Oral Answers to Questions — Czechoslovakia.

– in the House of Commons on 6th October 1938.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Frederick Cocks Mr Frederick Cocks , Broxtowe

asked the Prime Minister the latest information regarding the present position in Czechoslovakia?

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

I have nothing to add to the statements which have been made in the course of the Debate which is now proceeding.

Photo of Mr Frederick Cocks Mr Frederick Cocks , Broxtowe

Have the Government any information regarding the treatment of the Social Democrats in the occupied territory, and will the Government make representations to the German Government to allow those unfortunate people to leave the country rather than be shot on their doorsteps?

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

His Majesty's Government are aware of the importance of the issue, but I cannot add anything at the present time to what has been said.

Photo of Colonel Harry Nathan Colonel Harry Nathan , Wandsworth Central

Can the hon. Gentleman add to what was said by the Prime Minister as to the treatment by the German Government of the Czech hostages now in the custody of the German authorities in Germany itself?

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

I cannot add anything to what was said last night. We will look into the matter, but at present I have nothing to add.

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

When the hon. Gentleman says "look into" does he mean that the Government accept the moral obligation to secure the release of those hostages?

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

It means what the Prime Minister said yesterday, that we have made inquiries in Berlin and are awaiting an answer.

Mr. Vyvyan Adams:

Are the Government going to do anything to secure the personal safety of ex-President Benes, and do they bear in mind the fate of Dr. Schuschnigg?

Hon. Members:

Answer.

Photo of Sir Geoffrey Mander Sir Geoffrey Mander , Wolverhampton East

asked the Prime Minister whether he can now state the exact terms of the Anglo-French ultimatum to the Czechoslovakian Government after the Berchtesgaden meeting?

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

asked the Prime Minister whether he will now publish the text of the instructions sent to the British Minister in Prague as to the presentation of the Anglo-French proposals on 19th September?

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

I would refer to the statement which I made last night on this subject, to which I have nothing to add.

Photo of Sir Geoffrey Mander Sir Geoffrey Mander , Wolverhampton East

Is the Minister aware that the impression made upon the Czechslovak Government by the communication of the British Minister is precisely in the terms stated by Professor Seton Watson.

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

Last night I referred to the obvious differences between the message of Professor Seton Watson and the terms of the message sent by His Majesty's Government.

Photo of Sir Geoffrey Mander Sir Geoffrey Mander , Wolverhampton East

I am referring to the impression made upon the Czech Government themselves.

Hon. Members:

How do you know?

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

He knows as well as you do.

Photo of Mr Morgan Jones Mr Morgan Jones , Caerphilly

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any reports from the British Minister in Prague as to the change of opinion in Czechoslovakia towards Great Britain and France and the desire to seek a closer understanding with Germany?

Photo of Mr Morgan Jones Mr Morgan Jones , Caerphilly

Are we to take it that the resignation of Dr. Benes last night was an indication of a new orientation of policy on the part of the Czech Government consequent upon the recent crisis?

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

I have answered the question which the hon. Gentleman put to me, and I have nothing to add to the answer which I have given.

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

Are the Government taking any notice of the obvious change in Czech policy to which Dr. Benes himself referred in his broadcast?

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

The Government are naturally watching the situation, with all the implications arising from it.

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

asked the Prime Minister whether the Evian conference proposes to consider the case of probable Jewish refugees from Czechoslovakia?

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

The Inter-Governmental Meeting at Evian was called for the primary purpose of facilitating involuntary emigration from Germany (including Austria). The committee set up to continue the work of the Evian Meeting has not so far considered extending its activities to other categories of refugees.

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

Do the Government recognise that we shall soon be faced with a very serious Jewish problem in Czechoslovakia?

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

I am aware that there may be such a problem but if there is a full meeting of the committee all such matters will be considered.

Photo of Mr Richard Acland Mr Richard Acland , Barnstaple

Will His Majesty's Government take steps to call a full meeting and to make very drastic proposals at that meeting for the alteration of the immigration arrangements?

Photo of Colonel Harry Nathan Colonel Harry Nathan , Wandsworth Central

Will the Minister consider directing the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who is the chairman of the committee set up as a result of the Evian Conference, to consider laying before that committee at the earliest opportunity or immediately the question of the problem of Jewish refugees arising out of the Czechoslovak situation?

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

The hon. and gallant Gentleman will realise that 25 countries are represented on the committee, and we must leave it to the discretion of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to decide what action he takes in this matter. I am sure he will realise its importance.

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

asked the Prime Minister the names of the minorities whose claims must be satisfied before the promised British guarantee of the Czech frontier becomes operative?

Miss Rathbone:

asked the Prime Minister, as from what date or from what stage in the working out of the Munich Agreement is the international guarantee of the frontiers of the new Czechoslovakia intended to be operative; and whether His Majesty's Government is considering any steps to prevent the acts of aggression threatened by the Poles, Hungarians and Slovenes on that State?

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

I would refer to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence on Tuesday, to which I have nothing to add.

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

Have the Government had any communication with the Prague Government with reference to the present claims by Poland and Hungary?

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

I think the right hon. Gentleman ought to put a question of that kind down.

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

I have put that question already to the Prime Minister by Private Notice, but you, Mr. Speaker, said that I could raise it by Question in the House. That being so, I would ask the Prime Minister this question: The Czech Government is being pressed and territory is being invaded. The Prime Minister has told us that we recognise a moral obligation to give a guarantee. What steps are His Majesty's Government taking, if any, to implement that obligation?

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

I really feel that that is not a question which I should be called upon to answer without notice. Although I have to answer for the Foreign Office in this House, I cannot be expected to carry in my head, or even to know of, all the telegrams which are passing. If I had due notice I could ascertain, but I cannot answer off-hand.

