§ LORD SNELL rose to ask His Majesty's Government to state what information they have with regard to the present situation in Spain; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, since the Question which stands in my name was placed upon the Order Paper, the policy of His Majesty's Government in regard to Spain has been in part elucidated by a statement of the Secretary of State, but there remains some obscurity on several essential points, and as the situation changes from day to day and there is general anxiety concerning the situation in Spain, the Question may nevertheless serve the double purpose of enabling His Majesty's Government to give any further explanation that they may desire to make, and also perhaps of creating an atmosphere in which possibly peace may grow.
§ I regret that other urgent public duties will prevent me from speaking at any length in support of this Question, and therefore I beg more or less formally to ask one or two questions. The whole thing seems to resolve itself 427 into our responsibility to try to assist peace and to prevent the war from spreading to other lands and especially to our own. The problem is whether we can make any contribution to the cause of peace, and if not, and if war must go on, whether we can help to secure neutrality in regard to the combatants and make it a reality instead of the sham that it is at the present time. That is really the criticism that we specially desire to make. I have certain other questions which I should like to ask the Government, and one of them concerns the supply of arms: Have His Majesty's Government any further information respecting the supply of arms from outside to either of the contending parties in Spain? Do they intend to give to General Franco the right of search upon the high seas at his will? And do they propose to concede to the rebels belligerent rights?
§ I only have time, in support of those questions, to say that it seems clear to us, without the information that the Government, of course, has at their disposal, that the rebels have received support in money, in arms, in men and in diplomatic pressure, from sources outside Spain. It may be established, too, that the Government of Spain has also received outside support. Into that I cannot go. I will only just state in a word the policy of the Labour Party in this respect. Non-intervention is not its policy; it is a policy for which the Government themselves are responsible. But we do say that, if non-intervention is to be our policy, it should be non-intervention in a real sense and that one side of this terrible struggle should not be receiving support from all kinds of people and nations while the other, which, after all, is the legitimate Government of Spain, is placed at a great disadvantage. I am no Communist in social philosophy, and I am equally not a Fascist, but I do feel that the legal Government of Spain has been receiving very bad and shabby treatment during the whole of this desperate struggle.
§ Spain has never menaced any interest of ours. It pleases those who are supporting the rebel cause in other countries and in our own to say that it is a fight against Communism; but, my Lords, the Government of Spain is not a Communist Government. It is a composite Government made up of Syndicalists, Anarchists 428 and others, and certainly is not—as we understand it at least—a Socialist Government. But whatever it is, it is the legal Government of the country, and it has been attacked shamefully, as we believe, as the result of a carefully-designed and long conspiracy on the part of people whom I have not time to-night to mention. I put those questions formally to His Majesty's Government in the hope that they may be able to help us with further information upon specific points. I beg to move.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, before a reply is made from the Front Bench opposite, I would say just a few words on the situation as it strikes me. It has always been found that when internal disputes and struggles have taken place in other countries the citizens of this country have shown warm sympathy with one side or the other. I can hardly remember a case in which that has not existed. My recollection goes back to the days when I was a schoolboy, and when the rising of the Commune in Paris, and its merciless repression, were in everybody's mind. It so happened that my tutor at school, who was a man of very marked ability and of strong character, was an ardent sympathiser with the Paris Commune. So much so that on one summer's evening he got an escaped Communard to come down and give to the boys an account of his experiences during those terrible days in Paris. Unluckily, as it turned out, the poor gentleman was unable even in his own language to give any kind of coherent account of his experiences in Paris, and had it not been for the excellent supper which we all enjoyed, none I am sure more than the poor Frenchman, the whole business would have proved a complete fiasco. Then a few years later, at the time of what were described as the Bulgarian atrocities, we know that strong feelings were shown on both sides, some being most unwilling to say hard things of the Turks, who were our old friends, and others with equally strong feelings of horror at the crimes perpetrated in Bulgaria by the Bashibazouks.
Now a civil war is taking place in Spain. It can hardly be described, I think, as anything but a civil war, in spite of what the noble Lord on the Front Opposition Bench has said in describing it as an outbreak against an 429 organised Government. It is not, I think, quite correct to speak of the Government at Madrid as an organised Government in the sense in which that phrase is usually understood, but it is a Government, and it is fighting on its own lines for what it believes to be right. I must say that I am in no way in the position of taking either side on this occasion. I do not find it possible to feel any emotion of satisfaction when one side or the other has gained an advantage. Terrible events, as we know—I hope largely exaggerated, in a way, by the popular Press—have taken place, and so far as one can judge both sides have been guilty of those barbarities. So far, therefore, it seems to me that His Majesty's Government have taken the only possible course in refusing to offer their countenance—I will not say support—but their countenance to one side or the other in the sense of admitting their belligerent rights.
