate attack; whether such inquiry is now completed, and, if so, what is the result thereof; and what action he proposes to take thereon?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

His Majesty's Government have now completed their inquiries on this question, and after careful consideration of all the evidence they have come to the conclusion that the vessel was the object of a deliberate attack. The British Agent at Burgos has accordingly been instructed to inform the Nationalist authorities to this effect and to enter a strong protest against this attack which His Majesty's Government must regard as entirely unjustifiable, and for which they must hold those authorities responsible. Sir R. Hodgson has further been instructed to demand an immediate investigation into the incident, and to reserve the right of His Majesty's Government to claim in due course full compensation for the damage to persons and property resulting from the attack.

Photo of Captain William Benn Captain William Benn , Manchester, Gorton

May I ask the Prime Minister whether we are to take the term "National" as now being the official description of the rebel movement?

Photo of Mr Neville Chamberlain Mr Neville Chamberlain , Birmingham, Edgbaston

There is a question on the Order Paper about that.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

In view of the Under-Secretary's statement that compensation in these cases is not likely to be paid until the conclusion of hostilities, may I ask whether the seamen concerned in this attack are being compensated now, and, if so, from what source?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

It is not an absolute and invariable rule that compensation must wait until the end of hostilities, and I will certainly bear in mind the point put by the hon. Member.

Vice-Admiral Taylor:

May I ask whether the "Stanwell" was alongside the jetty or at anchor, and, if at anchor, how far she was from the shore?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

She was alongside the jetty.

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

asked the Prime Minister whether the acceptance by the Italian Government of the British formula for the evacuation of foreign troops from Spain includes the basic figure of 20,000?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

As I informed the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) on 14th March, there has been no decision by the Non-intervention Committee to publish information of this nature.

Mr. Noel-Butler:

Since the Prime Minister assured the House on 21st February that the Italian Government had accepted the British formula, and since the formula is totally inoperative without the acceptance of the basic figure on which it is founded, in what sense have the Italian Government accepted the proposals of the British Government?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

The hon. Member will remember that their acceptance was dependent on the agreement of other Governments concerned, and it is impossible to give details, as this matter has not been decided to be published by the Nonintervention Committee.

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

Is it not a fact that the French and Russian Governments have accepted the formula, including the basic figure of 20,000?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

That is a matter which is covered by my answer to the question. The Non-intervention Committee have not decided to publish this.

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

May I put a question to the Prime Minister? Seeing that he has told us that his conversations with Italy were dependent on the acceptance of a certain formula, how can he possibly deny to this House this information merely because of some private arrangement with the Non-intervention Committee with which we are not concerned?

Photo of Mr Neville Chamberlain Mr Neville Chamberlain , Birmingham, Edgbaston

The right hon. Gentleman has not represented accurately what I said. I did not say that our conversations with Italy were dependent on the acceptance by the Italian Government of the formula. I did say that the Italian Government had voluntarily given us that assurance.

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

That does not alter substantially my point. The Prime Minister has assured us that he had an acceptance by the Italian Government of something; now we are asking what it is, and are told that it is a secret of the Non-intervention Committee. We want to know what it is.

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

Is it not a fact that the Prime Minister engaged on these negotiations on condition that there should be evacuation of Italian troops in virtue of their acceptance of the formula?

Photo of Mr Richard Acland Mr Richard Acland , Barnstaple

What steps are the Government taking to get the Non-intervention Committee together to get on with the business?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

There is a question on the Order Paper which I shall be answering in a few moments.

Vice-Admiral Taylor:

Is not all this bother a sign that General Franco is winning?

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

In view of the great importance of this question and the obscurity of the answers given, I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter at the earliest opportunity.

Photo of Mr Richard Acland Mr Richard Acland , Barnstaple

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement showing what steps His Majesty's Government have taken in recent weeks to inform themselves as to the extent of foreign intervention on either side in Spain?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

His Majesty's Government obtain information from a variety of sources, but I am not prepared to make any public statement of the nature suggested.

Photo of Mr Richard Acland Mr Richard Acland , Barnstaple

Have the military attach├ęs been asked for reports, and have the very large number of impartial Press men now in Spain been asked to give any information to the Government as to the state of affairs on the front now?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

Naturally, we derive information from any source from which we are able to obtain it.

Photo of Mr Frederick Watkins Mr Frederick Watkins , Hackney Central

What has the hon. Gentleman done with the information he has received?