Miss Rathbone:

Does not my question No. 23 ask exactly what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorton (Mr. Benn) has just tried to ask? It asks: Whether His Majesty's Government is considering any steps to prevent the acts of aggression threatened by the Poles, Hungarians and Slovenes on that State. If His Majesty's Government are considering any steps, cannot they tell us what steps they are taking to implement the guarantee which the right hon. Gentleman has told us is already operative? If it is already operative, surely the Government must know what steps are being taken?

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

On a point of Order. You will recollect, Mr. Speaker, that I offered yesterday a Private Notice Question which you ruled out of order. After consultation with you, I offered another Private Notice Question for to-day, and gave notice to the Prime Minister last night. I was informed by you that my question was covered by Question No. 23, as it appeared to me to be, and, therefore, the occasion has not arisen for my putting it; but the Prime Minister had notice, before the House rose last night, of the following question: To ask the Prime Minister, in view of the fact that the guarantee to Czechoslovakia is admitted as a moral obligation now in force, what advice His Majesty's Government have given, or what assistance they have offered, to the Czechoslovak Government in dealing with the territorial claims of Poland and Hungary? The Prime Minister had notice of that question yesterday.

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

The right hon. Gentleman shoots these observations out at me with great heat, but he will remember that he himself says that he did not put down this Private Notice Question till 11 o'clock last night. I heard about it this morning, but I was told that the question had been disallowed, and, therefore, I did not trouble myself any further about it.

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

Let me clear up this point. Was the right hon. Gentleman informed that my question was disallowed, or is it the fact that my question was covered by Question No. 23, put down by the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone), as you, Mr. Speaker, informed me it was?

Photo of Sir Geoffrey Mander Sir Geoffrey Mander , Wolverhampton East

I respectfully submit this point to you. The Prime Minister says he did not have notice of the right hon. Gentleman's question, but he has had two days' notice of the same question put by the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities in these terms: Whether His Majesty's Government is considering any steps to prevent the acts of aggression threatened by the Poles, Hungarians and Slovenes on that State? The Prime Minister has had two days' notice of that question, which to-day he is refusing to answer on the ground that he has had no notice. I ask you, Sir. whether it is in conformity with the practice of this House that a responsible Minister should treat questions in that way?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

I must preface my remarks by saying that I think the Prime Minister has done his best to answer all the questions put to him. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorton (Mr. Benn) put this question before me yesterday, and I allowed it as a Private Notice question; but when I saw on the Paper this morning the question in the name of the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities, I saw that it was exactly the same question. The Prime Minister has answered the question of the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities, and I think it ought to cover the right hon. Gentleman's question.

Miss Rathbone:

May I call attention to the fact that I was pointing out to the Prime Minister that he had not answered that part of my question, and then the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorton intervened by raising a point of Order, and the right hon. Gentleman did not have time to answer my supplementary question? May I not have an answer to my question whether the Government have considered any steps? If they have considered any steps, can they tell us what is the result of that consideration?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

It seems to me to be merely that the hon. Lady is dissatisfied with the answer she has received?

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

I understood the Prime Minister to say that the reason why he could not answer was that he had not had notice. Does it not now appear that he had notice of the hon. Lady's question, which has been on the Paper?

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

May I say that, when I said I had not had notice, I was, of course, referring to the question which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorton had read out? I did not say I had not had notice of the hon. Lady's question. I have given an answer to that question. If the hon. Lady is not satisfied with my answer, and chooses to put a supplementary question to me, she has a perfect right to do so.

Miss Rathbone:

That is what I am trying to do. My supplementary question is: Have the Government considered steps, and if they have considered steps, what are those steps?

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

I am not aware of any threatened acts of aggression by Poles, Hungarians and Slovenes. The Czechoslavak Government is at present, I understand, conducting negotiations with the Poles and the Hungarians, which, of course, His Majesty's Government are watching with the interest which naturally they must take in a question on which they have given certain pledges. As to the Slovenes, I think the hon. Lady is confusing them with the Slovaks.

Photo of Colonel Harry Nathan Colonel Harry Nathan , Wandsworth Central

(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government have drawn the attention of the German Government to the Minorities Treaty covering the Sudeten German territory, especially in view of the large number of Germans who have fled from Germany to the Sudeten area in reliance upon the provisions of that Treaty made with the Allied Powers and what steps His Majesty's Government propose to take to ensure that the German Government fulfils the obligations thereunder of the ceding Government?

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

No, Sir. The Minorities Treaty to which the hon. Member refers is not binding upon the German Government, nor can I accept the assumption of the hon. Member that the provisions of the Treaty would in any case apply to German nationals who may have taken up their residence in Czechoslovakia.

Photo of Colonel Harry Nathan Colonel Harry Nathan , Wandsworth Central

Does the Prime Minister appreciate that during the past five years large numbers of Germans living in Germany—as understood during the past five years—have taken refuge in Czechoslovakia? Political refugees and religious refugees suffering persecution in Germany have taken refuge in this area, which is covered by the provision of a minorities treaty to which His Majesty's Government were a party and the British Dominions were parties. Do the Government not propose to take some steps to ensure that those provisions for the protection of minorities, which were thought necessary in 1919, are implemented now under the changed conditions; and have the British Dominions been consulted as to the protection of the treaties to which they are a party?

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

The German Government are not a party to the Treaty in question; therefore, the answer I have given stands.

Photo of Colonel Harry Nathan Colonel Harry Nathan , Wandsworth Central

Is it to be understood that the general answer is that the British Government propose to do nothing?

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

That is not the question on the Paper.