How far it is possible for the Government to maintain that attitude I have no information which enables me to predict. It seems to me that the gravest danger will arise at sea. There must be some fear of some incident in connection with British ships which might bring about the kind of interference which I am certain His Majesty's Government are most unwilling to undertake in any respect; but they have all the information and we have none. All that one can say is that I trust the Government will lose no opportunity of trying to impress on both sides the necessity of conducting this struggle in a more humane and less barbarous manner, if whichever side wins is to obtain the good will not only of this country but of the civilised world. I noticed the other day that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said that he looked forward to the time when we should achieve a real measure of friendship with whatever Government of Spain comes into being when hostilities are ended. I fervently hope so also, but any sentiment of that kind which can be entertained by this country must depend upon a complete change of attitude and practice on the part of those who are to become the Government in Spain. I have nothing further to say, but I only hope that His Majesty's Government, who are deeply concerned, as I know, at this terrible business, will do all that they can to assist in bringing 430 about the happy result which it is terribly difficult to foresee at this moment.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, I had no intention of speaking at all when I came down to this House, but I am bound to say, having heard the speech of the noble Lord opposite, who is invariably extremely moderate in his utterances, that I am afraid he has created a rather unfortunate impression. What the noble Lord desires us to believe, and no doubt believes himself, is that the present Government in Madrid is composed of persons like himself. Well, I think that if the noble Lord were in Spain at the present moment he would probably be classed as an opponent of the Government, and might possibly suffer the fate that has attended so many other harmless persons. He has represented in his speech that the present Government is a sort of respectable, quiet, weak body, which has been wantonly attacked by the people whom he describes as rebels; and there are other people in the country whom he describes as members of a purely military movement. Well, I venture to assert that it is nothing of the kind. To begin with, the Madrid Government is totally different from what the noble Lord wishes us to imagine, and the position in Spain is really this, that people—not the military, but vast numbers of persons in the country—have revolted at the idea of turning Spain into a Bolshevist State. Every class has joined in this movement, and I believe I am correct in saying that the opponents of the Government number something like ten millions, that is to say, half the population of the country. To represent this as a mere military conspiracy against the Government is, to my mind, to talk nonsense.
The noble Lord also endeavoured to convey the impression that the scales were unduly weighted on behalf of the so-called rebel party, and that they were being helped by powerful outside countries. He glided over the fact that the Government which originally intervened in the case was the Soviet Government, and that it intervened with much greater effect than any other. In fact, the whole story of this deplorable business is that it is the result of the action of the Soviet Government itself. Perhaps it is not a matter of vital importance to us whether Spain is 431 governed by a Soviet or by a Fascist Government, except that if the present Government eventually win, the property of every British subject and every British company in Spain will immediately be confiscated. That may be a contingency which is not considered very seriously, but that I think is bound to be the ultimate result. I agree absolutely with what the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, said, that in this case the only thing that we can do is to keep clear of the whole business. We do not desire the success of one side more than the other, but the essential thing is that we should not be mixed up in it. For that reason I hope that the Government will persevere in the course which they have adopted, resolutely decline to be drawn into the contest themselves, and also do their utmost to prevent other outside Powers taking part in it as well.
§ LORD STRICKLAND
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Snell, in opening this debate, distinguished himself as usual by his anxiety to be helpful, and he has invited contributions in this debate that might be helpful. He spoke of "rebels" and "legitimate Government of Spain," and on both occasions he did so only in such a manner as was calculated to invite discussion. After very careful thought and consultation with others I beg to suggest to your Lordships that neither of the groups of belligerents in Spain is a legitimate Government. The proposition may be startling, but I am confident that on purely legal grounds I could carry the majority of this House with me on that point. There has been a rebellion in Spain against what at the time was the legitimate constitutional Government. That rebellion has become a revolution. Whether or not, and when, the insurgents should be recognised as belligerents is a question of fact, and judgment on the facts can only be attempted by His Majesty's Government when full information is available. I am in complete sympathy with the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, in his warning as to the importance of not appearing to take sides, and I hope that nothing that I may say will be interpreted as showing any sympathy with either group of belligerents.
