§ 7.3o p.m.
§ Mr. Attlee
I beg to move, "That this House do now adjourn."
I am moving the Adjournment in order to call attention to the attacks made yesterday upon British ships and their crews and the refusal of His Majesty's Government either to afford them protection from such attacks or to take measures to prevent their recurrence. We debated this matter at length on Tuesday, when the Prime Minister stated that he was unable to take any effective action, but that he had sent a protest to General Franco. We now have the answer to that protest. We have the attack yesterday on two British ships off Valencia, the "Thorpeness" and the "Sunion." There is no doubt at all that these ships were engaged in perfectly legitimate trade. They had non-intervention observers on board, in one case a French observer and in the other case a German, and both of them, I am glad to say, were saved, for non-intervention observers have in the past been killed in pursuance of their duty on board ship. There is no doubt at all that these attacks were deliberate if the account given in the "Times" is at all correct. The "Thorpeness" was three-quarters of a mile from the port when attacked, and the "Sunion" was a mile from the "Thorpeness." One of the "Thorpeness" boats was smashed by a bomb. The master and the officers got into a boat and some part of the crew jumped overboard. The evidence is that these ships were attacked from a low altitude and that they were attacked not only with bombs but by machine guns.
Here is a case of two British ships attacked, of British lives endangered, and one British subject is missing. These attacks are a sequel to a whole series of attacks upon British ships. There is no need for me to set out the course of these infringements of international law and these attacks upon British lives and British shipping. My hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker), in what I thought was an admirably complete and lucid speech, dealt very temperately with these events and set out the facts, and the facts are not denied. The Prime Minister accepted the fact that these are cases of deliberate attacks upon British ships, that these British ships are pursuing their lawful vocations, and that 1344 these attacks are made without any right whatever, and he has made his protest, but, he says, nothing can be done.
That is the position which faces this House this evening. The Prime Minister said that whatever might be the law, whatever might be the position, whatever might be our interests, whatever British lives might be at stake, nothing could be done. Oh, I forget. Since then we have had a remarkable suggestion by the Prime Minister. In answer to a question by the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass), who asked if these ships could not be provided with anti-aircraft guns, the Prime Minister suggested that our mechantmen should provide them at their own expense. The Government are powerless to afford protection to British citizens in British ships, and so they can do it at their own expense. It is a most remarkable suggestion, and I should like to ask one or two questions upon it. What will be the position of these armed merchantmen? Will they have come kind of authority to carry arms upon the high seas? Are they to carry on a kind of private warfare? Will they be allowed to sail with these weapons under the Non-Intervention Agreement, because that, after all, is the sheet-anchor of the Prime Minister's policy? The ships that are sunk, the men that are killed are nothing, but we must keep to the policy of non-intervention. Are the ships to be given permits for these guns? Will the Government supply them? Will the Secretary of State for War, out of his abundance, supply these anti-aircraft guns at a price? If not, where are they to come from? It seems to me to be an utterly irresponsible suggestion, thrown out with no consideration whatever. [Interruption.]
The right hon. Gentleman made the suggestion as Prime Minister of Great Britain. He is very willing to talk about mischievous speeches and irresponsibility, but he sets on example of irresponsibility, and the mischievousness of his speeches can be judged by their effects. Every time the Prime Minister makes a pronouncement something or other like this happens. He made a great speech on Italy, and we had Germany walking into Austria. He made his speech on Tuesday, and we have two more British ships go down. I say there is no question whatever about what these British ships are 1345 doing. They are engaged in perfectly legitimate trade—there is no question of contraband—and they are doing it under conditions laid down by His Majesty's Government in accordance with the rules of the Non-Intervention Committee.
The Prime Minister and the Ministers of other Powers must have some responsibility for these ships, because they are acting in strict accordance with the conditions laid down by a conference of the Powers. They carry observers, men who are performing duties on behalf of an international committee, and some of these observers carrying out this international duty under the British flag—they are not engaged in profit-making, so reprehensible in the view of some hon. Members opposite—are being killed. A Dane has been killed. I think the people of Denmark have some reason to complain as to why their observer should be killed. I note that a German observer is giving up because there is no protection. Surely it is rather ironical that an observer appointed to see that no material is imported by the Spanish Government to the detriment of the insurgents should be killed by the people whose interests he is serving.
The Prime Minister knows nothing about it, but where do these attackers come from? There is no secret about it. I have been talking to-day with two of the captains of these vessels, and there is no secret as to where these 'planes come from. They come from the Balearic Islands. They come from a base which is far away from the main battlefield, a base which is an island in that element which, hon. Members tell us so often, Britannia rules. These islands are in the control, we are told, of General Franco. According to the "Times," nationalist naval power is in eclipse. These islands are clearly at the mercy of the British fleet. They can be blockaded. Their aerodromes can be attacked. There is no Franco fleet worth mentioning.
The question is, Who are these attackers? There is much information to show that they belong to a foreign Power. I have talked with a British resident in Majorca who assured me that that island was completely in the hands of a foreign Power. The hon. Member for Derby gave a list of pilots, showing their nationality and the preponderance of subjects of a foreign Power. One of the 1346 captains whom I saw to-day, telling me of a bombardment he underwent in the past, said the crew of the 'plane consisted of three Germans and a Portuguese. But this does not really concern us, because we have the Prime Minister's statement that we must take it that all these attacks are made by planes and pilots in the service of General Franco. That, of course, vastly simplifies our problem. If the Government takes any action there can be no complication with any other Power, because these 'planes and pilots belong to General Franco.
There cannot be any trouble with Germany or Italy. Both those Powers are represented on the Non-Intervention Committee, and they must feel as keenly as we do the attacks made on their representatives. Obviously, there can be no objection by Germany. Herr Hitler's bombardment of Almeria, a method which revolts us all, and which no one suggests we should copy, shows that she believes in taking action to defend her nationals and she did not think that that infringed non-intervention. And, of course, there can be no objection from Italy, because the Prime Minister and Signor Mussolini have come to an agreement. They made an agreement to be good neighbours. Such a good neighbour would not object to any assertion of a long-established right of a sovereign State to protect its own citizens. Therefore, it is clear that what we have to deal with is General Franco's forces and General Franco's fleet which, we are told by the "Times," is in eclipse.
The Prime Minister says that he cannot do anything about it. Let us look at some of his excuses. His first effort was quite characteristic. He asked what the attitude of the Labour party would have been, tried to shift the responsibility. Well, he cannot do it while he holds the position which he occupies. He has a responsibility. The question before this House is his attitude. As that is the kind of argument the right hon. Gentleman puts forward, I will also engage in speculation. What would have been the attitude of the party opposite if the late right hon. Arthur Henderson had come down to this House and made the kind of speech the Prime Minister made? We should have seen such a scene in this House as has not occurred for decades. I can imagine the hon. Baronet the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) 1347 bringing the roof down with his cries. The Press would have been running with denunciations of the craven poltroonery of the Labour Government and their indifference to national interests.
Let me recall an incident on 23rd October, 1904. There was an incident in the North Sea. By mistake—not by design—British fishermen were fired upon by the Russian fleet.
§ Mr. Attlee
The question of the three-mile limit does not really arise here because the Prime Minister explained to us that he objected, and said quite properly that any bombing of these vessels within the three-mile limit was wrong. The "Times," a more independent journal in those days, said, in a leader:The blood of our fellow-subjects peaceably pursuing their lawful business on the high seas, has been shed without the shadow of an excuse which can find acceptance with reasonable men. The nation claims its right not only to know that reparation has been demanded, but to know something of the shape in which the demand had been made.…We want more than indemnities and apologies."—Mere protests would not have been enough—We want… public punishment of the men who ordered a murderous attack upon our fishing boats. That is the best security we can obtain that earnest efforts will be made to prevent a repetition of such incidents in future.I am glad to say that that matter, which endangered international relations, was settled by agreement. It was not settled without an acknowledgment of guilt, without reparation and without the utmost measures being taken to prevent a repetition of such incidents. There was no repetition.
The next excuse of the Prime Minister is that people who take these risks must look after themselves. He said:Would they not have said that people who take these risks must look after themselves?…Yes, that is what we say about people who take these risks.That is rather a new doctrine for the party opposite. We ought to let our people know that. Does that apply to people who invest their money in Mexico? Does it apply to the people who invested their money in Russia? Did the right 1348 hon. Sir Joseph Chamberlain apply it in the case of the people who went into the Rand to make money? How much blood and treasure we should have been saved if the Conservative party had adopted this attitude all through the years; but, of course, it is not so. It is a hypocritical excuse. The Prime Minister does not believe that profit-taking is wrong. He would not condemn the deeds that won the Empire. Of course not. All through the history of this country, adventurous people have gone out for trade and they have appealed, generally not in vain, for the support of the Government of the day. I am sure that the Prime Minister would not assent to any doctrine of that kind.
Then he said that to protect our ships would be intervention. Really, you can stretch this doctrine of non-intervention very far. Why should it be an intervention to protect our nationals? He said that to tire on any aeroplane that approached our ships would be intervention. I suppose the danger is that we might by mistake attack a plane that was going to attack, not our ships, but the women and children of Barcelona. Nothing must be done to stop General Franco from winning the war, and rather than oause the slightest hindrance to General Franco's campaign we must let him sink our ships and kill our nationals. What does that mean? It means that a Nationalist administration in Spain is more important than the lives of British sailors.
Finally, he said:We do not believe any practical means of preventing it, without adopting a policy which would be completely at variance with that which we believe to he in the true interests of this country, has been found.What is that policy? Is it the policy that General Franco must be allowed to win?
§ Mr. Attlee
Is it the policy of the Prime Minister that at all costs we must do nothing that will offend Signor Mussolini? The Prime Minister then brought up his one serious argument—and it is a serious argument. He said that any action we tookmight run the risk of involving us all in a general European war."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st June, 1938; cols. 940–943, Vol. 337.]1349 Everyone of us knows the dangers of a general European war and everyone of us would do anything to prevent it. The Prime Minister is not entitled to cover himself by vague general statements like that. We have a right to know what he is apprehending. I have shown that, on the Prime Minister's own admission, all we have against us is General Franco. Does the Prime Minister mean that if we took perfectly legitimate steps to bring pressure to bear upon General Franco for his piratical attacks upon British ships, some other Power would attack us? [An HON. MEMBER: "Answer that one."] If so, what becomes of non-intervention? Does he mean that General Franco is so much the protege of another Power that we dare not protect our own nationals? I want an answer to these questions. The House of Commons has a right to know just what is apprehended by the Prime Minister. I would ask the Prime Minister whether he has laid these facts before other Powers. He has had a good many months now of our ships being sunk and our nationals being killed. He has been in contact, close contact, with Signor Mussolini. Lord Halifax has been to see Herr Hitler. We meet the presentatives of Italy upon the Non-Intervention Committee. It has been quite easy to discuss these matters, and the right hon. Gentleman and the Government must have pointed out the serious state of national feeling arising from this succession of incidents.
Does the Prime Minister mean, when he speaks about a general European war, that someone would join in if we took any steps against General Franco? Is this country really unable to protect its nationals because of the threat of other Powers? I do not believe that it is impossible to take any action. Take the question of Majorca; it is quite possible for us to blockade Majorca. Why should any other Power intervene, if Majorca belongs to General Franco? Who is to step in? I would like to ask, if we continue to acquiesce, where this kind of thing is going to stop. Does the right hon. Gentleman know that there is something very near a blockade of Gibraltar? I was talking to-day to two captains who assured me that there were trawlers stationed in the Straits of Gibraltar and that as our ships go through they try to drive them off into territorial waters where they can be attacked. [HON. 1350 MEMBERS: "No."] Well, that is the statement that these two captains make. If that is so, I would like to ask—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Attlee
Suppose General Franco goes a step further. Suppose he bombs our ships while they are in the harbour of Gibraltar. Will this argument still hold good? Suppose he attacks Gibraltar. A British ship is as much a piece of British territory as is Gibraltar or any part of Britain and a British sailor is as much a citizen as any other citizen.