Photo of Mr Richard Acland Mr Richard Acland , Barnstaple

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement to show how the responsibility for bringing alleged breaches of the Non-intervention Agreement to the notice of the Nonintervention Committee is shared between the Government members of the Committee and the officers of the Committee?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

The procedure for dealing with alleged breaches of the Non-intervention Agreement submitted to the Nonintervention Committee by Governments was laid down by the Committee in September, 1936. The main features of this procedure are that a complaint may only be submitted to the Committee by one of the Governments represented thereon, and that it must be regarded by that Government as being of sufficient importance and as being founded on evidence of sufficient weight to afford a reasonable presumption that, in fact, some breach of the Agreement has occurred. Under the Observation Scheme adopted by the Committee in March, 1937, it is the duty of the officers of the Non-intervention Board to report to the board any breaches of the scheme which may come to their notice in the performance of their duties. It has then been the practice of the Secretary to the board to circulate information regarding such breaches to the Non-intervention Committee, who can of course, if they so desire, debate them. If, however, any Government wished to base a complaint against another Government on information obtained in this manner, it would be necessary to comply with the procedure laid down by the Committee as I have already explained.

Photo of Mr Richard Acland Mr Richard Acland , Barnstaple

As the Minister told us in answer to an earlier supplementary question that the Committee has to be unanimous on these reports, is it not known in advance that the whole of that procedure is a farce?

Photo of Mr Frederick Cocks Mr Frederick Cocks , Broxtowe

May I ask whether ordinary diplomatic action cannot be taken outside the Committee, or is the Foreign Office procedure completely abrogated by the Committee?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

The Foreign Office always reserves to itself the right to exercise its diplomatic functions.

Photo of Mr William Thorne Mr William Thorne , West Ham Plaistow

Would it not be much better to dissolve the Committee and let both sides get arms in the best way they can?

Photo of Mr Frederick Cocks Mr Frederick Cocks , Broxtowe

asked the Prime Minister whether his pledge that a general settlement with Italy must include a satisfactory solution of the non-intervention policy in Spain will be satisfied by an insurgent victory in Spain followed by the withdrawal of Italian troops and war material from that country?

Photo of Mr Neville Chamberlain Mr Neville Chamberlain , Birmingham, Edgbaston

I would refer the hon. Member to the statement which I made in the House last Thursday, to which I have nothing to add.

Photo of Mr Frederick Cocks Mr Frederick Cocks , Broxtowe

Is the Prime Minister aware that it is generally interpreted as meaning fair play for Spain that the Italian troops should be withdrawn before they have won a victory for the enemies of England and Mr. Lennox-Boyd. May I ask for a reply to this supplementary question?

Photo of Mr Frederick Cocks Mr Frederick Cocks , Broxtowe

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that the Nonintervention Committee last met on 4th November and the Chairman's Sub-Committee on 3rd February, and considering the relation of present events in Spain to the policy of non-intervention, he will at once convene a meeting of the Non-intervention Committee or the Chairman's Sub-Committee in order that the present deadlock may be resolved or its causes made known?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government will propose that a meeting of the Non-intervention Committee be held as soon as possible; and whether His Majesty's Government will propose at such meeting that a commission of inquiry be immediately despatched to both sides in Spain, with a view to ascertaining the extent of the help in men, aeroplanes and artillery received by both sides from foreign sources?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

A meeting of the Chairman's Sub-Committee has been fixed for to-morrow. I would remind the hon. Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson) that under the plan at present under the discussion of the Non-intervention Committee, it is already proposed that, with the consent of the two parties in Spain, commissions should be sent to both sides to estimate the numbers of foreign volunteers engaged in the conflict. I do not consider that any attempt to widen the mandates of the commissioners would be practicable.

Photo of Mr Frederick Cocks Mr Frederick Cocks , Broxtowe

Will the British Government see that, in view of the present situation in Spain, this committee is kept in constant being and meets every week instead of once in two months, in order that either a satisfactory settlement shall be reached, or that the whole principle of non-intervention shall be seen to have broken down?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

Naturally, it is in the interests of the committee to keep as closely in touch with the situation as possible.

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

In view of the fact that the Spanish Government have officially charged the German and Italian Governments with intervention in Spain, does not the Minister consider that it is desirable for the Non-intervention Committee to consider those charges?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

I have already defined the procedure under which the Non-intervention Committee deals with these charges.