However much one may differ from Mr. de Valera, the President of the Irish Free State, he has made a valuable contribution to the study of Constitutional Law in 432 a terse pronouncement which was published in that greatest of the world's newspapers, The Times. He has indicated—and no one is in a better position than he to form on opinion—when it is that democracy breaks down. My thesis is to show that in Spain democracy has broken down. In the speech to which I refer Mr. de Valera puts forward the proposition that when in a democracy, as the result of a legally conducted election because of abstentions at the polls or otherwise, a majority has resulted in a House that makes and unmakes Ministries, which majority, whilst representing the majority of electors who voted, is far from representing the majority of the people, and when at the same time the Army is with the majority of the electors and not of those representatives, then—according to Mr. de Valera—democracy breaks down. It is to be added that the Church in Spain has been very militant on the same side as the Army; and that with this additional factor, the breakdown of democracy is the more glaringly inevitable.
In these circumstances the question arises whether the breakdown of democracy in Spain has reached a stage at which neither of the groups of belligerents can claim sovereignty in the constitutional sense of the word and in the name of the people of Spain. The recognition of belligerency is very different from the recognition of sovereignty. The Spanish insurgents at the outset were rebels. They have now established the position of belligerents; but they have not established a successful revolution with a claim to sovereignty.
When we turn to the group of belligerents who have been alluded to by the noble Lord opposite as "the Government," I say that they also are technically rebels—I do not use the word disrespectfully. They are rebels against their own Constitution. The Republic was legitimately established. In the same way as the other group of belligerents cannot claim a mandate, as constitutionally expressed, so those now in charge at Madrid cannot claim succession from the Constitution of Spain as established under the Republic, which was at one time legitimate. And for this reason: Emerging from the majority of the Assembly in Spain that made and unmade Ministries, a Ministry was formed under the control of the extreme Left, but which 433 was an attempt organised by the head of the State to introduce therein some quasi-moderate elements so as to constitute a workable Government. Against that composite Ministry, which was legitimate, there was a political rebellion inside the Ministry and inside the Chamber, and that rebellion displaced the legitimate Government of Spain.
That displacement was accompanied by political assassinations and other aberrations from constitutional government, and broke altogether the nexus of the Government with the sovereignty of the people. I have used the word "sovereignty" in the narrow legal sense in which we talk of the political sovereignty, for example, of the States of Australia in relation to the Federation. The claim the present Government of Madrid is that Spain has already divided itself into a collection of governing bodies, regional groups—Catalonia, the Basque Provinces, and we hear to-day also of Valencia. Once a Government which was the Government of the whole of Spain admits it is no longer the Government of Spain, but has some nexus with a loose federation of various groups, it has abandoned or surrendered any support from the Constitution of a unified Spain under which it was set up. If it is not a collection of legal rebels, it is a collection of people who have surrendered their legal position altogether and are merely clutching at a straw by asserting some connection with a undefined and loose federation. That is undoubtedly the legal position. That cannot be contradicted from any legal or constitutional point of view.
As to facts, once the Prime Minister of Spain, whether appointed by the head of the State or whether he obtained office by force, left Madrid, those who took office could not produce any constitutional nexus with any written Constitution. It is difficult to find a parallel in history. The best I can remember is when King James II of England left London and is alleged to have dropped the Great Seal in the sea on his way to a foreign country. Sovereignty is not merely a question of succession based on hereditary right. The sovereignty of the people is translated into something tangible by votes legitimately collected, but very often ineffective when there is no compulsory voting, as there is in Australia, which 434 is the one true democracy that the human race has so far developed. Sovereignty based on paper charters or sovereignty based on hereditary right is not to be recognised as effective or treated as continuous when de facto it is not concurrent with the accepted definition of sovereignty—that is, the absence of obedience to a foreign authority. I am not going into that question, but I think the noble Lord, Lord Newton, made a good point in suggesting that there are grounds for challenging the independence of the present Government of Madrid because of obedience to outside authority, whether that obedience be habitual or not.
There is one point which the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, brought out which makes me remember that there has been interference on the part of England in similar difficulties as, for instance, when the merchants in the City of London raised troops to support the claims of Isabella to the Throne of Spain—a very regrettable page in our history and in the history of Spain, which drew attention to the necessity of having the Foreign Enlistment Act. It is greatly to be regretted that there are reports of an expedition from Southern Ireland, but I hope that it is so small in numbers and in importance that His Majesty's Government will be able to neglect it. I beg leave to join with the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, in congratulating His Majesty's Government on the very correct and successful attitude they have up to now preserved in this most difficult complication; and in conclusion I would ask my noble friends opposite to join with me in holding that if there is delay in recognising either party as belligerents, or if there is delay in recognising the claim of one party or the other to be regarded as the legitimate Government of Spain, that delay, whether on the one side or the other, is amply justified by the legal complications of the position.