The Prime Minister's attitude is having serious consequences already in other parts of the world. I was reading in the paper that the Japanese are preventing our ships from going into Tientsin. I suppose they know it is quite safe; that there will be objections and protests, but nothing more. The Prime Minister must choose his course. There is something to be said for a whole-hearted policy of non-resistance; for saying: "Whatever happens, the very slightest risk of war must be avoided at all costs. The risk is so great that nothing must be done that would possibly offend any other State." But the logic of that is complete disarmament. It does not go with a vast expenditure on armaments. The Prime Minister himself has said that he is prepared to defend British interests, and we have tried very often to get from him an answer to the question, What are British interests? They seem to be narrowing week by week. I do not in the least believe that it is really because there is a fear of a general war that we do nothing against General Franco. The fact is that the Prime Minister has backed General Franco to win. He has made an alliance with Signor Mussolini, and in defence of that alliance he is prepared to sacrifice British interests and to sacrifice rights for which this country has stood for years. He is sacrificing a whole body of maritime practice and international law, as well as sacrificing the lives of British sailors.
What is the Prime Minister going to get in exchange? What promise has he had from Signor Mussolini? I am afraid that the Prime Minister has cut an abject figure. Everyone of us would do all we could to stop anything like war and anything that might lead to the danger of war. The Government have done all 1351 they can to wreck the League of Nations and collective security, and have brought this country into the position of an armed State in an armed anarchic world. We know that this country is piling up munitions of war and that, in the opinion of some people, is running the risk of war. The Prime Minister must be much more specific before he will get this House to believe that he cannot protect the lives of British sailors. If he does say that, he is the first Prime Minister who has said it for over 100 years.
§ 7.59 P.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)
On the last occasion when we debated this subject I followed the speaker from the Front Opposition Bench, and thereafter the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) made a speech which was largely devoted to personal attack upon myself.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
There was only one passage in my speech, the concluding passage, which could possibly bear that interpretation. I sent a message to the Prime Minister before lunch that I was going to raise that question, so that if the Prime Minister wished me to speak in front of him I was quite prepared to do so.
§ The Prime Minister
I am not making any complaint about it, but in view of what happened on that occasion I thought on this occasion that the right hon. Gentleman might like to follow the Leader of the Opposition. It appears that, in the mood in which the Opposition find themselves, they prefer that I should speak at once, and I am quite ready to satisfy them in that respect. On the whole, I think the right hon. Gentleman made a speech which was perhaps less bitter and less intemperate than I had expected. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I do not know why, but it was, although there were in it a good many rather paltry sneers. Of course it is pretty obvious that on this matter hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have very deep and strong feelings, and in these circumstances it is perhaps rather difficult to get a patient hearing for the voice of reason. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman says that there 1352 is no reason, but, at any rate, there are attempts at reason. The other day I was very much interrupted, and certainly had not a very good chance of pursuing a connected argument. I do not know whether I shall be any more fortunate this evening, but, whatever the result, I ask hon. Members in all parts of the House to remember that they too have their responsibilities, as well as Members of the Government, and that, when they are touching on subjects which may bring us near to that dangerous borderline which divides peace from war, we ought all to remember those responsibilities, and ought not merely to look at the circumstances of the moment, but to think also of the possible consequences of any action that we may take to the lives and fortunes of our fellow-countrymen. Great indignation has been expressed by Members of the Opposition at the attacks upon British ships and at the destruction of British property—a matter on which they have not always shown such enthusiasm. They should ask themselves in this matter whether their motives are entirely unmixed, and whether it is solely indignation at the destruction of British property or the risk to British lives that has moved them in this matter. From the very beginning of the Spanish conflict, the Opposition have offered the most persistent and sometimes embittered opposition to the whole policy of non-intervention—
§ Mr. Attlee
That is perfectly wrong. The policy of non-intervention was accepted by the Labour movement until it was shown that it was absolutely one-sided. [Interruption.]
On a point of Order. I heard an hon. Member opposite say that the scene which has just taken place in the public gallery was arranged by the Opposition authorities. That is not true.
§ The Prime Minister
I was saying that the Opposition have from the beginning opposed the policy of non-intervention. The right hon. Gentleman says that that 1353 is not so, and that there was a period during which they accepted it. All I can say is that it was very short, and, as time has gone on, they have made it clear that they object to the policy of nonintervention for the simple reason that their policy would be a policy of intervention. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] They cannot help viewing every question and every incident as it arises from this angle: "Does it or does it not help the side in which we are interested?" The right hon. Gentleman professed once again that he did not know what the policy of the Government was. We have made it, I think, sufficiently plain to ordinary people that our governing motive in this matter is not a preconceived feeling in favour of one side or the other. [An HON. MEMBER: "Ask Lennox-Boyd."] Our policy has been to try to preserve the greatest of British interests, namely, peace, and, all through, the object of the non-intervention policy has been to avoid what we conceive to be the inevitable result of intervention, namely, an extension of the conflict beyond the shores of Spain until it became a general European conflagration. That has been our aim all through. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said that it is his aim, too. Then all of us, since we have that aim in common, should take care that we are not diverted from that aim by any provocation, whether it comes from the benches opposite or whether it comes from attacks on British ships.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the facts, and said that I accepted them. But he did not give all the facts; there are other facts besides those which he mentioned, and we must keep them before us. The first fact to which I would draw attention is that long ago we issued a warning to British shipowners and British ships that, while we would undertake to give them the fullest possible protection so long as they were on the high seas, we could not undertake to give them protection if they carried cargoes into territorial waters in the area of hostilities.
The Leader of the Opposition has moved the Adjournment of the House in order to make an attack on the Government, and surely it must be 1354 right to allow the Government to give their answer without interruption, especially from the front Opposition Bench.
§ The Prime Minister
After that warning was given, many shipowners abstained from carrying on trade with Spanish ports, although some of them had been in the habit of carrying it on before. Others disregarded the warning; and there were others, again, who were attracted by the high freights which are always associated with trade of that kind to enter into this trade. I do not know whether hon. Members happened to notice an article in the "Daily Herald" a little while ago, in which a considerable amount of space was devoted to the exploits of a certain Jack Albert Billmeir, who was described as the world's newest king. This is what it said:When the war broke out —that was the war in Spain—Jack Billmeir owned two ships. Now he owns 23. At a time when other shipping companies were fighting shy of trade with Spain, he stepped into the breach with his little Stanhope Steamship Company…Then he started buying ships—little ships, big ships, any old ship, just as hard as he could go…The risks are enormous. Insurance premiums at Lloyd's may be as much as 20 or 25 per cent. The Spanish Government charters all these ships, and pays at a flat rate for every ton carried. Sailors on board usually get £2 bonus for the risk. … When the war first broke out Billmeir—plain Mr. Billmeir in those days —ran his little business from a smallish office in Bury Street, E.C.2. Now, as his work becomes more and more extensive, he has had to take over half a floor in a vast new building off Bishopsgate. In that office sit men guiding the activities of a whole fleet between here and the Mediterranean.
§ The Prime Minister
Wit is so often on the lips of the hon. Member that perhaps I may be forgiven. The article concludes:Refusing to be worried either by the insults of the gossip-mongers or by Mussolini's warplanes, old King Billmeir goes majestically onwards.I am not saying that there is anything wicked in this. It is a case of a man who 1355 sees an opportunity of making profitable voyages, subject to certain risks; he goes on and builds up a considerable fleet from nothing, and apparently is prospering. But I ask whether it is really claimed that this country should go to war—
§ The Prime Minister
—or take action which might conceivably involve us in war in order to give protection to people like this, who have gone, for purposes of making profits, into this risky trade, in spite of the warnings of His Majesty's Government. There have been, since the war began, a number of British subjects who have been themselves engaged in hostilities on one side or the other. Some have not been engaged in hostilities at all, but they have been engaged in medical work or ambulance work, which is very necessary for military operations, if it is not a military operation itself, just as supplies of coal or wheat or oil are necessary to maintain military operations although they are not military operations themselves. In pursuit of this work, these men that I speak of have run risks, not for profit—they went to fight for principles in which they believed so intensely that they actually decided to go and strike a blow for them themselves—a very honourable thing. Many of them have been killed, but I have not heard any protest from the other side, or any of these demands that the British Government should involve the British people in the risk of war on their behalf.
I want to know what is the difference. I see no difference in principle between the case of these men who were engaged in those operations on one side or the other, and those who are running these harbours, except that in the one case it was done out of high principle only and in the other was done for profit. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite protest very loudly when I say that action is demanded which might very easily lead this country into war. [HON. MEMBERS: "With whom?"] I am going to examine that question presently. But I am going to say, first of all, that that is not my view only. I would remind the House that it is not the view of the ship-owning community generally that the Government are not doing their duty by British shipowners. I am not sure that this was not quoted the other day by 1356 my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary from the "Journal of Commerce and Shipping Telegraph," but it is very appropriate for my purpose and I will read this one sentence:There appears to be only one 'simple' solution, and that is, to declare war on General Franco, but one seriously doubts whether the country would rally round any British Government which commenced hostilities purely in answer to an appeal made on behalf of shipowners who send their ships into ports after being warned that the risks they run are their own and not the responsibility of the British nation.Let us consider for a moment what hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite would have us do. I confess I was left in some doubt by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman as to what his policy would be. He always semed to put it in an indefinite form—this might be done, or that might be done. He suggested that there was no reason why we should not blockade Majorca. But a blockade of Majorca, if Majorca be the place from which these planes come, would not stop the planes from coming. There is another plan, the plan of the right hon. Gentleman sitting opposite. He goes straight to the heart of the matter, and makes no bones about it. He says, "I would bomb the aerodromes in Majorca to pieces." That is a policy. It is not a policy that the country would support. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for having said so plainly what it is he would do. There is no question about him. In his 76th year, he is ready to plunge the country into war.
Mr. Lloyd George
On the contrary, in my opinion it would stop war, and it would stop this bombing of ships. I am perfectly certain it would stop it; and especially after what the Prime Minister said to-day, that it was a Franco force. Therefore, you are not attacking any great Power at all. You would be putting an end to the whole of this business, and putting an end to the risk of war.
§ The Prime Minister
If we bombed the aerodromes, which the right hon. Gentleman thinks are Italian aerodromes, in Majorca—
§ The Prime Minister
But you said they were Italian. The right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. I say that that is the way to start a new European war. 1357 That is the view of the country in general. We have the responsibility—it does not now rest on the right hon. Gentleman—and we are not going to take the risk. I want to know whether the right hon. Gentleman is advocating the bombing of aerodromes in Majorca or not?
§ Mr. Attlee
I have to take these things on information given by the Government. The Government have told us that these are entirely Franco planes. When the Prime Minister wants to deal with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) he says that they are Italian planes and that that might involve us in the risk of war. He cannot have it both ways. If he will make a plain statement and put his cards on the table I will tell him what we would do.
§ The Prime Minister
If there is any doubt I will attempt to clarify my statement. It remains to be seen whether the right hon. Gentleman will follow that up by putting his cards on the table. He says that he would not go to war with Italy, but that he would with Franco.
§ Mr. Attlee
I never said anything of the sort. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman. There is a risk of a general war. I pointed out that, if as a matter of fact this was merely General Franco, there could not be a risk of a general war; and I have stated my opinion that the blockading of Majorca—because aeroplanes, after all, have to have oil, and there is no oil in Majorca—would be an effective measure to stop this bombing. I do not believe that General Franco would declare war on Great Britain.
§ The Prime Minister
I am satisfied from that statement that the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to take warlike action against General Franco in the sure belief that it would stop there. Can any responsible Member of this House think that it is safe to rely upon such a hypothesis as that? In the course of the Debate on Tuesday last I listened with great interest to a speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys), in the course of which he examined very carefully a possible course of action. He asked that his proposals should be considered sympathetically, and I must say I thought that that was not an unreasonable request, put forward in the way that they were and in view of the 1358 arguments which my hon. Friend used. What did my hon. Friend wish to do? He said that he did not propose that we should bomb areodromes in Majorca, but he did wish that we should not exclude retaliation.
