Foreign Affairs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th May 1947.

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Photo of Dr Mont Follick Dr Mont Follick , Loughborough 12:00 am, 15th May 1947

The House will pardon me if I do not follow in the same direction as the majority of speakers today. I am greatly concerned to see how the centre of gravity of political activity is shifting from Central and Western Europe to the Mediterranean. On that account, from a geographical point of view, Spain has become outstandingly important. We must take great interest in what happens in Spain, because Spain may be a crucial point in any future world conflagration. Some three or four weeks ago, not being satisfied with the information I was receiving in this country, I went to Spain to make my own investigations on the spot. For me it presented no difficulty. I have long-standing relations with Spain and I speak the Spanish language almost as well as a Spaniard. I could do all the necessary work myself without having any intermediary of any description.

I found there that although the people of Spain wanted a change of government—and they all do—there was no particular hatred with regard to Franco. Even the working classes spoke of Franco with a certain amount of respect, but the hatred there, in Spain, was against the Falangist Party. That party is corrupt, dishonest, and is holding the Spaniards to ransom. Almost everybody wants to get rid of the party. The difficulty is that if Franco gets rid of the party, Franco will have to go as well. The only alternative to Franco is Prince Juan, who is in the direct line of succession to the throne.

This week I have been to Portugal and I had a very long interview with Prince Juan. In fact, I was in Portugal this morning. I had my breakfast there, and now I am here making this speech. Prince Juan is leading' the life of an ordinary middle-class person, a good healthy family life, quietly, with no ostentation. He received me and told me that he was quite willing to answer any questions that I liked to ask. I gave him plenty of questions to answer. I asked him what his attitude would be towards the trade unions if he were enthroned as King of Spain. I took his answer down word for word in front of him. It is an interesting answer: Trade unions today are an industrial necessity. They must name their own representatives and not have their representatives named by the regime, which is actually what is happening at present in Spain with the Syndicates. He recognised the full authority of the trade unions, and he said he would accept them as a part of the system of government if he were appointed to the throne. I asked him about free speech and a free Press. He replied that his rule would be worthless without both, and also that a free Press would not be the same sort of free Press as existed in Spain before the civil war. It would have to be a free Press with full responsibility. I have known something of the Spanish Press as it was even before the first world war, when there was no responsibility at all. It was libellous and in every way disgraceful. He said that they would have to introduce a law of libel similar to that in this country. They would have to make the Press fully responsible for its actions—[Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but this country would be very badly off if the Press did not have to accept responsibility.

I asked Prince Juan what sort of government he intended to accept if he were to become King of Spain. He said he would be an absolutely constitutional king as in this country, above parties and not interfering with politics. I asked him whether he would accept all parties in Parliament, and his reply was that all parliamentary parties, that is to say, any party that believes in parliamentary government, would be acceptable; but those not believing in parliamentary government would not be accepted. As I think along the same lines, I say that it is perfectly reasonable, and that a person who does not believe in parliamentary government should not be elected to Parliament. If he is only elected to destroy Parliament, then he should not be sent there. The great difficulty—