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
My Lords, I wish to ask the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, to convey to his noble friend Lord Snell my deep disappointment with Lord Snell. The noble Lord usually expounds with great moderation the policy of his Party, but on this occasion he has not done so. The policy of his Party is that, while this country should forbid arms to go to what I would call the Nationalist forces in Spain, they 435 should allow arms to go to the Madrid Government. That has been laid down, but there is not a word of it in the noble Lord's speech to-night. I do not know whether the atmosphere of this place has exercised so potent an effect on him that he was unable to state the policy of his Party clearly, but he certainly did not state it.
I should like to take up the question which was implied by the repeated descriptions by the noble Lord, Lord Snell, of one of the combatant parties in Spain as "rebels." We all, I think, recognise that insurrection is wrong in principle, but are there never to be any exceptions? If there are never to be any exceptions, why that is very good news for Herr Hitler, who has been confirmed in his position by an enormous majority of the plebescite of the German people. And now, if that view is to be taken, he may be quite reassured as to any action of the British Labour Party and will know that they will help him to get supplies of arms if he has any sort of trouble with any section of his own people. But on the other hand, are there never to be any exceptions? In the seventeenth century there was a high political and theological school that said there should be none. That, I thought, had been completely repudiated since, and I should have thought that at any rate the great body of English public opinion would have supported the rebellion in retrospect against both Charles I and James II.
But is it now to be said that a majority is to have the benefit of a doctrine of passive opinion which a monarch could not have? That would be a strange doctrine indeed, and I wonder if there is any noble Lord opposite who will confirm it; but if not, and if there are to be exceptions, I cannot conceive any better cause for rising against a de facto Government than when you see it forcing your country into the bottomless Russian pit. The elections in Spain gave the Government a small majority in seats though not in votes, but there is the most abundant evidence that that Government never governed. I could quote one eye-witness after another—Professor Peers, a man of the most rigid neutrality, Mr. Loveday, formerly Chairman of the British Chamber of Commerce in Barcelona, Mr. Caplan, in his letters to The Times 436 newspaper, and the Spanish Liberal, who was given full print by that paper, and who wrote under the name of "Castilian." It was perfectly proved that no public order was kept. One hundred and seventy churches and many clubs and rallying places for political opponents were burned. Passes to travel about the country were not signed by Government officials, but by the secretaries or agents of revolutionary clubs. That went on for months, and it culminated in the murder of a political leader by uniformed Police, or at any rate, regular police in a prison van. If I could conceive myself as Commissioner of Police of this Metropolis, I assure your Lordships in all earnestness and sincerity I should never dream of disposing of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, in any such fashion, but that is what this eminent Government did.
I wish to turn from that to another, a kindred subject. Some people put the blame for the insurrection upon the Church. No doubt the leaders of the Church in Spain do take the side of the Nationalist forces. It is very natural if a conflict breaks out in your country that you should wish for the success of the people who will not cut your throat rather than of those who will, but there is no evidence whatever that the action of the Generals was instigated by that of the leaders of the Church, though I should blame them very little under the circumstances if it had been. It is quite false to suppose that the insurgent forces are all animated by a burning spirit of Catholicism. They are not. They are composed, as my noble friend below me said, of all kinds of elements. They are not all Catholics; they are not all Monarchists; they are not all Fascists. I am told that one or two of the leading Generals actually belong to the Grand Orient Order which is incompatible with Catholicism. What they are united in is the desire to save their country from the fate that has befallen Russia, and that is all.
I know there is some difficulty in arguing about Spain, and where any interest of the Church in Spain is concerned, and that for several reasons. In the first place the same religion may be presented very differently in different countries according to the race and mentality prevailing in the country, and no doubt Englishmen will find a more congenial presentment 437 of the same religion in, let us say, the Rhineland or Central Switzerland, or Oberammergau than in Spain. It is the tradition of Philip the Second, the Armada, Westward Ho, and all that which comes to people's minds when they are not conscious of it. There is a third point, and that is that it is very difficult to convey to ordinary English people, what is an undoubted fact to those who have studied it, that just as in Russia so in the Latin countries, there are many large sections which lave a real burning hatred of Christianity and which would make very short work of any other form of Christianity if it stood up against them.