§ The Prime Minister
Well, reprisals. I do not distinguish between the two. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] If there is a distinction, let us call it reprisals. He agreed that it was not possible to take serious exception to the case of a ship lying alongside a wharf which could not easily be distinguished by an aeroplane flying at a great height from the adjoining town. In the case of ships lying away from the wharves, in the roads or in the harbours, if a deliberate attack was made, and especially where machine gunning was employed, then, he said, action could be taken. What was the action that he proposed? "I will demand compensation not at the end of the war, but now." That could be done, of course. But supposing compensation were refused or not paid, we are back again in the old difficulty, and my hon. Friend quite saw that, because he said emphatically that he would have us resort to reprisals. That is to me the most interesting part of his speech, because I wondered whether there were reprisals which he had in mind which had not occurred to the Government, and he suggested reprisals of one of two kinds—either the seizing of a ship belonging to General Franco, or the impounding of property belonging to General Franco whether in the form of goods, or money, or securities. I am glad that he did not include in his reprisals the suggestion that we should send a warship to bombard a port in the possession of General Franco. That was the form of reprisal which was adopted by the Germans after their battleship was bombed, but the criticism made upon it at the time was that it was punishing the wrong people, and that is the criticism which we should make on similar action being taken to-day by whomsoever it was taken. Therefore, that is ruled out.
To go back to the two suggestions of my hon. Friend. It is no use to threaten a man with a weapon which is going to break in your hand when you try to use it. The difficulty about the situation is that neither of these weapons can be relied upon not to break in our 1359 hands, and for this simple reason. There are far more British ships in the ports of General Franco than there are ships belonging to General Franco on the high seas or in British ports. And when you come to impounding property of General Franco, you have to remember that, in the territories controlled by General Franco, are industries in which British capital is invested to the tune of some £40,000,000, so I am informed.
§ The Prime Minister
It is, therefore, perfectly obvious that it would be very easy for General Franco to retaliate in kind to a greater extent than our original action, and we should be forced back again to the old position. Of course, it is always in our power to take action. We are a strong Power and General Franco is a weak one, and if we were prepared to use our force against Franco, then that would be a different matter altogether. But then we are back again in the same dilemma. If we started warlike action, whether it were against General Franco or against some objective of which the ownership was doubtful, who could tell that we could stop our operations there, and it might be the beginning of another European war. The British Government have always made a distinction between attacks on British ships which might be called accidental inasmuch as the ships were near some military objective and that a hostile aeroplane, aiming at that military objective, might unwittingly involve a British ship in the attack—we make a distinction between that kind of attack and an attack deliberately aimed at a British vessel. There have been a number of cases, as I stated on a previous occasion, when all the evidence seemed to us to make it clear that those attacks were deliberate. In such cases we have made the strongest protests—
§ The Prime Minister
—and we have, of course, reserved our right to compensation. But, on the other hand, General Franco has in the most emphatic terms denied to us that he ever had any intention of deliberately attacking British ships, and that such action—[interruption].Perhaps I may be allowed to 1360 make my statement. Hon. Members opposite really cannot expect to have uninterrupted opportunities of speaking if they are going to continue in this way. The Burgos authorities have stated that any such action would be entirely inconsistent with their desire, which they have often affirmed, to maintain friendly relations with His Majesty's Government. It may be remembered that in my statement on the 13th of this month I said, what was quite obvious, that it was impossible that attacks, frequently involving loss of life and sometimes apparently deliberate, on British ships, could be repeated without serious injury to the friendly relations which the Burgos authorities said they wished to have with us. I should like to repeat that warning.
As the last two attacks, which we are discussing to-day, appear to us, on the evidence we have so far, clearly to come into the category of deliberate attacks, we have, as I announced at Question Time, requested the Burgos authorities to give us an explanation of their action which is, on the face of it, entirely inconsistent with the assurances and the professions that they have made to us. We take a serious view of these attacks, and we have instructed Sir Robert Hodgson, our agent at Burgos, to ask that this explanation should be given to us without delay. We have directed him to return to this country as soon as he receives the reply, in order that His Majesty's Government may consider, in consultation with him, the situation which will result from the terms of that answer.
The right hon. Gentleman has asked that I should state the position of the Government with clarity. He said that I must choose my course. I see no reason whatever to depart from the course which the Government have laid down. We intend to follow the policy of non-intervention which, at the moment, appears to present a brighter chance of achieving success than perhaps at any other previous moment in its history. We do not intend to change the terms of the warning which we have issued to British ships.
§ Mr. Attlee
I should like the right hon. Gentleman to explain in more detail his proposal in regard to anti-aircraft guns for ships.
§ The Prime Minister
I have made no proposal. I did not make any proposal 1361 in regard to anti-aircraft guns, I said that was a matter for the owners and not for the Government. If the right hon. Gentleman is asking whether the British Government are prepared to issue arms to merchant vessels, the answer is, definitely, no.
§ Mr. Attlee
That is not the point. The hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass) asked whether these ships could be provided with them, and the right hon. Gentleman said, no, they must provide them themselves.
§ The Prime Minister
No, I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman did not put his finger on the important point when he asked whether it was possible, in view of the non-intervention arrangement, for these vessels to arm. I am endeavouring to sum up the position of the Government, and I say once again that we are not going to change the policy which we have announced to the House and the country with regard to Spain. We believe that that is the right and proper course in the best interests of the country. We believe that that is the course the country desires us to take. We believe that if British ships still continue to go into territorial waters for the purpose of making these high profits, they must take the risk and they must not seek to throw upon others responsibilities which we are not willing to undertake.
As regards these particular attacks, I deplore them. I hoped that the warning which I uttered a little while ago would have been heeded by General Franco. I trust, at any rate, that it is not too late for him to issue such instructions as will prevent the recurrence of these incidents. As to what may take place in the future, I can only ask the House to wait a little longer until we have received the reply of the Burgos authorities and have had an opportunity of considering it.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Sir Archibald Sinclair
The Prime Minister said that the subject which we are debating to-night brings us to the dangerous borderline between peace and war, 1362 but it is not we who are raising the issue; the issue is being raised by events outside. For my own part it seems to me that the policy which the Government are following is undermining the foundations of peace and bringing us ever nearer to a more dangerous crisis. I agreed with the Prime Minister when he said that it was important that we should be careful what we say, but I think it was particularly unfortunate that in one of the opening passages of his speech he gibed at the Labour party for being hypocritical, as he alleged, in their wish to defend British interests and British property. I should have thought that such a desire in any party was not a subject for gibing but rather a subject for encouragement from a responsible Government. The Prime Minister asked whether there was nothing else behind this agitation. There certainly is. There is grave anxiety respecting the sanctity of treaties and international good faith, which are the foundations of peace.
The Prime Minister went on, in what I thought was one of the most astounding passages of his speech, to ask what was the difference between those who were fighting in the International Brigade for the principles in which they believed, and those who were carrying on peaceful commerce between this country and Spain, I suggest that there is this difference, that those who have gone to Spain from this country to fight for principles in which they believe have gone in defiance of a Statute passed by Parliament. Those who have gone to trade with Spain have gone in accordance with the will of Parliament. There is a difference, too, between men who are fighting according to the rules of war and are killing men on the other side, and must themselves take the risk of being killed, and those who are engaged in peaceful commerce, attacks upon whom are piracy, and nothing less. There is a difference between men who are fighting for a cause in which they believe under a foreign flag, and men who are steaming in ships under the flag of Britain, to which they are entitled to look for protection.
Are His Majesty's Government—and this seems to me to be the first of the big issues raised in this Debate—prepared to acquiesce, apart from verbal or written protests, in the establishment for the first time in history of an air blockade by air terrorism on the coast of 1363 Spain? If they are prepared to acquiesce in that, it may bring terrible consequences for Britain. It seems to me that it is not in the interests of a great maritime Power like Great Britain, depending as we do for our very lives in the event of war on the free passage of merchandise and goods, to acquiesce in such blockade. There is no country in the world which has a greater interest than Great Britain in standing firmly against this new horror and terror of air blockade by air bombardment on peaceful commerce. Can we so well afford to lose these ships? I leave out of the question the lives of the men with which I will deal later, but can we afford to lose these fine ships? One of those sunk yesterday was a vessel of nearly 5,000 tons. It is quite true, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade pointed out the other day, that the fewer ships we have the easier it is for the Navy to defend them, but I am not quite so sure that Parliament wishes the task of the Navy in warfare to be simplified quite so rapidly as has been the case during the past few weeks. The Prime Minister says that he deplores these attacks. He deplores them, but he encourages them by making it clear that they can continue, and that however much they continue, however greatly they are intensified, he is not going to abandon what he calls the policy of non-intervention to which the Government are firmly and irrevocably attached.
I want to make one proposal, at any rate, to the Government which cannot possibly involve this country in war. I want to make two or three proposals, but let me put this one first. It is a proposal which might certainly influence the mind of General Franco and could not possibly involve war. It is this: The status of General Franco at the present time in international law is that of a bandit. We have not accorded him any belligerent rights. I am not arguing whether it is right or wrong to accord him these rights, and if he was not dependent for assistance on foreign arms he would have a strong case for being accorded belligerent rights. But we have not accorded him these rights, and for good reasons. Therefore, his status in international law is that of a bandit but, nevertheless, the Government have agreed, and I agree with the Government, that on certain conditions we might recognise his belligerency against 1364 the Spanish Government. But even if we did so General Franco would have no right to bomb and machine-gun defenceless British sailors engaged in peaceful commerce with Spain. The man who uses machine guns for killing British sailors engaged in peaceful commerce with Spain is just as much a gangster as the American gangster who uses machine guns for his own purposes in America, and General Franco has no more right than the gangster or racketeer to recognition of any belligerent rights.
The Prime Minister said that he had made a strong protest to General Franco, and warned him that these actions if continued would do serious injury to the friendly relations which the Prime Minister believes General Franco wishes to establish with this country. That was said To days or a fortnight ago, and many British ships have been sunk since then. What serious injury has been done—perhaps the Prime Minister will tell us—to the relations between General Franco and this country? What has happened as the result of his disregarding the Prime Minister's warning? Have these events made any difference to the intention of His Majesty's Government in certain circumstances to recognise and accord rights of belligerency to General Franco? I ask this question: Are His Majesty's Government prepared or not to acquiesce in an air blockade of Barcelona, and, if not, surely they are not prepared to accord rights of belligerency to General Franco who is endeavouring to impose this blockade by bombing and machine-gunning British sailors.
What follows from this warning about the serious injury to the relations between General Franco and this country—only a few more notes. What has happened to these notes? Have they gone to the wrong address? Have they perhaps slipped off General Franco's table into the wastepaper basket alongside? I was going to ask whether they had been answered, and, if so, what answer has been received, but that is hardly necessary. We have seen the answer in the newspapers this morning. Why does the Prime Minister stubbornly refuse to uphold the honour of the flag and protect the lives of British sailors? Is it that Signor Mussolini would think him mischievous? The truth is—I said it when the Prime Minister was here last Tuesday, 1365 and the Leader of the Opposition has repeated it in slightly different words this afternoon—that the Government by concluding the Anglo-Italian Treaty have got themselves into a position when they must not only want General Franco to win but want him to win quickly.
I do not want to dwell upon the Prime Minister's extraordinary answer to the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass) about the arming of merchant ships. I think it has been made quite clear that the Prime Minister did not mean anything at all. He said that it was a matter for the owners to consider, and he has now told us that if the owners came to the conclusion that they wanted to arm their ships the Government would have to refuse to supply them with guns and would have to tell them that putting guns on ships would be contrary to the Non-Intervention Agreement. The Prime Minister said that he had not had much time to consider the matter. All these considerations ought to have been threshed out by the Government weeks ago. Every method of defending British shipping attacked by these illegitimate means ought to have been threshed out, and it is treating the matter with levity to come down here and say that it is a matter for the owners to consider. As a matter of fact, I had intended to address to the House a rather more careful argument on this subject than now appears necessary, and I looked up what Oppenheim has to say. He remarks that:The encouragement even of defensive hostilities on the part of private vessels is a retrogressive step.That is even in war time. Surely we are rattling back into barbarism if our sailors cannot rely on Government protection against piracy and have to be told that they must arm their own vessels in peacetime.
