Oral Answers to Questions — Spain.

– in the House of Commons on 15th February 1939.

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Photo of Sir Geoffrey Mander Sir Geoffrey Mander , Wolverhampton East

asked the Prime Minister whether the assurances he has received from Signor Mussolini include, at the end of the war in Spain, a complete withdrawal from submarine bases, aerodromes and fortifications, of all Italian personnel; and whether any assurances on this general question of the withdrawal of Germans at the close of the war have been received from the German Government?

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

I would refer the hon. Member to the exchange of notes forming part of the Anglo-Italian Agreement under which the Italian Government have undertaken that on the termination of the Spanish civil war all remaining Italian volunteers would forthwith leave Spanish territory. As regards Germans now in Spain, I was informed by Herr Hitler at Munich that he would be ready to withdraw the German volunteers whenever other countries were prepared to do the same.

Photo of Sir Geoffrey Mander Sir Geoffrey Mander , Wolverhampton East

Is it not clear from what the Prime Minister said that the undertaking of the Italian Government does not, in fact, cover all the points which are mentioned in this question?

Mr. Shin well:

If the Italian forces now in Spain are transferred to civilian work at the end of the civil war, will that be in compliance with the Anglo-Italian Agreement?

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

Does the undertaking cover materiel as well as personnel?

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

This was an undertaking in regard to Italian volunteers.

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

Am I right in supposing that it does not cover materiel?

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

I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman is correct. I think they did say that Italian materiel will also be withdrawn.

Photo of Mr Reginald Fletcher Mr Reginald Fletcher , Nuneaton

Does the right hon. Gentleman regard the assurance of Herr Hitler as a formal and binding assurance?

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

I regard it as an expression of his intention at the time he spoke to me.

Photo of Mr Reginald Fletcher Mr Reginald Fletcher , Nuneaton

Is it not clear from the reply of the Prime Minister that the assurance given by Herr Hitler is not in any way a binding undertaking?

Photo of Mr George Strauss Mr George Strauss , Lambeth North

asked the Prime Minister how many protests have been sent by His Majesty's Government to the Spanish insurgent authorities since the beginning of the war?

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

The information requested is not readily available, and I fear that it would not now be possible to give the exact figures desired.

Photo of Sir Geoffrey Mander Sir Geoffrey Mander , Wolverhampton East

Would it be several hundreds or thousands?

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

According to the imagination of the hon. Member.

Photo of Mr George Strauss Mr George Strauss , Lambeth North

Have the results ever been satisfactory?

Photo of Sir Archibald Sinclair Sir Archibald Sinclair , Caithness and Sutherland

Why leave it to the imagination of the hon. Member? Why not give us the facts?

Photo of Mr George Strauss Mr George Strauss , Lambeth North

asked the Prime Minister whether all British members of the International Brigade captured by General Franco have been released?

Photo of Mr William Dobbie Mr William Dobbie , Rotherham

asked the Prime Minister (1) how many British prisoners are still in the concentration camp, San Pedro, at Burgos; and what steps are being taken to have them liberated;

(2) whether he has had any report from the British representative at Burgos as to the conditions prevailing in the concentration camp at San Pedro and the treatment of the prisoners there; whether any complaint has been made to the British representative by British nationals as to their treatment while in that camp; and whether any approach has been made to the Burgos authority on the question by the British representative?

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

I understand that 55 British members of the International Brigade are still held prisoner by General Franco's administration. Of these, 39 have already been transferred to San Sebastian for evacuation, and they will be released as soon as an equal number of Italian prisoners on the other side have been embarked. His Majesty's Consul at Valencia is taking all possible steps to expedite these arrangements. Of the remaining 16 prisoners, the British nationality of one or two of whom is doubtful, three are at Bilbao and 13 at Burgos. Negotiations for their exchange are proceeding as quickly as possible. A member of the staff of the British Agency has during the past year frequently visited the camp at Burgos, listened to any of the prisoners' complaints and reported them to the competent authorities, and he appears to have been satisfied that conditions were improved, and that the prisoners were on the whole well cared for.

Photo of Mr George Strauss Mr George Strauss , Lambeth North

Can the Minister say why there has been such a delay in the release of these prisoners after the International Brigade has been withdrawn; and will he make inquiries as to the case of a leading member of the brigade, Mr. Frank Ryan, who has been condemned to 30 years' imprisonment?

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

The delay is due to the difficulties of the exchange negotiations, and the last batch are waiting for an equal number of Italians to be embarked. I hope that that will take place very soon. As regards the other point, I will certainly continue my investigations into the case of Mr. Ryan which already has been communicated to me by another hon. Member.