All these causes make it difficult with regard to Spain above all other countries to put a case before an English audience, and that accounts, I suppose, for the extraordinary illusion which prevails that the Church in Spain retained its power and privileges up to the Republican rising of 1931. The truth is that the Church has not been a dominant factor in Spanish politics for at least one hundred years. The whole of the Church property was confiscated in 1836, and after much controversy and trouble a Concordat was established in 1852. Under that Concordat, in place of the confiscated lands, allowances were doled out by the Government. Now the Primate under that settlement got something over £1,800 a year, but the parish priest got £22 and no more. I quote that on the authority of a Liberal writer, Mr. Butler Clark I think the name was, who wrote in a Cambridge series. I have every sympathy with the incumbents of the Church of England who have suffered under the Tithe Act. I think the poorer ones have had in some cases hard measure, but to have expected one of them, even if unmarried, to live on this pittance would have aroused a storm of indignation.
Then with regard to education, why put the blame in Spain for the lack of education on the Church alone? What was the State doing all these years? If the State could pass a measure of dis-endowment, why could it not have passed a measure for education? The Church would not have had the power to oppose them. As a matter of fact, such education as there was was done by the Church. On the authority of the correspondent of The Times whose message 438 had not been censored there were 90,000 children of school age in Madrid; 50,000 were educated in Church schools and 40,000 had no schools to go to. The Government of Madrid came in and shut up those schools for 50,000 children, so then there were 90,000 without education. What I suppose can be alleged is that the Church could not cover the whole ground and no doubt they would have opposed proposals for purely secular education. Just those two points are the very things that have been alleged, and with like injustice, in the past against the Church of England.
Now I have to say one or two things which I very much regret about the utterances of certain most reverend and right reverend Prelates on this whole question. I am not referring to the most reverend Primate. He has said what I should have expected him to say, and I deeply regret that through a misconception he has been unjustly attacked by the Osservatore Romano. I am afraid I cannot say the like of his brother the most reverend Prelate the Archbishop of York. He, speaking at a diocesan meeting, dwelt at length on the situation in Spain in a tone of cold detachment, and it is deplorable that throughout there was not one word of Christian sympathy for the thousands of priests and religious women who have lost their lives often under most atrocious conditions for no other reason than their witness to that Christianity the fundamentals of which are professed both in Toledo and York. Having said so much I feel bound just to add that I received this morning a letter from the most reverend Prelate, very courteously expressed, in which he regretted that he was unable to be here to-night. He said in that letter that he had prima facie evidence that at least three Spanish Protestant pastors with their families had been murdered by members or adherents of the Nationalist forces in Spain. I trust that he has been misinformed. I will of course try to get this prima facie charge sent to the proper quarter if it has not already gone there. If there be any kind of truth in it it deserves of course exactly the same condemnation as would be the case on the other side. It seems most difficult to believe because Protestantism is just as incompatible with Bolshevism as Catholicism, but if through some strange misguided fury in the Nationalist forces 439 they did commit such acts they could not have done a worse disservice to their country or their faith.
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
Well, the matter must be looked into, of course. I am speaking generally. In so far as the Nationalist forces have committed outrages—if they have and in so far as they have—equal reprobation should fall upon them, because neither in this nor in anything else does the end justify the means. But I have seen no evidence either in degree or extent comparable to what has been done on the other side. I am not going to stand here and harrow your Lordships with particular stories, though I could. I will point to two matters only. The first is the broadcast—I suppose the official broadcast, anyhow the broadcast from the people in actual power at Barcelona-which—called for the extermination of all clerics and Fascists by name. The other is the statement in the uncensored correspondence to The Times that a few weeks ago it was enough in Madrid to be either in Holy Orders or to bear the name of nobleman to ensure your nocturnal murder by the secret committees. There is nothing whatever on the other side at all comparable to that.