British sailors are being killed, and I say that the Government should make up their minds whether this trade is legitimate or not. I do not want to hide my opinion. My own opinion is that it is amply legitimate. The Prime Minister mentioned the case of Mr. Billmeir—I had never heard of him before—and seemed to be shocked about Mr. Billmeir and what he had done. Why, he is like the man in the Bible who had four talents and turned them into eight—he has turned 1366 two ships into 23. I cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman should quarrel with him for his enterprise or suggest that because he has done this, because he has maintained our export trade with Spain, thus rendering a service to this country, and supplied the Spanish people with goods which they badly need, thus rendering a service to the Spanish people, he has forfeited the right to be protected against piratical attacks by General Franco. But let the Government make up their minds: either this trade is legitimate, or it is not. If it is not legitimate and if British sailors are losing their lives merely in order that a few rich men may make speculative profits out of them, I say that the Government ought to stop it; and if it is legitimate, they ought to protect it.
The Prime Minister makes out that nothing can be done. We have been told that for many years past. First, nothing could be done to protect enterprises in which we were engaged because we were disarmed. Now, after spending hundreds of millions of pounds to increase the Army, the Air Force and the Navy, we have not yet got quite strong enough to speak firmly to General Franco. Then we were told that, after all, we could not be the policemen of the world, we could not protect other nations, we could not be expected to enforce the rule of law in every quarter of the globe; but, it was said, let a single armed foreigner touch a hair of an Englishman's head or set his foot on British territory, and then the National Government would show the world what they were made of. I say that a British ship under the British flag ought to be at least as sacred as the soil of Kenya or Tanganyika. Yet British sailors are being killed and ships sunk and the Government are still unable to take action.
I have made one proposal, that General Franco should be warned that if this conduct continues, any question of recognising his belligerency will be put aside indefinitely. My second proposal is one which I made on Tuesday last, but which the Government did not answer—I make it again. Will the Government ask Signor Mussolini to associate himself with their demands to General Franco that this bombing should stop? Will they address that demand to Signor Mussolini? Surely, to do that could not provoke a war? I heard the Prime 1367 Minister say that Sir Robert Hodgson was to be brought home for consultation. I hope the Prime Minister or the Under-Secretary will make it quite clear to us to-night and to General Franco in due course that Sir Robert Hodgson will not return to Spain if British ships are still being bombed.
Then, I put this question frankly. If all these courses do not avail, what next? I noticed that in one passage of his speech, the Prime Minister traversed the proposals that had been made by the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys). The Prime Minister thought they were very mild proposals and very interesting ones, because they would not provoke a war. The right hon. Gentleman asked, "If they did not avail what would happen then?" He said that we should be back where we are now. But let me ask the Government—and this is the opportunity to ask it, because in five weeks the Recess will begin—what will happen if, when Sir Robert Hodgson has come back and these protests have been made, General Franco refuses to give satisfaction? Then, certainly, in reprisal we should sink one warship for every attack which General Franco makes. [Interruption.] I deny that that would mean war. [Interruption.] The Prime Minister seems to be allocating to himself a new function in our Parliamentary proceedings. I have heard of cheer leaders in American universities, and I notice that the Prime Minister is now allocating to himself the function of laughter leader. Certainly, there is in my proposal this safeguard against its provoking war. If we were to say to General Franco that next time he sinks a ship, we shall send our Navy out to sink as many of his ships as it can find, that might conceivably—I do not say it would —provoke war; but if we were to say that next time he sinks one of our ships or bombs or machine-guns one, we will sink one of his, then that would not necessarily mean war; it would mean a definite, limited reprisal.
If that were not successful, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) that we should go to the place from which these aeroplanes come. If it is fair for them to drop bombs on, and to torpedo and machine-gun our peaceful 1368 seamen, why is it not fair for us to pay them a visit and drop bombs on their military aerodromes? There, again, I do not say that we should go constantly until the aerodromes had been reduced to ruins —I am not speaking for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, but for myself—but that we should make one visit for every visit which Franco's airmen make to our ships. The Government are so frightened that we might find ourselves at war with Franco. Is it not possible that General Franco might feel just a little trepidation about being involved in a war with the British Empire?
§ Sir A. Sinclair
I will make one more comment on the proposals I have made. For my own part, I must confess that I think non-intervention has broken down, but I put it to the House that the proposals which I have made are proposals that could be adopted within the framework of the non-intervention policy. There would be nothing in a reprisal such as I have suggested that would prevent the Government from continuing the nonintervention policy if they so desired. It would be a reprisal limited entirely to dealing with this urgent problem of attacks upon peaceful British shipping. It would not touch the non-intervention policy.
In conclusion, I say that firmness would pay us. It paid us at Nyon; we cleared the high seas by our firmness at Nyon. It paid us the other week in connection with Czechoslovakia; the firmness of the Czechoslvak Government, of France, Britain and Russia saved peace. I believe that we shall have to pay a terrible price for the Government's weakness which will everywhere, in Spain, Italy and Germany, lower British prestige, imperil British lives, weaken respect for international law, and by doing all these things, it will still further undermine peace.
§ 9.5 P.m.
§ Captain McEwen
I was very glad to hear the right hon. Baronet the Leader of the Liberal Bench, in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) on at least one point. The right hon. Baronet agreed with his right hon. Friend 1369 that it would be a good thing to bomb the aerodromes in Majorca, in reprisal for attacks on British ships. I could not help reminding myself when I heard those right hon. Gentlemen agreeing with each other on that point, of a remark made by a former Liberal leader in a public speech not long before his death. The late Lord Grey of Falloden, speaking of preventive war, said very emphatically that he was never in favour of lighting a small fire in order to put out a large one.
I regret that at an earlier stage this afternoon, when the question which we are now debating first arose, I was not privileged to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, because I was anxious at that time to voice an opinion which I am sure is shared by nearly all of us on this side of the House and by the vast majority of those outside the House, and that opinion is one of entire agreement with the policy of the Government which has once more been laid down this afternoon. I must admit that within my limited powers I am tempted to reply in kind to some of the attacks which have been made from the other side, not only this afternoon but on previous occasions. This is a case, the very nature of which, unfortunately, is to generate heat. No one, I presume, supposes that indignation against these attacks on vessels flying our flag is confined to any one party or any one section of British opinion. The matter is, in fact, even more galling to those of us who sit on this side of the House, than to anybody else. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because we are on the Government side, and we have responsibility for dealing with it. But to suggest that the Prime Minister is lacking in patriotic feeling is not merely unjustified but ridiculous.
What are the facts? Our ships entering the war zone in Spain are being attacked. Hon. Gentlemen opposite want us to take drastic steps to prevent a continuance of those attacks. Why, then, have His Majesty's Government not done so and why are they not doing so now? Not surely from fear, as has been suggested in some quarters. That is an unworthy suggestion to make in connection with one's own countrymen. Nor is it from a desire to favour one side more than the other. Nor is it from any callousness in face of the deaths of British seamen. It is not from any such motives at all but from common-or-garden sense.
1370 There are, unfortunately, those in the world to-day whose dearest wish it is to see us all involved in war—and that for tortuous reasons best known to themselves. It is the plain business of any statesman worthy of the name, to see that such wishes are frustrated. Let it be granted that many, even a majority of these ships are going about their legal and lawful affairs. Whatever the ships may be, if they fly our flag and are attacked on the high seas we are all agreed that they are entitled to all the protection which they can possibly want or which we can give them. The question then narrows itself down to what happens in territorial waters. Let us see what steps can be taken.
In the first place, it may well be that the time will come when we shall have to defend them wherever they are. There are, after all, limits to the long-suffering of a great nation under provocation. [HON. MEMBERS: "What limits?"] Before then they might be allowed, as has been suggested, to carry anti-aircraft guns. But it is doubtful whether, in many cases, the structure of their decks is such as would allow such guns to be carried, and it is equally doubtful whether the skill of those who would be in charge of the guns would be sufficient to prevent raids being carried out upon the ships. They might be escorted into territorial waters by His Majesty's ships of war, but I ask hon. Members opposite, what view would General Franco's supporters take of that action. They would say, and not without reason, "Here are the British, the protagonists of nonintervention and the only people moreover, who have faithfully observed it, aiding and abetting certain ships in running supplies to the beleaguered garrison which is now Government Spain." We would in fact, from that moment, be involved ourselves in the war, and I do not believe that this country intends or desires to be so involved. Moreover, we do not know all the facts. It is a question which has yet to be made clear whether these aeroplanes may not be Government aeroplanes with disguised signs. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We are dealing with a war and with a new arm and that is a possibility which we have to take into account.
Lastly, precipitate action in international affairs is nearly always regretted later. Most of us possibly have seen 1371 recently in the cinema, a version of what happened with reference to a former and not wholly dissimilar case when two gentlemen, Messrs. Mason and Slidell were seized by one side in the American Civil War and all England was shouting, just as hon. Gentlemen opposite are shouting to-day, for immediate and strong action. It will be remembered that only the act of the Prince Consort in toning down the diplomatic note which was sent on that occasion saved us from war. That was not done from fear, because the result of a war of that kind, had it been undertaken, could not have been in doubt. Nor was it done from partisanship. It was done from prudence, and no one to-day has anything but praise for the Prince Consort's action on that occasion.
So, I say, let us go warily lest we jeopardise the future not merely of this country but of the world. Let us give the man at the helm the chance to weather this hurricane in his own way. There never was a time when patience and reasoned judgment were more needed than at present. The aeroplane is a new weapon. The rules governing its use are only in process of being formed, and in any case our manoeuvring ground is nothing more than a narrow plank suspended above an abyss. If I may be allowed, in parenthesis, a personal reminiscence, some years ago when I was in His Majesty's service abroad—it was in Rome—I fell ill of influenza, a rather serious attack. The Italian doctor who attended me, apart from very ordinary remedies which he suggested, used at every visit to repeat two words"Pazienza; coraggio;" — "Patience; courage." And it is advice which I think we would do well to take to heart now.
§ 9.16 p.m.
I think no one would claim that the Prime Minister, either the day before yesterday or to-day, has done anything but skilfully evade dealing with the specific suggestions which have been made. I have taken the trouble to analyse the extremely interesting speech made by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) at the commencement of the Debate on Tuesday, and I find that he made no fewer than eight definite suggestions. To most of those the Prime Minister made no reference at all, but 1372 completely ignored them. The hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) made a suggestion, to which I think the right hon. Gentleman did make some reference, and other suggestions were made by other hon. Members. Let me first take the minor suggestions. The Prime Minister brushed aside the suggestion of the hon. Member for Derby that Sir Ralph Hodgson should be withdrawn and that the Duke of Alba should be given his conge. Now he has gone one step in advance of that minor suggestion and told us, if deliberate attacks continue, not that Sir Ralph Hodgson will be withdrawn permanently, but that he will be asked to come back here to discuss what sort of reply should be made to General Franco.
I understand that a fortnight and a day since the Prime Minister used the phrase that these attacks cannot be repeated without serious injury to our friendly relations with the Burgos authorities no British ships have been attacked, and most of them sunk, and in the case of three of them, by the Government's own admission, it has been done deliberately. Therefore, since this incredibly mild warning, that if these deliberate attacks on British ships, which have resulted in the killing of some 50 British seamen, were continued, there would be serious injury to our relations with the Burgos authorities, we are told, not that those friendly relations will be severed, but that if it goes on, well, we shall have to do something about it, and we will at any rate discuss the matter with Sir Ralph Hodgson. That is the way that the Prime Minister treats these mild suggestions.
Several other suggestions of a more drastic character have been made, and the Prime Minister concentrated upon the most drastic of them, and that was that of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), that the aerodrome at Majorca should be bombed. I noticed that the Prime Minister avoided making any reference to the suggestions which were made that we should engage in some sort of reprisals, and that is surprising, because most of the experts, either from the naval point of view or from the point of view of international law, have definitely given their preference to method of reprisals. I would like to challenge the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, if he is going to reply, 1373 to state what is the objection of the Government to the method of reprisal suggested by Admiral Usborne, who is by no means a friend of Republican Spain, in his letter last week to the "Sunday Times," in which he said that, although he did not want it done, it would be both easy and effective to seize or sink one of General Franco's ships for every British ship that was deliberately attacked. I must say that that seems to me to be the most practical suggestion that has yet been made.
I understand that General Franco has a very small fleet of warships and a rather larger fleet of vessels in his mercantile marine. He cannot afford to lose them, because many of them have to pass backwards and forwards through the Straits of Gibraltar. Is it impossible to seize them and, even without seizing them, to impound them and to hold them so long as this bombing continues? Again, General Franco has funds in this country. I do not know how much, but what is the difficulty in the way of impounding them? There are other methods of reprisal, one of the most practical of which is that referred to by the right hon. Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) to-day. Why cannot the Government intimate to General Franco that there would be nothing doing in the way of granting belligerent rights if a single further British ship was bombed?