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

In view of the attitude adopted by the Minister, I beg to give notice that I intend to raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Photo of Mr Frederick Cocks Mr Frederick Cocks , Broxtowe

asked the Prime Minister whether, in order to obtain information regarding the supply of war material and men from Germany and Italy during the present year to the insurgent forces in Spain, he will ask for reports on the subject from the British representative at Burgos, the British Consular authorities in Spanish insurgent territory, the British Consular authorities at Hamburg and other German centres, and from the British Ambassador at Rome?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

It is the function and practice of His Majesty's Representatives and Consular Officers to report on all matters that may affect British interests; and His Majesty's Government call for reports on specific subjects whenever it may appear advisable for them to do so.

Photo of Mr Frederick Cocks Mr Frederick Cocks , Broxtowe

Have not His Majesty's Government called for reports on this particular subject? Will they do so now?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

The hon. Gentleman may rely upon us to call for reports when we consider it desirable.

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

May I ask whether this information is given to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in view of his statements in another place yesterday?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

I think that Consular officers can be relied upon to do their duty in the best manner possible.

Photo of Mr Frederick Cocks Mr Frederick Cocks , Broxtowe

Do not the Foreign Office want information which will embarrass their Fascist and Nazi friends?

Photo of Mr William Leach Mr William Leach , Bradford Central

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the insurgent authorities in Spain have recently been officially referred to as the Nationalist authorities; whether this is the result of an official decision; and whether a change of policy is thereby indicated?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

No official decision has been taken on this matter, and the fact that the current term "Nationalist" has been used instead of "Insurgent" does not signify any change of policy on the part of His Majesty's Government.

Photo of Mr William Leach Mr William Leach , Bradford Central

Does not the Minister realise that so to describe persons in Spain who are conducting a murderous rebellion against a Government with which we are in friendly relationship can rightly be taken by that Government as a slur and offence against it?

Photo of Captain William Benn Captain William Benn , Manchester, Gorton

Can the Prime Minister tell us why this decision has been taken to change the word "Insurgent" to "Nationalist"?

Photo of Mr Neville Chamberlain Mr Neville Chamberlain , Birmingham, Edgbaston

No, Sir. No decision has been taken.

Photo of Captain William Benn Captain William Benn , Manchester, Gorton

Is not the Prime Minister aware that the official answers that are drafted and given in the House have adopted a new term? I am asking him, as head of the Government, why the change has been made?

Photo of Mr Neville Chamberlain Mr Neville Chamberlain , Birmingham, Edgbaston

I take it that it is because the term has been very often used.

Photo of Captain William Benn Captain William Benn , Manchester, Gorton

Will the Prime Minister give instructions that there shall not be the use of this term, which is ambiguous?

Photo of Mr James Milner Mr James Milner , Leeds South East

asked the Prime Minister whether any agreement, assurance, or undertaking has been obtained from the German Government as to its intentions or designs in regard to Spain; and whether he will give particulars?

Photo of Mr Neville Chamberlain Mr Neville Chamberlain , Birmingham, Edgbaston

It is not clear to me what intentions or designs the hon. and gallant Member has in mind; but if he refers to territorial questions, the German Chancellor stated in the Reichstag on 20th February last that Germany possesses no territorial interests which could have any effect on the civil war in Spain.

Photo of Mr James Milner Mr James Milner , Leeds South East

Having in mind that the right hon. Gentleman has obtained assurances from the Italian Government, is it not desirable that similar assurances should be obtained from the German Government?

Photo of Mr Albert Alexander Mr Albert Alexander , Sheffield, Hillsborough

Is that answer in consonance with the announcement made yesterday that 5,000 additional German troops have been landed in Spain this week?

Photo of Mr Neville Chamberlain Mr Neville Chamberlain , Birmingham, Edgbaston

I do not understand what the right hon. Gentleman means by "the announcement." There has been no such announcement by the German Government, as far as I know.

Photo of Captain Archibald Ramsay Captain Archibald Ramsay , Peebles and Southern

asked the Prime Minister whether, with a view to speeding up the withdrawal of foreign volunteers from Spain, the Non-intervention Committee has now ascertained the number of foreigners from the International Brigade who are in General Franco's concentration camps; and will he give the number?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

I would remind my hon. and gallant Friend that under the present scheme of the Non-intervention Committee commissions are to be sent to Spain for the purpose of making such estimates, and in advance of that information I have no material on which to base an estimate.