Viscountess Astor:

If the International Brigade who have been fighting in Spain are Communists, would they not be more at home in Russia?

Photo of Mr Harry Day Mr Harry Day , Southwark Central

asked the Prime Minister the date upon which the last meeting was held of the Non-intervention Committee and the number of meetings held by this committee to date; and whether any recent statements have been made on the reasons for withdrawing representatives from either the committee or the chairman's sub-committee?

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

The last meeting of the committee took place on 5th July, 1938. The committee has met 29 times. The answer to the second part of the question is in the negative.

Photo of Mr Harry Day Mr Harry Day , Southwark Central

Are we to understand that this committee has now ceased to function?

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

It has not recently met.

Photo of Mr Harry Day Mr Harry Day , Southwark Central

Is it intended to disband it?

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

No such decision has been taken.

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

Are any minutes taken of the meetings and a record kept of the number of people who attend?

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

I am sure there are records, but the proceedings of the committee are confidential.

Photo of Mr Gordon Hall Caine Mr Gordon Hall Caine , Dorset Eastern

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the fact that the principal Paris newspapers, together with 10 special French delegates, four of whom are military officers of high rank, have accepted an invitation from the Burgos Administration to visit any part of Spain they desire with a view to disposing of un founded rumours as to the establishment of aerodromes, fortifications, and submarine bases under foreign control; and whether he can arrange for an independent British Commission to visit Spain with the same object?

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

The invitation in question was to certain newspaper representatives. If a similar invitation were to be received here, it would not be a matter for His Majesty's Government unless their views were asked.

Photo of Mr George Strauss Mr George Strauss , Lambeth North

asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government have now come to any decision on the recognition of General Franco?

Photo of Mr Reginald Fletcher Mr Reginald Fletcher , Nuneaton

asked the Prime Minister whether he will inform all Governments concerned, that in order to ensure that Spanish affairs are decided by the Spaniards themselves, His Majesty's Government will not be a party to any alteration of the régime in or constitution of Spain, until all foreign intervention has ceased in that country?

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

asked the Prime Minister whether he can assure the House that His Majesty's Government will not accord recognition to the insurgent authorities as the legitimate Government of Spain until all foreign troops and armaments have been withdrawn from Spanish territory?

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

This matter is still under consideration by His Majesty's Government, and I am unable, therefore, to make any further statement.

Photo of Mr Frederick Cocks Mr Frederick Cocks , Broxtowe

Will the right hon. Gentleman realise the effect on British public opinion that will be produced if the Government recognise the Persians whilst Leonidas is still fighting in Thermopylae?

Photo of Sir Geoffrey Mander Sir Geoffrey Mander , Wolverhampton East

Is it proposed to act jointly with the French Government in this matter and to make a simultaneous announcement?

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

The hon. Member had better put that question down.

Photo of Mr Reginald Fletcher Mr Reginald Fletcher , Nuneaton

Is it not clear that the wish of the Government for Spanish affairs to be settled by the Spanish people cannot be fulfilled as long as foreign intervention in Spain continues?

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

asked the Prime Minister whether the refusal of His Majesty's Government to grant belligerent rights to General Franco on the ground that there was no civil war in Spain owing to intervention of foreign Powers on one side or the other will be followed in relation to the recognition of the Spanish insurgent authorities as the de jure or de facto Government of Spain?

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

No, Sir. His Majesty's Government are bound by international agreement in the case of granting of belligerent rights, but no such agreement exists in connection with the granting of recognition.

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

If His Majesty's Government were influenced by the fact that foreign Governments had intervened in the Spanish war when they refused to grant belligerent rights, is it not right that they should take that same fact into consideration when making up their minds whether they should afford recognition?

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

I have already said that the matter is now under consideration, and I could not therefore make any further statement.

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

I am not asking for any further statement, but whether His Majesty's Government will take that fact into consideration?

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

I call that asking for a further statement.

Photo of Mr Reginald Fletcher Mr Reginald Fletcher , Nuneaton

asked the Prime Minister why the decision to send His Majesty's ship "Devonshire" to Minorca was not communicated to the accredited representative of the Spanish Government in London?

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

In the circumstances existing at that moment it was thought right to act without delay.

Photo of Mr Reginald Fletcher Mr Reginald Fletcher , Nuneaton

While appreciating the reasons for the Government's wish to act without delay, may I ask whether it is not quite unprecedented for action of this sort to be taken without communicating with the accredited representative in this country of the Government concerned?