Then there is another threat that could be made, that there would be nothing doing about keeping the French frontier closed unless the bombing stopped. We all know that it is only due to strong pressure from the British Government that the French frontier control has been tightened up, before there was any need for it under the Non-Intervention Agreement. The suggestion was that the French frontier should be closed as part of the general system of control, of closing the Portuguese frontier, and of the resumption of sea control, but the French Government have closed their frontier now because strong pressure has been brought to bear upon them from London.
I think we all know it. Is it not perfectly incredible that if the British Government had wished to 1374 stop this bombing, they would have refused to take any positive step, either for a direct or a more indirect and, I think, more practical method of reprisal, which is perfectly justifiable in international law, as the professor of international law at Oxford said in an article only to-day in the "Listener"? Is it credible that if the Government had been in earnest, they would not only have taken no positive steps, but that while these outrages were going on, and getting worse day after day, they would have gone out of their way to make several fresh concessions to General Franco and brought pressure to bear upon Paris to close the French frontier, as well as another form of pressure which has excited very little attention but which seems to me to be peculiarly reprehensible?
The other day at the Non-Intervention Committee the representatives of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics most reluctantly gave way to the pressure which was put upon them by Paris—we all believe because of pressure again from London—to withdraw their very reasonable proposal that, as part of the resumption of the system of sea control, there should be an observer in every port in Spain. I thought there was something very significant in the way that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics were bullied into withdrawing that proposal. Why? Is there a single precaution, if the Government are in earnest about the new form of sea control, that is more obvious and more easily carried out than—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Captain Bourne)
I must draw the hon. Lady's attention to the fact that the Adjournment has been moved in order to call attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely,the attacks made yesterday upon British ships and their crews, and the refusal of His Majesty's Government either to afford adequate protection or to take measures to prevent their recurrence.The hon. Lady cannot claim to be dealing with the Non-Intervention Committee in this Debate.
May I point out, Captain Bourne, that it is relevant, because I was discussing methods of preventing their recurrence, and one of those methods which I have suggested is that the British Government should, on the 1375 Non-Intervention Committee, refuse to put forward or to advocate any proposals that were advantageous to General Franco? They have not only not used their position in the Non-Intervention Committee to put pressure on General Franco, but they have used it to secure a great advantage for him.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That is exactly the point that I have said the hon. Lady cannot raise upon this question.
I must obey you, Sir, but I thought we were ranging rather at large—everyone else has done it—over the whole question of how to stop the bombing. You must either stop it directly or by some form of reprisal, and I was trying to survey the various forms of reprisal and pointing out that not only have they all been neglected, but that during the period when the bombing was going on the Government had gone out of its way to heap favours on the undeserving head of General Franco. What conclusion can the House, the British public and the public of every country that is watching this observantly, draw? The Government is not taking any steps to stop the bombing because it does not want to stop the bombing, and we all know why. The Prime Minister is not seriously concerned to stop it because he has given himself a vested interest in an early Franco win. Did we not all have a feeling almost of horror when some weeks ago he used the term "pull off the Anglo-Italian Agreement"?
When the Prime Minister got rid of the late Foreign Secretary because he wanted to take Italian negotiations into his own hands, he made it as clear in Rome as it is clear to everyone of us that he was staking his political reputation and his future on carrying out that agreement. In order to do that he has to bring about a settlement in Spain. He knows that no settlement will be accepted which does not involve a Franco win, and therefore he wants a Franco win. I hope the widows and orphans of everyone of the 60 men killed will realise that they were sacrified on the altar—[Hon. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] I could not tell in public of all the Members who have said in private conversation, "Of course, the whole thing is plain. The Prime Minister has to give way to Mussolini in 1376 every conceivable way because he has got to pull off the Anglo-Italian deal, and this is part of the way he is doing it." It is terribly plain. The thing that continues to puzzle me is why in the world the French Government go on playing—
I must be obedient to your Ruling, Sir, but we are discussing the whole question of how this can be stopped. I am wondering why it is that the French Government is playing the Prime Minister's cards for him. I wish they would give up behaving like a wife who will not buy a new dress till she has her husband's leave. France is as important to our security as we are to hers, and if only France would do the right thing, we should have to follow. Instead of that, they are behaving as though they have to do everything that Whitehall tells them to do. We ought to show more courage in the matter. The Government are playing a terribly dangerous game. They play on the fears of the people whenever any of us suggest not only showing firmness before the dictators, but even speaking openly to the tin-pot, third-rate dictator, Franco. The Government are doing their best to bring up the British people into the habit of sheer cowardice, and sooner or later they will pay for it, because when the time comes when they want the British people to follow them and stand up for what they think vital interests, they will find that the people have learned their lesson only too well.
My constituency stretches from Durham to Bristol and has a pretty large proportion of the younger intelligentsia in it. There is no question that has ever taken such a hold on the heart and imagination of the young intelligentsia as this cause of Republican Spain. The Government owe a great debt of gratitude to Republican Spain. It is the one thing that has awakened people from the dangerous pacifism that they were in three years ago. Enthusiasm for the Spanish people's gallantry has done that. Now they are beginning to see that the Government are behaving with cruel treachery to Republican Spain, and, when they ask us to fight for what they think is some British interest, they will find it very difficult to get the British public to follow.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Raikes
Unlike the hon. Member, I represent a constituency which contains very few of the younger intelligentsia, but it contains as large a number of working men and women as almost any other in the South of England, and they are the people who, in the event of war breaking out, would suffer a great deal more than the younger intelligentsia. It is very easy to criticise the policy of the Government. I have listened with hope to some of the suggestions that have been made to remedy the bombing of British ships, and the more I have listened the more convinced I have been that there are many occasions when the remedy can he worse than the disease itself. I should like to consider certain of the suggestions that have been put from the other side of the House. The Leader of the Opposition made only one suggestion. He waved away the idea that he might make any at all. He said it was, of course, a matter where the responsibility rested upon the Government itself. But if you have not a better alternative than the Government's policy, you are, by attacking that policy, risking the welfare of the country as a whole. His one idea was a blockade, the same form of policy that was advocated on these benches only about two years ago, but instead of cutting off oil for aeroplanes, they wanted to cut the Suez Canal and make sure of war at a time when we were even less prepared than we are at present. [An HON. MEMBER: "They did not do it!"] No, because fortunately hon. Members opposite did not have the chance.
Then we come to the right hon. Gentle man the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair). He, of course, was full of suggestions in the old Liberal style. First and foremost, he apparently failed to realise what is one of the cardinal points of our policy. We are not, as he suggested, picking a quarrel with any shipowner who wants to send out his ships to Spain, but we on this side of the House, at any rate, are not prepared for the sake of the profits of these gentlemen to cast not only the younger intelligentsia, of whom the hon. Lady is so fond, but the working class into a war of which no man or woman could tell the end. It is suggested by the right hon. Gentleman that it is rather disgraceful on the part of the Govern- 1378 ment that they are not prepared to provide armaments in order to put anti-aircraft guns on the ships that are sent to Spain. Surely if we are pursuing the policy, which we have pursued all through the last two years, of advising merchantmen not to poke their noses into Spanish ports, it would he a contradiction in terms to advise them not to go and at the same time to provide them with guns.
§ Mr. Raikes
The answer is simple. We may think it is inadvisable for these ships to go into troubled waters, but that does not mean that we like to see them bombed. In the last resort, if a question of real vital interest to Britain were to arise, we should be bound to go to war. It is obvious that we do not regard trade with Spain as a vital interest.
§ Mr. James Griffiths
Will the hon. Member be kind enough to tell us what he and his party regard as a vital interest for which we would go to war?
§ Mr. Raikes
Of course, I bow to your Ruling, but I think the Opposition will bear me out in saying that I do not think I have ever refused to give a fair answer to a fair question. In the circumstances, I will pass from that with the remark that whatever may or may not be a vital interest obviously trade in Spanish waters, in which we have advised our ships not to engage for the last two years, cannot be of vital interest. We should not otherwise have given that warning a considerable time before ever the bombing started. Then there was the suggestion, which the hon. Lady made, in regard to taking ship for ship. Apparently either she was not present when the Prime Minister spoke, or, if she was, she failed to hear his answer to that suggestion. He said that that form of reprisal had been considered and rejected. If you were going to impound capital there was more British capital in Nationalist Spain than Franco capital in Britain. The same thing applies to the question of merchant ships.
Is the Prime Minister or the hon. Member suggesting that Franco could take a merchant ship of ours as easily as we could take a merchant ship of his?
§ Mr. Raikes
What the Prime Minister suggested was that a good many more ships of ours were in Spanish waters than ships of Franco in ours.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
Our ships would not go to Franco's ports if there was a risk of their being seized by Franco in retaliation for our sinking his ships.
§ Mr. Raikes
The seizing of ships would give rise once again to that high tension in Europe which has pretty nearly calmed down. We know, of course, there are powers behind both parties in Spain, but what we realise even more is that the temperature of Europe has gone down slightly from what it was three months ago. This is not a time when we want to run any risk except for vital interests. There is a further suggestion of which I should like to get the real implications. It was suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland, and also by the hon. Lady, that we should say to General Franco, "You will never in any circumstances be granted belligerent rights unless you stop bombing British ships. "Hon. Members opposite have said time after time that they found it difficult to imagine any reason why a bandit like Franco, as they have described him, should be granted belligerent rights, and to that suggestion coming from them Franco might very well say, "Thank you for nothing. "If, on the other hand, the implications behind that suggestion are that you will grant Franco belligerent rights if he does not bomb British ships, it may be a good or a bad idea, but it would be a proposition. The other is not a proposition at all. It is merely saying that we will not do what we do not want to do anyway. What effect that would be likely to have I do not know.
There is a further point with regard to the question of belligerency. We have been told time after time that the Prime Minister and the leaders of the Government and, therefore, this country have been deliberately pulling down the scales on the side of Franco and that we have gambled on Franco winning the war. If we had done that and if that were the object of the Government, why did they not a year ago grant Franco belligerent rights, which, with his command of the sea, would undoubtedly have weighed the scales very much down on his side? An hon. Member opposite said that the 1380 French Government objected to it, but, as the hon. Lady said, the French Government follows on the tail of this wicked Government and in her peroration said how miserable it was that France was tied to the tail of England. She cannot have it both ways. Having granted belligerent rights—
§ Mr. Raikes
Of course, I bow to your Ruling. I admit I was getting a little outside the narrow limits. One of the difficulties with regard to the question of bombing and of territorial waters is that not unnaturally a Government which covers about two-thirds of Spain and is a belligerent in law even if not actually feels the desire to prevent the export of various forms of food, of coal, and of other things which are going to its enemies, and which, if there were actual belligerent rights it would be able to deal with in the ordinary way except in so far as the question of air bombing is concerned.
In that respect we come up against another difficult problem. It will probably be admitted by most hon. Members that if you allow air bombing on a military target, that is to say, if you permitted the bombing of military objectives, you have the right to bomb harbours which are naval objectives. If you are to have the right under air bombing—and the international code has not been revised very much since the advent of this new weapon —to bomb harbours, it is quite impossible for ships which go into those harbours to avoid the likelihood of being bombed, and to suggest that if at any time Barcelona or Valencia or any other harbour were being bombed and British ships which were moored up to the quay were hit it ought to be a reason for taking steps which might lead to war, it is going a great deal further than the people of this country would be prepared to accept.
One thing which has shown that more clearly than anything else has been the reaction of the population in at any rate two out of the last three by-elections which have been fought, particularly the one in which that great expert in dealing with General Franco, the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) spoke. To put it in a nutshell, we hate the fact that there has been the bombing of British ships, but we on this 1381 side are not prepared, and the country is not prepared, beyond that to risk the possibilities of a European conflagration for the non-vital interest of protecting a set of shipowners who know the danger they are incurring, who are earning very considerable profits, and a number of whose vessels are British only in name.
§ 9.47 P.m.