Photo of Mr Wilfrid Roberts Mr Wilfrid Roberts , Cumberland Northern

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any information or reports upon the arrival of the Italian ships "Franca Fasscio" and "Palos" at Seville on or about the 1st March and 12th March, respectively, and of the German ship "Pasajes" at Larache on 10th March; whether, in view of the official statement by the Spanish Government that these ships carried war material, he has received or called for any report from His Majesty's representatives at Seville and Larache, or from any other source which would place His Majesty's Government in a position to raise the matter with the Non-intervention Committee and whether these vessels carried a non-intervention officer?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

As a result of inquiries which have been addressed to the Bureau of the Non-intervention Board in regard to the movement of these ships, I understand that none of them were in the ports in question on the dates given. The second part of the question does not, therefore, arise. As regards the last part of the question, the "Franca Fasscio" had observing officers on board on 1st March, the "Pasajes" embarked an observing officer on 13th March before proceeding to a Spanish port, and the "Palos," not having been to a Spanish port, did not embark an observing officer during the period in question.

Photo of Mr Ernest Thurtle Mr Ernest Thurtle , Shoreditch

Can the hon. Gentleman say why he is always able to give confident rebutting evidence against any charge which might reflect upon the Italian Government but he cannot give positive evidence in other cases?

Photo of Mr Wilfrid Roberts Mr Wilfrid Roberts , Cumberland Northern

Were these ships or some of them in other Spanish ports about this date; and has the Minister definite evidence from the non-intervention observers that they were not carrying arms or men?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

I have obtained information from the Non-intervention Board which describes the movements of these ships. The first ship, which had observers on board, was not at Seville but at Palma bound for Marseilles. The second ship passed Finisterre on 11th March and arrived at Casa Blanca on 14th March. It seems hardly possible for her to have taken the course suggested. I have similar information about the last ship.

Photo of Mr James Milner Mr James Milner , Leeds South East

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware of the intention of the German Government to leave troops in occupation of Spain until her colonial claims have been admitted and settled; and what action does he propose to take in consequence thereof?

Photo of Mr Neville Chamberlain Mr Neville Chamberlain , Birmingham, Edgbaston

I am not aware of any such intention. The second part of the question does not, therefore, arise.

Photo of Mr Albert Alexander Mr Albert Alexander , Sheffield, Hillsborough

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty how many submarines were in the possession of the Spanish insurgents at the outbreak of the insurrection; how many submarines have passed into the service of the insurgents since the outbreak; at what date His Majesty's Government received information of the acquisition of submarines by the insurgents; and what inquiries were made and on what dates to ascertain the country of origin of such submarines?

Photo of Mr Duff Cooper Mr Duff Cooper , Westminster St George's

With regard to the first and second part of the question, I would refer the right hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) on 7th July last. With regard to the third part of the question, a report was received from the Spanish Embassy on 1st February last to the effect that. General Franco had received two Italian submarines. I am not in a position either to confirm or to deny the accuracy of this report.

Photo of Mr Albert Alexander Mr Albert Alexander , Sheffield, Hillsborough

In view of that information, have any representations been made to the Non-intervention Committee as to the acquisition of these Italian submarines by the Franco Government?

Photo of Mr Duff Cooper Mr Duff Cooper , Westminster St George's

I do not think any representations have been made to the Nonintervention Committee, but that is not a question for the Admiralty. It is a case for the Foreign Office.

Photo of Mr Albert Alexander Mr Albert Alexander , Sheffield, Hillsborough

Have either of these Italian submarines, to the Admiralty's knowledge, been engaged in attacks on British ships?

Photo of Mr Duff Cooper Mr Duff Cooper , Westminster St George's

No, Sir. I am not aware that Italian submarines were handed over.

Photo of Mr Frederick Cocks Mr Frederick Cocks , Broxtowe

Would not a reference to the Italian Navy List show whether they had two submarines less?

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

Since these are the vessels which have been engaged in piracy, and since that fact has meant a very heavy burden of expenditure on the British taxpayer, it is not desirable that the Government should endeavour to find out where they come from?

Photo of Mr Alfred Denville Mr Alfred Denville , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

On a point of Order. Is it not an abuse of the procedure of the House to take up so much time with Spanish questions, and so little with British affairs?

Photo of Mr Frederick Cocks Mr Frederick Cocks , Broxtowe

These are British affairs. British sailors are being drowned.