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

The circumstances with which we were dealing were unprecedented.

Mr. Shin well:

Was there any request by the inhabitants of Minorca for the despatch of a British vessel?

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

I cannot add anything to the long statement on that subject which has already been made by the Prime Minister.

Photo of Mr Reginald Fletcher Mr Reginald Fletcher , Nuneaton

Would it not have been perfectly possible, at any rate, to notify the Spanish Ambassador in London at the same time that action was taken, and would not that have been in accordance with courtesy and precedent?

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

I think it would have been possible. We wish to treat the Spanish Ambassador with every courtesy and distinction.

Photo of Sir Archibald Sinclair Sir Archibald Sinclair , Caithness and Sutherland

Did the Government communicate with the representative of General Franco in this country before they took this step?

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

Not that I am aware of.

Photo of Mr Reginald Fletcher Mr Reginald Fletcher , Nuneaton

asked the Prime Minister whether he will give an assurance that His Majesty's Government still regards the Republican Government of Spain as the only legal Government existing in that country and that all major decisions affecting Spanish affairs will be communicated to that Government or, failing the possibility of establishing contact, with the Spanish Ambassador in London?

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

Our relations with the Spanish Government remain unchanged in the absence of any decision to the contrary, but His Majesty's Government must themselves decide what communications they make to foreign representatives.

Photo of Mr Reginald Fletcher Mr Reginald Fletcher , Nuneaton

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that decisions of major importance affecting the Spanish Government will be communicated to the representative of that Government in London?

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

Provided that the hon. and gallant Member understands that the discretion must rest with us.

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

Do the various Ambassadors meet at any time for the purpose of exchanging notes on these matters?

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

I am sure that the Ambassadors parley together.

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government are willing to take active steps to secure a settlement of the Spanish war on the basis that all foreign troops should be withdrawn, that there should be no reprisals, and that the Spanish people should have an opportunity of choosing their own form of Government?

Mr. Edmund Harvey:

asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government will now use their good offices to bring about a settlement in Spain by proposing to both sides an armistice, with an undertaking that there shall be no reprisals on either side, and that provision shall be made for a general amnesty?

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

His Majesty's Government are most anxious to see the termination of the war in Spain without further bloodshed, and they will maintain touch with both sides in case their services should be desired to bring them together. But they do not consider it advisable at present to take the responsibility of sponsoring any particular terms of settlement.

Photo of Mr Wilfrid Roberts Mr Wilfrid Roberts , Cumberland Northern

asked the Prime Minister whether a condition of the surrender of Minorca to the Nationalist forces, to which the representative of the British Government agreed, was that certain persons should be evacuated to safety; and whether all of those persons were, in fact, so evacuated?

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

As I have already informed the House, His Majesty's Government took no part in the negotiations for the surrender of Minorca and made themselves in no way responsible for the conditions of that surrender. They merely provided a channel of communication between the two parties. It was at the independent suggestion of General Franco's representatives that His Majesty's Ship "Devonshire" agreed to embark certain refugees.

Photo of Mr Wilfrid Roberts Mr Wilfrid Roberts , Cumberland Northern

Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the statement made by the captain of the "Devonshire," widely reported in the Press, in which he states that the Governor of Minorca agreed to surrender only on condition that the cruiser "Devonshire" did take off a specified list of refugees? Is that statement correct or not?

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

I could not say. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put the question down.

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

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will call for a report from the commanding officer of His Majesty's Ship "Devonshire" concerning the identity of the aircraft which recently made seven air raids on Port Mahon, Minorca, while that vessel was in the harbour?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare , Norwich

No, Sir, we have already had a report from the commanding officer of His Majesty's Ship "Devonshire" which indicates that those aeroplanes which were seen from his ship to be engaged in bombing Minorca appeared to resemble an Italian type.

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

In view of the explanation by the Prime Minister yesterday that these bombing raids were carried out in disobedience of orders, are we to understand that Italian aircraft in Majorca refuse to obey General Franco's orders and accept Mussolini's?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare , Norwich

That is not a question for me.

Photo of Mr Reginald Fletcher Mr Reginald Fletcher , Nuneaton

Has any protest been addressed to the Italian Government about this bombing?

Photo of Mr Denis Pritt Mr Denis Pritt , Hammersmith North

And has any inquiry been made concerning the boasts in the Italian Press about these raids?

Photo of Mr William Leach Mr William Leach , Bradford Central

Why was the Prime Minister's reply couched in such pernickety language?