§ Mr. Churchill
I should always differ from my hon. Friend the Member for the neighbouring division of South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes) with much reluctance, because my hon. Friend and I have cooperated and collaborated in other Parliaments and on other topics, and it certainly could not be suggested of him that he does not form his own opinions irrespective of party pressure, or even of constituency pressure. He forms his own opinions, and he gives his counsel truly as he conceives it to be his duty to do. Therefore, I differ from him not only with personal reluctance but, on general grounds, with some anxiety. Nevertheless I do not think that my hon. Friend was well advised to point to the recent by-election as a sign that the people of this country were entirely upon the side of the foreign policy of which we are having another example to-day. If he would examine those by-elections carefully he would, I think, see that it would be better not to cite them as evidence of popular opinion, but in any case I do not think this matter, which is so very grave, should be settled by reference to the fortuitous incidents and accidents of by-election contests.
I listened with great attention to the very powerful speech which the Prime Minister delivered. Certainly no one could mistake the general basis from which his argument arises. I should be altogether unfair to the right hon. Gentleman if I did not fully admit that many of the considerations which he has advanced must appeal to all of us. It is not so much a question of the facts that causes the difference as the question of the emphasis which should be put upon particular facts, and I must say that I thought the Prime Minister did not sufficiently present to the House and to the country the gravity of the offence of which we are the victims. Sir, it is a very painful injury and assault to which we are being subjected. Over 50 British ships, I gather, have been molested, eight or nine have been actually sunk—12 have 1382 been actually sunk—many of them inside the three-miles limit but others outside. They have been sunk by a method of warfare which we have always regarded with great abhorrence. According to all the laws and customs of the sea the sinking of vessels by an agency which has not the means of taking on board the crews has always been regarded as an outrage upon the long traditions of the sea, and all our views in the past have been expressed in that sense.
These vessels were not carrying, in most cases, munitions of war—cannon or explosives; very frequently they were carrying food supplies. Of course, food supplies may be made contraband of war, but we have not recognised any process by which the supplies which these ships were carrying could be impugned in any way. Moreover, most of these ships were sailing under the seal and charter of the Non-Intervention Committee, and they had non-intervention officers on board, officers collected from all countries to see that the rules which the Non-Intervention Committee have laid down should not be broken. These agents and observers were on those ships, vouching for the innocence of those ships from any breach of the processes to be adopted—not upon the authority of His Majesty's Government only, but upon the authority of all the great nations which have been gathered together around the table of the Non-Intervention Committee.
If in these circumstances 50 or even more ships flying the British flag, engaged in a traffic not only lawful in the name of this country but lawful in the name of many countries, are to be assailed by a brutal, inhuman form of attack which leaves their crews, if the vessels founder, at the mercy of the elements, it constitutes a very grave offence, and I feel that there ought to be some spirit in His Majesty's Government and in this House to commend to the nation the wrong that is being done. The Prime Minister, in his speech two days ago, said that to have our ships sunk like this was not a very nice thing. There is always a certain latent power in understatement, and I think I can leave the remark at that. No, Sir, it is not a very nice thing, and it is not only a question of the incidents, of the examples, which confront us, but it is the general basis upon which these incidents proceed, and the consequences of our accepting them 1383 in general tolerance, as we are doing. Why, Sir, we are debasing, or we are acquiescing in the debasement of, a currency which we have defended for generations, and when we affect to ignore the fact that the British flag is not giving protection to persons proceeding about their lawful vocations under the authority of Parliament, we are debasing a symbol which has hitherto been regarded as of great practical consequence to the British realm and the British Empire, and one well worth making sacrifices and running risks to defend.
I say it with pain, but I believe it to be true—and I will await contradiction from any part of the House—that no other great naval Power would tolerate such treatment; Japan, Italy, Germany, the United States, no other great naval Power, would submit to this kind of treatment for long, month after month. More than that, I say that no agency or force in the world would dare to offer them such treatment. I feel that that is a most grave fact. I speak, I believe, without incurring any great difference of opinion when I say that no other Government that I have ever seen, and no other Parliament in which I have sat in nearly 40 years would, I am sure, have felt itself forced, or been willing, to cast these outrages all off as if it were a mere question of some profiteering Billmeir.
I have endeavoured to consider the various arguments which have been advanced by His Majesty's Government or advanced on their behalf from whatever quarter. Of course, Ministers might come to the House and say: "We have allowed our defences to fall so low that we are not able to give His Majesty's lieges protection, "but they have not said that yet. Perhaps that argument is to come. Then there is the argument, the one which figures most, of bogus ships, the Billmeir argument. That, of course, introduces a new element into the discussion. One thinks of the Union Jack and one is confronted and affronted when Mr. Billmeir is brought into it. I think that this special case might easily tend to divert the judgment of the House from the true course on which it should go. I have felt uncomfortable for some time about ships being transferred rapidly to the British flag, and have felt that it 1384 might conceivably involve us in very serious responsibilities on account of their action. In fact, I wrote privately to the late Foreign Secretary about it before the Nyon business occurred.
The remedy for ships being transferred to the British flag, all of a sudden and in a hurry, with just the limited number of persons necessary to qualify under the Board of Trade regulations, is to amend your Merchant Shipping Act and not to allow your flag to be insulted. The Government could amend the Merchant Shipping Act at any time, and in my opinion they should have done so, when they saw that difficulties were arising in this respect. They should have specified certain dates and conditions which had to be fulfilled. If they had done it, their position would be all the stronger because they would be able to insist upon effective protection to their traders who went forward under perfectly normal conditions. I could not follow the argument of the Prime Minister when he tried to suggest that there was no difference between volunteer combatants on either side, who go, as was pointed out by the Leader of the Liberal party, contrary to the express law of this country, and fight and try to slay an opponent in the field of war, and a ship, a peaceful ship, that goes on trade under the authority of the Non-Intervention Committee and the law of the land, to carry food to a Spanish harbour.
There could be no two cases, as a matter of fact, that you could bring forward for the purposes of more effective contrast. The right hon. Gentleman is so very keen a reasoner and is so very patient always, I must say, in dealing with the House, not only in Debate but at Question Time, always endeavouring to argue a matter out, that I must suggest to him that after the excitement of this Debate is over, if he will examine this particular argument in cold blood, he may find that it is one which his armoury should not have included.
There is another argument, which I will call the long-range gun argument, although it is not one that has been used to-night. It says that if a seaport town is under the bombardment of an enemy, and a gun is fired 10 or 15 miles away, or even more, it may hit ships in the harbour; and that an aeroplane is only another method of carrying the projectile that is fired from the gun. I hope that 1385 the House will not entertain such an argument. Nothing could be more detrimental to us than that we should seek to legitimise and confirm and, as it were approve —I agree not in words, but by our actions —this process of unregulated bombing from the air. Merchant ships of all kinds are involved. No country in the world has a greater interest in preventing the air blockade or the air bombing of neutral ships.
The Prime Minister said, quite truly, that the air raises many novel problems. Of course it does, but what solutions are we proposing publicly for those problems? What principles are we affirming and what precedents are we creating? Are we really creating and affirming the principle that if neutral ships go with food to a harbour of a country at war it is a legitimate act, or an act that we cannot resist, and has to be accepted, if those ships should be bombed from the air? What consequences might this principle not have to ourselves, when our small food supplies are absolutely dependent in a very large proportion, upon neutral ships as well as upon British ships seeking our food ports in time of war? As far as I can make out, on the reasoning which is now put before us, if we were at war with a European State and we had the command of the sea, and therefore the enemy could establish no blockade in any legal sense, and if the United States sent foodships to our country and those ships were bombed by long-range aircraft from the European State, our view, on this Debate and on the position which the Government have taken up at the present time, would be that those ships had got no more than they deserved for shoving their noses in. It is of the most extreme importance that the orientation of British policy in these matters should be carefully considered. We are legitimising, or at any rate acquiescing in, methods which not merely insult our flag—I suppose we must let that go in these days—but strike at the very life of our community.
One must refer to the suggestion which is made that the Opposition take a special interest in this matter because they wish to see the Spanish Government win. It is difficult for human beings to disentangle all the motives which lie in their minds, but I am bound to say I have found a counter-opinion among some of my own 1386 friends that we should go easy in this matter because it is thought that British interests will be served by General Franco winning. I think we might leave those arguments to cancel out on both sides. For my part, I have tried studiously throughout this Spanish business to be neutral as between the two parties. It seems to me that it would be a very great misfortune if the British Government were to adopt a policy which could be recognised by all the democracies of the world as having perhaps struck a finishing blow at the resistance of the Spanish Republic, which resistance is inspired, not only by their zeal for their cause, but by the probability of very cruel punishment if they are defeated.
I must address myself to the question which is asked, "What would you do?" [An HON. MEMBER "Hear, hear!"] I am sure my hon. Friend does not suppose that I should shirk that question, but that is just what His Majesty's Government are doing. They are asked what is to be done, and they say "Nothing." They say that there is no remedy, and there is no limit to the number of ships that will be sunk, as far as I can gather from anything that my right hon. Friend said to-night. There is no remedy; we have to lump it; we have to put up with it; we have to go off and believe it never happened; we have to shut our eyes and hope that something will turn up to divert our minds from this most painful topic. It is not for the Government to ask what should be done, they should come forward with a clear policy. But it certainly is not a possible conclusion that nothing should be done, no matter how far or how long the provocation may go on. Here it is only 50 ships—only 50; but at any moment a vessel may be sunk with really heavy loss of life, and all the arguments which have been used to-night could presumably be deployed in that case.
The Government ought not to ask what should be done: they ought to provide a solution which would enable them to carry out their duty, namely, to give reasonable protection to His Majesty's ships and lieges and to the British flag when these are acting under the full sanction and protection of the law. But if we are asked to assist the Government by offering suggestions, I would hazard a very simple suggestion. I suggest that my right hon. Friend the 1387 Prime Minister should use his personal influence with Signor Mussolini. I have never under-rated the force and importance of the policy for which my right hon. Friend has worked so long and has undertaken so much exertion, but he largely based his commendation of it to the House upon the faith he had in Signor Mussolini's sincere desire for the friendship of the British people. I suggest that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister should, through whatever channels are available—and we know, that when there is need for them, all sorts of channels are available—ask Signor Mussolini to leave no stone unturned to prevent a recurrence of this air bombing outrage, and to make it quite clear that he has done his utmost to stop it. I am sure that, if he does that, a very great obstacle will be removed to friendly relations between Great Britain and Italy.
One has to apprehend, however, that, after my right hon. Friend and his gallant confrere have done their best, General Franco may still remain obdurate, that he may refuse to mitigate his wrath in any way, and that, consequently, we may be. thrown back upon the final resource. I see no difficulty in that at all. If everything else has been tried, I think it could be perfectly safely said to General Franco "If there is any more of this, we shall arrest one of your warships on the open sea." If they like to resist, that is a question for them, but that, I believe, could be done with perfect safety if everything else had been tried, and I cannot believe it would bring Europe into a general war at the present time. I can quite understand undergoing humiliation for the sake of peace. A great country like ours, with its long history, so very splendid in past periods, could submit to a succession of humiliations, perhaps rightly, in order to create an atmosphere favourable for peace, and I do not agree with those who say that a spark should be allowed to set alight the passions of great nations. Therefore, I would have supported the Government in bearing some humiliation, and asking us to undergo it, if I felt that we were making towards greater security for peace. But I fear that this abjection is woefully misunderstood abroad. I fear it will weaken our influence and power to avert war, and that, so far from making for greater security for peace, it will actually bring 1388 nearer to us all those dangers which in all parts of the House we desire above all things to withhold from our people.
§ 10.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I desire to intervene in this Debate at the representative of the seaport of this country which contains the second largest number of registered seamen. Quite frankly, I am not interested in the fate of Mr. Billmeir, but I am immensely concerned for the seamen of all grades whose lives have been lost and are being daily risked as a result of the policy of His Majesty's Government. On 3rd June I went to my constituency at the request of a large number of my constituents who are not normally my supporters, because they desired to hear my views on this subject, and I can assure the Prime Minister that the wives and relatives of the men who hourly risk their lives in the ships that are now trading with Spanish ports are by no means convinced by any of the reasons that he has adduced for the British Navy and British statesmanship being unable to fulfil their historic task of saving British lives endangered in such circumstances as now exist. It is a matter of daily terror and anxiety for these people, and, no matter what profits may be made by other people, these lives deserve the attention and the respect of the Government.
