HC Deb 24 July 1939 vol 350 cc993-6
5. Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on the present position at Tientsin, and the progress of the Tokyo negotiations?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)

The general position at Tientsin is unchanged. No incidents have been reported. The milk situation is fairly satisfactory: supplies are good but continue to be subject to delays at the barriers.

As regards the second part of the question, since 15th July preliminary conversations have been proceeding at Tokyo between His Majesty's Ambassador and the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs before starting negotiations for the settlement of the situation at Tientsin. At the outset of the discussions, the Japanese Government expressed the view that, if progress was to be made in the removal of misunderstandings and the establishment of better relations, it was essential to recognise the background against which the situation at Tientsin should be viewed. This had nothing to do with His Majesty's Government's China policy but was a question of fact. Hostilities were proceeding in China on a large scale. The Japanese Army had to provide for its own security and maintain public order in the occupied areas and was, therefore, obliged to take action to see that these causes were not prejudiced.

In order to clear the way for the Tientsin discussions, His Majesty's Government have accordingly agreed upon the following formula with the Japanese Government: His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom fully recognise the actual situation in China where hostilities on a large scale are in progress and note that, as long as that state of affairs continues to exist, the Japanese forces in China have special requirements for the purpose of safeguarding their own security and maintaining public order in regions under their control and that they have to suppress or remove any such acts or causes as will obstruct them or benefit their enemy. His Majesty's Government have no intention of countenancing any act or measures prejudicial to the attainment of the above-mentioned objects by Japanese forces and they will take this opportunity to confirm their policy in this respect by making it plain to British authorities and British nationals in China that they should refrain from such acts and measures.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that nothing will be agreed to in these forthcoming negotiations which is calculated to impair Chinese currency, or to impair the right of this country to grant credits to the Chinese Government for any purpose whatsoever?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, the discussions are confined to the local issues at Tientsin.

Mr. Arthur Henderson

Do not these concessions, in effect, constitute a de facto recognition of Japanese sovereignty in respect of those parts of Chinese territory which are now under the control of the Japanese armed forces?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Mr. Benn

What territories are referred to by the Prime Minister when he speaks of territories under effective Japanese control?

The Prime Minister

I would not like to give a definition of that in answer to a supplementary question.

Mr. Benn

Have we not given an undertaking to pursue a certain course of policy in this area? What is the area?

The Prime Minister

The area under Japanese control.

Mr. Shinwell

Does the right hon. Gentleman's answer not mean that the Government have now definitely taken the side of Japan?

Hon. Members


Mr. De Chair

Does not the answer mean that we are preserving strict neutrality?

Mr. Arthur Greenwood

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether in the declaration he has made to-day there is any change whatever in British policy in regard to China?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir, the declaration does not connote any change in British Government policy in China?

Mr. Gallacher

Will Chinese currency not interfere with the Japanese?

10. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any further statement to make on the detention of Colonel Spear?

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Butler)

The officer in charge of His Majesty's Embassy at Peking has been informed by his Japanese colleague that no formal trial has started and that preliminary investigations are still proceeding. His Majesty's Ambassador at Tokyo is maintaining the closest touch with the Japanese Government, and my Noble Friend trusts that in view of the improved atmosphere this question may soon be settled.

Mr. Henderson

Will it be made clear to the Japanese Government that His Majesty's Government hold them responsible?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir.

14. Mr. R. C. Morrison

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any information as to the safety of the personnel of the English Presbyterian Mission Hospital at Chuanchow, in the Swatow-Fuchien district of China; and whether supplies of food and drugs are now available?

Mr. Butler

My Noble Friend is calling for a report on this subject, but he has no reason to believe that the personnel of the English Presbyterian Mission are not safe.

15. Mr. G. Strauss

asked the Prime Minister whether he will give an assurance that the Chinese silver reserve in Tientsin, the estimated value of which is £2,500,000, will not be surrendered to the Japanese authorities?

Mr. Butler

The Japanese Government have never formulated to His Majesty's Government any proposals in regard to the disposal of this silver.

Mr. Bellenger

Is the silver reserve lodged in a British bank, and would it not be advisable, in view of the unsatisfactory state of affairs in Tientsin, to move it out of harm's way?

Mr. Butler

I should require notice of that question.

Mr. Aneurin Bevan

Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that the Chinese Government might be anxious for us to hand it over to the Japanese?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir.

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