We never have a Bill dealing with the Marcantile Marine before this House but Members on the other side pay tribute to the services rendered, in war and in peace, by the Mercantile Marine in building up the security and prosperity of this country; and the circumstances which now surround this particular trade call for those eulogies being given some practical effect in the policy of the country. It does not matter when you are pleading for British seamen—the only matter with which they are concerned—[HON. MEMBERS: "Call your own side to order."] I was not calling anybody to order; that is a matter for the Chair. I was only drawing attention to the fact that the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Under-Secretary, who may reply to the Debate, were engaged in a conversation while I was pleading for my constituents. Attention has been called more than once in recent weeks to the fact that when back-benchers are speaking the Government seem to consider that they do not count, and apparently that is agreed on the other side. 1389 Anyhow, the loudest cheer I have heard in this Parliament was when the First Lord of the Admiralty announced some months ago that the first of these ships had been sunk. The attitude of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and of the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Wise), whose constituency may have a few barges on the canal but has no seamen going to Spain, is quite consistent with that policy.
I speak with heat on this matter because men from my constituency have been killed, sailing under the British Flag. A captain sailing from my constituency was ordered by a Franco ship, when he was an hour's sail out of Gibraltar, to put back into Gibraltar. He wirelessed for help, and there was none forthcoming. Has this House, which in former days included men of the names of Drake, Raleigh and Grenville, fallen so low now that a Spanish pirate can order British ships on their lawful occasions to put back to ports, and be supported by the hon. Member for Smethwick? These men, after all, had been going through t very difficult time before this situation arose; and if an ordinary seamen declines to sail in a ship that is going to Spain, will he be allowed to draw his unemployment benefit, having been offered a job and refused it, because the Prime Minister is not sure that he can protect him when he is inside territorial waters? These are the things that men and women are asking themselves in the humble cottages of the great seaport towns in this country. I am glad to know that Smethwick is safe. It is near to Birmingham.
§ Mr. Wise
Will the hon. Member allow me for a moment, as I probably shall not get an opportunity of replying in full? For some reason, he seems to have singled me out for a personal attack. As far as I am aware, I have made no comment of any kind in the course of this Debate, I have not expressed my views on the Spanish conflict in this House for the last six months; and I would like to know—not that I mind very much, but out of pure curiosity—why he has referred to me?
§ Mr. Ede
The hon. Member interrupted me. He has been sitting with a smile on his face—that is, perhaps, paying a compliment to his facial contortions during the whole time I have been pleading for the lives of my constituents, and if he had 1390 not interrupted me I should not have regarded him as of sufficient importance to waste a single second upon him. The right hon. Gentleman's father was once attacked by a German for having said something that the Germans did not like. His reply was, "As I read history, no British Minister has ever served his country faithfully and at the same time enjoyed popularity abroad." In the atmosphere of to-day it is impossible to' be popular in Rome and save British seamen sailing into Spanish ports. The right hon. Gentleman has to choose. Unfortunately, our fear is that he has chosen, and the result of his choice is, widows in the seaports of our country and anxiety, hourly and daily, in the homes of the men who sail the seas and upon whose hardihood we have depended throughout our history for our safety. It is a deplorable choice, and one can only hope that the time has not yet passed when it may be re-made to the advantage of our seamen.
§ 10.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Wise
I think that I should possibly reply a little more fully to the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) who, as I pointed out a short time ago, for some reason or other, has singled me out for special attack, saying, I think, that I was smiling while he was pleading for the lives of British seamen. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is true!"] I can only commiserate with the hon. Member on his eyesight, because I am sure that those with clearer vision on the same benches will tell him that those grimaces existed rather in his own fertile imagination. A stricter attention to the saner forms of rhetoric would make his utterances far more valuable in this House when he chooses to make them. There is nobody who does not sympathise with the British seamen who are in danger and who does not realise that the hon. Member representing a seaport town possibly has some special responsibility, but it is possible, I can assure the hon. Member, to ruin a case by over statement. I would remind the hon. Member, because we must be frank on this occasion, that these seamen who are sailing to Spain would not be denied unemployment pay if they refused to go on a ship sailing to Spanish waters. [interruption.] If hon. Members doubt that let them write to the Unemployment Assistance Board and ask.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan
Does the hon. Member know that unemployment assistance is not unemployment benefit?
§ Mr. Wise
I have only five minutes, so I cannot go into details, but I would like briefly to refer to the representations advanced by the right hon. Gentleman who spoke first in this Debate. He spoke with great heat and great enthusiasm, but in the end he practically left us where we were. It was suggested by various hon. Members, particularly by him, that we might bomb General Franco's aerodromes. [HON. MEMBERS: No."] Well, he agreed with the suggestion made elsewhere. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I think the point was that he did not follow the suggestion that we should shell Spanish towns. I think that came from either the "Daily Herald" or the "News Chronicle." That is a form of retaliation which has been undertaken by Herr Hitler and it would be unworthy of this country.
I suggest that hon. Members should take a little more heed of the Prime Minister's statement. We have always undertaken the full protection of our ships on the high seas, but with only one exception in history, and that was in relation to the Port of Montevideo, we have never provided protection inside the territorial waters of other countries. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) made light play of the long-range bombardment argument, but it is not what he would have us believe. The aeroplane is a long-range gun. I regret that the bombing of British ships has not ceased, but there is a probability that they will cease when negotiations are completed. I would ask the House to wait and not to precipitate any further ill will by intemperate language until His Majesty's Government have had a chance to interview Sir Robert Hodgson, and he has returned to Burgos to see whether it is possible to settle this business without unnecessary complications.
§ 10.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn
Nobody desires to charge the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Wise) or any other hon. Member with inhuman feelings, but one of the main issues of this Debate is the fate of British seamen, and one must judge the feelings of persons to some extent by the measures they propose to take to 1392 prevent a repetition of these unhappy events. In listening to the Prime Minister I must say that it was very striking how he dealt with what is an established and acknowledged fact that day by day, week by week, British ships have been bombed. One of the captains involved in these bombings is an old Naval Reserve officer, and he has been subjected to 16 bombings. It is very strange that in dealing with this situation the Prime Minister paid particular attention, queerly enough, to what was said in the "Daily Herald," a very fine paper, to prove that some shipowner had made a fortune. Surely, the "Journal of Commerce and Shipping Telegraph," quoted by other hon. Members opposite, in support of their case, might have been used, instead of the "Daily Herald."
In the Prime Minister's treatment of the matter he seems to have taken very little account of the sufferings of the men. He said that these men had received an additional £2 for their journeys to Spain. That seems to be an offence. Reference was also made to new companies. I do not know whether that is also an offence. Whether that be so or not, those of us who have had an opportunity of talking with these merchant skippers must have been struck by the quality of the men. The captain to whom I have referred as having been bombed 12 or 14 times, has been trading with Spain all his life. He speaks Spanish and he has traded with Franco Spain and with Republican Spain. It is a matter of indifference to him with which side he trades. He trades there not so much with the desire for gain, but with obstinate British pluck he will not give up the job. When one captain was asked why he did this he said, "I have got my charter to discharge these goods and I am going to do it." I think a little more might be made of this side of the case and a little less of the large profits which the Prime Minister says these men have been making.
Then the Prime Minister went on to say that the Government are not going to be provoked into doing anything. This is what causes us to complain of the humanity of hon. Members opposite. That is not only a hint to the Japanese but those words are the death warrant of British sailors. The Prime Minister's speech the other day was immediately 1393 followed by an intensification of this bombardment. It is a mistake to suppose that this bombardment is just an accident, that our ships are hit by accident. As a matter of fact, what is happening in Spain is an attempt to strangle Republican Spain partly by terrorism and partly by starvation. When towns have been bombed and refugees have trooped out with their small and meagre belongings they have been pursued by machine guns, as was the case in Almeria and one of the Eastern ports. It is part of the new technique that you must terrorise and break the spirit of the population, and a part of the same technique is that you must starve the population. British ships trading with Spain happen to prevent the starvation of Republican Spain, and 'planes will go on bombing our ships as long as we stand in the way of this attempt to starve the population into surrender.
What is the Prime Minister's view about this trade? He says he is going to give it no protection; he has made that very clear. Also he has said that the status of a seaman is the same as the status of a volunteer in the Spanish forces. That is an astonishing statement. The Prime Minister, as I understood, said that if you do not protect the man who volunteers for the Spanish Army why should you protect the ship which is trading with Spain? Does that mean that the Union Jack is to have no more protection than the Spanish flag from the British Government? If so, it is an astonishing doctrine, and certainly throws a little light on what is in the mind of the Government. They have not said much about it, but they hold the view that this trade with Spain, whether in coal or food, is in fact intervention. The Prime Minister, I know, does not wish to be hurried and will not even give a nod of assent, but that was the view taken by the First Lord of the Admiralty six months ago in the case of the evacuation of the refugees from Northern ports. On that occasion he said:Help given to a beleagured garrison, either in the way of importing food or in the way of diminishing the demand for food, is military assistance.I think that in the view of the Government this trade with Spain is in fact intervention, and certainly the Government's effort to prohibit and crush it seems to support that view. If they 1394 take that view, then they should put coal and wheat on the schedule of munitions to Spain. That is the fair and right thing to do, and they should openly participate with Franco in the starvation of the population of Spain. That is what I think the Prime Minister dare not do. I do not think the public stomach is strong enough for that policy, which I sincerely believe to be the real policy that is being pursued. Therefore, the Prime Minister professes to examine the matter, although I understand that he thinks we ought not to help these ships. I do not know why, the day before yesterday, the right hon. Gentleman took so much trouble to examine various ways in which protection might be accorded, because he declared that he had gone through a catalogue of ways in which these ships might be protected and very reluctantly had rejected every one of them on some ground or another. Why does he do that, if he says that they ought not to go there, and if he shares the view of the First Lord of the Admiralty that the whole trade amounts to military assistance to the Spanish Government and is therefore a breach of non-intervention?
The right hon. Gentleman's first argument is that he cannot protect this shipping because it is not legal according to international law. His second argument is that the aeroplanes go so fast that it is no good shooting at them in any case. His third argument is that we cannot have a ship on every square mile of the Mediterranean. Now he says that we cannot impound General Franco's ships because he will impound our ships. I should have thought that the first thing to do was to give a warning to ships not to go to Franco's ports because they might be seized. Then, the suggestion was made from the Prime Minister's own side that anti-aircraft guns should be provided to these ships. His first answer was that he had not had much time to think about that. That is astounding.
§ The Prime Minister
What I said was that I had had no time in which to consider the terms of my answer.
§ Mr. Benn
For a year these ships have been bombed, 50 of them, and the Government have been considering the protection of them, and then when somebody 1395 asks why should they not be given antiaircraft guns, the Prime Minister says that he has not had much time in which to think of an answer to that question. I should have thought that if it was a feasible proposition—and I believe it is—the Government would have considered it long ago. When the point was put to the Prime Minister, and he was pressed a little to give an answer as to whether he would or would not do that, his first answer was that it was a matter for the shipowners; when he was pressed further and asked whether the Government would provide them or allow it to be done, the right hon. Gentleman said, "No, I will not allow it." It comes to this, that not only will the Government not protect the ships, but it prevents the ships from protecting themselves. That is a position of degradation to which we have never previously sunk in our history.
When it is said that we should suggest ways of protecting these ships, my answer is that it is not our business to suggest definite action; what we say is that the Government, with its vast machinery of military organisation, should itself devise ways; but if any suggestion is made, there is one answer which the Prime Minister makes, and it is that with which I would like to deal. It has been said repeatedly in this Debate that to take definite action might mean war against Franco's Government. It is fantastic to suppose that action which was limited to an attack upon Franco's Government, or some sort of reprisal or seizure could possibly imperil the safety of this country or the European situation; but when the Prime Minister is pressed on that point, what he says, in a vague way, is, "Yes, but it would mean European complications." We ought really to ask the Prime Minister to make that clearer. Hon. Members on this side are just as conscious of the need for peace as hon. Members opposite, and the public of this country is passionately keen on maintaining peace. Therefore, when the Prime Minister says, "This means war," he has a very strong argument as long as people really think it is based on fact; but there comes a time when it is necessary to ask the Prime Minister to elucidate the matter a little more. He cannot elucidate the matter because he has always denied that these incidents are in any way under the control of anyone except Franco. In his arguments to-night he 1396 assumed that these things are under the control of Franco. Therefore, if we destroyed some ship belonging to Franco, how could it imperil our relations with anybody else? The Prime Minister really leaves in our mind the feeling that he believes that another great Power would be interested.
I think that many people in all parties in this country are coming to the conclusion that it is not the fear of war that is causing the Prime Minister to pursue this policy so obstinately, but that it is the need for securing the agreement which has been outlined with Signor Mussolini. At the present time, as the "Times" Rome Correspondent says this morning, the Prime Minister enjoys the 100 per cent. confidence of the Italians. It is a very good thing to enjoy confidence and it is a very good thing to extend the area of good will if you can do it, but suppose the Italians are blackmailing us in the blood of our sailors and the Prime Minister's reputation? Supposing they say, "We will not make an agreement unless you are prepared to allow us to go on bombing your ships." Is that going to make for peace or extend the area of good will? In point of fact, though I am not qualified to make any judgment on the matter, I believe that this agreement is badly needed by the Italians at the present time. The Italians want the agreement and we could get this agreement, I believe, without sacrificing British ships. At any rate let it be made clear that many people are coming to believe that it is not true that there is a fear of European war if we exercise the ordinary police duties of protecting our nationals, and that the issue is not peace but prestige.
§ 10.41 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Butler)
In the time at my disposal it will be possible for me to deal only with the main points which have been raised in the course of this Debate. I am certain of one thing, that after the very clear and explicit statement of the Prime Minister this afternoon, it will not be necessary for me to cover the same ground as he did. Indeed I would be unable to do so—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear.] I am glad to find that there is, at any rate, agreement on my ability as compared with my right hon. Friend's. I wish, therefore, to pursue the 1397 more modest course of dealing with some of the arguments which have been raised in the Debate. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke last asked that we should try to elevate this Debate on to a high plane. Let me take him at his word and examine on the highest plane the motives of those who are trading with Spain. Let me refer to the analogy made by the Prime Minister between volunteers who are ready to sacrifice their lives for the side in which they believe, and the ships which are willing to risk themselves in what they regard as legitimate trade with Spain. It was to this analogy that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) also referred.
If we consider the motives of these two classes of persons on the highest plane, as we have been asked to do, and if we remember that the Prime Minister specifically referred to those who volunteered for ambulance work and for work under the Red Cross, we find that when we say "good-bye" to them, on their departure for Spain, we admire them for their courage and tenacity of purpose. In the same way if we take the view that those who trade with Spain are trading in a legitimate way and are bringing succour in food, perhaps to the very population which the ambulance men are trying to succour in a different way, we see that there is an analogy between the two cases. I ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite whether they are unwilling in the case of the ambulance man who is killed in the course of his duty, to involve this country in the conflict, but are willing in the case of the trader, to involve this country in conflict? If we consider the matter in this way I think it will be seen that the argument of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister stands scrutiny, and that the more it is examined the more powerful it becomes. A great deal has been said about the—
§ Mr. Davies
Were not the analogies referred to relating to a fundamental principle? Is the ambulance man under the British flag, or is he under the flag of the side that he adopts?
§ Mr. Butler
My answer is that the ambulance man is under a flag that is as 1398 noble as the British flag. A great deal has been said about the legal position to-day. The right hon. Member for Epping, in putting forward some of his powerful arguments, said that what was happening in Spain was a very grave offence, and I think my right hon. Friend who spoke earlier fully acknowledged the serious view that the Government take of this matter, and outlined the attitude which the Government are accordingly adopting and the steps which they propose to take. If I were to examine this quite simply, without becoming too legal, because, like a great many hon. Members I am not a lawyer, I should say that it could be summed up in old words that we know well. The shipowners may well say, "All things are legal," but they should say, "All things are not expedient." It may be legal to trade in Spanish waters, but after the warnings that the Government have given to shipping companies, it is certainly not expedient to go into these ports at the present time.
It has been said in the course of the Debate that British ships should be defended as sacredly as if they were British soil. That is a noble creed. Let me pursue it along the lines of common sense and quiet examination. The Government are perfectly ready, willing, and indeed able to defend our ships upon the high seas. They have said they will do so, and they will do so, but are we to accept the doctrine that, despite the warnings which we have given to British ships, any British ship, by going into territorial waters, within the three-mile limit, against the warnings which we have given and in circumstances which we cannot control, can involve this country in a struggle in which it is our policy not to intervene? That is a perfectly fair issue, and the Government answer that, in the interests of the whole country, we must adhere to the policy which we have already announced. I think this view is supported by an extract from an interview given to the "Newcastle Evening Chronicle" by a prominent shipowner in that area, who said:The Spanish situation has been somewhat misunderstood by the general public. If a British vessel leaves international waters and goes within the three mile limit, into territorial waters, it can only expect to be attacked. They cannot claim naval protection within this limit, and they know the risks they run in doing it. Why should they shout the minute they are attacked, when 1399 they are within the limit for the purpose of making money?That puts the issue perfectly clearly.
§ Mr. Butler
The position is clear, that we cannot defend ships within the three mile limit. The Government position remains as it was put by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Now let me examine some of the remedies—
§ Mr. Grenfell
Have the Government to be told their rights and duties and obligations by a shipowner in the country?
§ Mr. Butler
I have stated the shipowners' view and the Government's view has been given by my right hon. Friend and myself on previous occasions. There is no alteration in the position. It is interesting to have different points of view on this important matter.
Will the Government take the same view if the Spanish Government retaliate by bombing British ships in Franco harbours?
§ Mr. Butler
I am afraid I cannot answer a hypothetical question. I have been asked on several occasions whether we have fully examined all the remedies. One of them has been shouted, as we know, from the gallery, that social credit is the only remedy. Some of the remedies are likely to be as effective as that particular doctrine. Some of them are a great deal more dangerous. The right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate suggested that we should blockade Palma. Let me examine that because, like so many other suggestions to which we have given close attention, it looks to the person who makes it a good idea until you examine it. But what is the logical conclusion? It would mean that the British Navy would have to institute a blockade of those islands, and would have to stop all neutral shipping. That would mean that, instead of our upholding international law, as so many hon. Members have suggested, it would be we who would become the pirates and would have to indulge in action which by the stopping and searching of neutral shipping might well ultimately involve us in a war with the Powers concerned. The more you examine any of these remedies the more you see that they are likely to involve us in a quarrel.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
This is a very serious matter. I wonder if the Under-Secretary will explain why the searching of neutral shipping would provoke a war when the bombing and machine gunning of British shipping does not.
§ Mr. Butler
Why we should be asked, in order to put right a wrong, to indulge in an obvious wrong under international law, which might have the most serious and dangerous results, I fail to see. The Government are unwilling to indulge in that particular experiment. Another experiment, which might be called a visiting-card experiment, has been suggested, by which for every ship sunk we should pay a bombing visit to Palma. That leads me to the general point raised by the right hon. Gentleman when he asked us why we were so frightened of the danger of war. If we are going to indulge in warlike action of that type, which were put forward with such ferocity by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) on the last occasion when we debated this question, we are bound to start a ripple which will enlarge and may eventually end in a war which we cannot control. When the Prime Minister made a declaration of foreign policy on 24th March, he warned us of the dangerous fallacy that if war once starts you can control it. History shows that you cannot. Any dangerous expedient such as that suggested by the right hon. Gentleman will, I am convinced, land us in a war the size of which we shall be quite unable to control.
Hon. Members have suggested one or two other remedies. We have had a reversion to the suggestion made by Admiral Usborne that we should take a Franco ship on every occasion. As on the previous occasion, I must remind the House and the hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) who raised this point, that Admiral Usborne finished his letter by saying that other considerations made the Government policy of compromise understandable, and that the proposal might be inadvisable in view of the Naval precedents that would be created. It is a pity to have recourse to quoting the Admiral without having recourse to quoting his conclusions. It shows some of the difficulties of the many suggestions which have been put forward. The right hon. Gentleman 1401 the Member for Epping made the suggestion that we should amend the Merchant Shipping Acts. It is not for me at this short notice to give my views on the amendment of the Merchant Shipping Acts, but I think there are great difficulties in the way. At any rate, it will be examined, because all suggestions that have been put forward have received examination.
What I have said covers most of the points that have been put forward in this Debate. I can only add that the Government propose to continue the examination of certain other suggestions which have been made, for safety zones and for free ports, as I announced only two or three days ago when this matter was originally discussed. We have taken this examination a little further and we are now about to engage in discussions with the Burgos authorities on the subject of the free ports which I mentioned to the House in my previous remarks. We are also continuing with the Barcelona authorities, to whom we have sent another communication, the urgent examination of the safety zones in such a harbour as Barcelona, the diffi-
§ culties of which described in my previous speech.
§ The situation appears to be rather different from that which the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate described. He said that if the Labour party had been in power and had done nothing, we should have referred to the craven poltroonery of the Labour party. To-night, instead of using those terms, we can look back to one of the similes of Disraeli, when he said that it was often the habit of one political party to steal the clothes of another. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have frequently accused us of being jingoes, but I am glad to say that the party to which I belong has long since shuffled out of those clothes. It is in those clothes that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends have now dressed themselves, and we now see on the other side jingoism and pugnacity. We see on this side peace and true patriotism.
§ Question put, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ The House divided:
|Tinker, J. J.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Tomlinson, G.||Westwood, J.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Viant, S. P.||White, H. Graham||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Walkden, A. G.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Walker, J.||Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.|
|Watkins, F. C.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)||Mr. John and Mr. Mathers.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Liddall, W. S.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Donner, P. W.||Lindsay, K. M.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H.||Lipson, D. L.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Drewe, C.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Lloyd, G. W.|
|Apsley, Lord||Duggan, H. J.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Duncan, J. A. L.||Loftus, P. C.|
|Assheton, R.||Dunglass, Lord||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Eastwood, J. F.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Eckersley, P. T.||M'Connell, Sir J.|
|Balniel, Lord||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)|
|Barris, Sir C. C.||Ellis, Sir G.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Elliston, Capt. G. S.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Emery, J. F.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Macnamara, Major J. R. J.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Maitland, A.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Errington, E.||Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Findlay, Sir E.||Markham, S. F.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Fleming, E. L.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Blaker, Sir R.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Mellor, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Furness, S. N.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Gluckstein, L. H.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)|
|Brass, Sir W.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Goldie, N. B.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel Sir T. C. R.|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Gower, Sir R. V.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. G.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Moreing, A. C.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Grant-Ferris, R.||Morgan, R. H.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Granville, E. L.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Bull, B. B.||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Munro, P.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Grimston, R. V.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)|
|Butler, R. A.||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Cary, R. A.||Hambro, A. V.||Patrick, C. M.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Peaks, O.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Harvey, Sir G.||Peters, Dr. S. J.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippanham)||Haslam, Henry (Horneastle)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Plugge, Capt. L. F.|
|Channon, H.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P||Purbrick, R.|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Radford, E. A.|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey)||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||Higgs, W. F.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Holmes, J. S.||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Hopkinson, A.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk N.)||Here-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Horsbrugh, Florence||Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Remer, J. R.|
|Cox, H. B. Trevor||Hulbert, N. J.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Cox, H. B. Trevor||Hunloke, H. P.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Crooke, Sir J. S.||Hutchinson, G. C.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||lnskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Rowlands, G.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Cross, R. H.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Crossley, A. C.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Keeling, E. H.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Salt, E. W.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Latham, Sir P.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Scott, Lord William|
|De la Bère, R.||Leech, Sir J. W.||Selley, H. R.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lees-Jones, J.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Denville, Alfred||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Shepperson, Sir E. W.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Simmonds, O. E.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Watt, Major G. S. Harvie|
|Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.||Tasker, Sir R. I.||Wayland, Sir W. A|
|Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Titchfield, Marquess of||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Smithers, Sir W.||Touche, G. C.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald||Tree, A. R. L. F.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel C.|
|Southby, Commander Sir, A. R. J.||Turton, R. H.||Wise, A. R.|
|Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.||Wakefield, W. W.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Spens, W. P.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Evan||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'I'd)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Warrender, Sir V.||Captain Hope and Lieut.-Colonel Kerr.|