I will not say anything about the issue of the conflict or ultimate aims. In the extreme difficulties of the international situation I recognise that our Government must maintain strict neutrality. I would only utter a word of warning, if I may venture to do so, lest in this as in other matters their very natural wish to co-operate with France should not drive them further than they will. As for the Nationalist forces and what they may do if they succeed, well I love the form of Government neither in Italy nor in Germany, and I trust that a reasonable Constitution may in the end emerge; but for the moment, in this struggle as regards the issue between them and their enemies, I say that they are lighting the battle of righteousness at least as much as the Northern forces in America whom Our grandfathers supported and acclaimed.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
My Lords, I do not propose to follow my noble friend into an elaborate discussion as to the rights and wrongs of the Church to which he belongs. I have 440 not the information to do it and there evidently are grave objections to any attempt of that kind. I will only say that his account of it is not the same as that which has reached me. Beyond t hat I will not go. I rise for two reasons. In the first place I am not quite sure that it has been sufficiently emphasised in this House what a deep feeling of horror exists in this country at the continuance of this war with its extraordinarily bloodthirsty characteristics. I do not know how far that extends, it is impossible to say, but I know as a fact how very deeply it is felt and how earnestly a section at any rate of my fellow countrymen hope that some means may be found of bringing it to a conclusion. I know the difficulties, and I Lope I shall not say anything which will add to the difficulties which the Government have to face.
Primarily no doubt this was a domestic Spanish question. My noble friend has discussed the ethics of rebellion. I do not propose to do that. I thought that everybody was agreed that there were cases in which rebellion was justified, and that everybody also agreed that those cases were extremely rare, and that one condition certainly of justifiable rebellion was the prospect of rapid and immediate success. The horror consequent upon rebellion is so great and so terrible that no one has a right to enter upon rebellion unless he has every reason to believe that he will quickly be able to succeed in his object. I thought that that also was a generally recognised Proposition. Judged by that test I cannot see how this rebellion is justified.
My noble friend Lord Newton, having I suppose been reading very assiduously the publications of the noble Viscount, Lord Rothermere, regards it as entirely a question between Communism and Fascism. I am afraid I do not agree with that. It is entirely a different account from that which has reached me. The account which has reached me from apparently reputable and authoritative sources is that it is not that at all. It is that Communists in Spain never were a formidable body, that they only had some fifteen members in the Parliament which existed before the war began, and that they were never a formidable body at all. That is what I am told. I do not know whether it is right. If you are to say that it is a question of Parties 441 it is a question between the old Party and the new Party. It is a revolt—that is the way it is put to me—by those who were shocked, not so much by the badness of the Government in Spain, because, unfortunately, Governments in Spain have usually been bad, though perhaps the one that was in power was particularly bad. But it was not so much that; it was rather that the upholders of the older system found that there was a great probability, both economic and political, that their system would be destroyed, and it was on that ground that they rebelled. That is the account that reaches me. I do not say that it is right, because I am not able to do so, but that is the situation.
When my noble friend speaks of them as Nationalists, it does appear to me, I confess, that there is very little ground for believing that the rebels represent the majority, or even a very considerable minority, of the people of Spain. That is again a matter which is disputable, because it is very difficult to test, but there is at any rate the remarkable fact that the forces which seem to be fighting are not Spanish forces except in a very small degree. There is a very small section of Fascists fighting on behalf of General Franco, and the old Carlists are fighting. Those, as far as I can learn, are the only Spanish forces that he has at his command; the rest are the Foreign Legion and the Moors. That is what I am assured, and that if there are any other troops they are at any rate of such limited enthusiasm that they have not been put in the front line. That is what I have been told by people who are not in any way sympathetic with the Government of Spain.
As for the atrocities, I do not propose to go into that question. I think they have been horrible on both sides. I have heard also what my noble friend read from the Archbishop of York's letter: that the Protestants—there are not many of them—have been slaughtered by the rebels in the same way as many, at any rate, of the Catholic clergy have been slaughtered by the Government troops. That, I am afraid, is probably true. The truth is that the war has been horrible; we cannot doubt it. The slaughter of all the defenceless people after the capture of Badajoz, the bombardment of Madrid—an open city bombarded, apparently, quite irrespective of military object—the 442 slaughter of hundreds and perhaps thousands of women and children in the process, the importation of the Moors to carry on a national revolution—all these seem to me some of the most deplorable things that have ever been done in the history of the world. I do not say the rebels are any worse than the other side; I have no means of judging; but I am certainly not prepared to say for a moment that the rebels have any right to throw stones at the Government forces—very much the reverse.
But all that, to my mind, is not the thing that is really important for us to consider. If it were really simply a domestic matter in Spain, I should say that this House was quite wasting its time in discussing the matter at all and that it was not a matter of vital importance to us. But that is not so. Unfortunately, as every one knows, whoever began it—and I admit that I do not know which side began it—one side of this miserable struggle has been adopted by certain Governments, and other Governments—at any rate one other Government, and perhaps more—have adopted the other side. My noble friend Lord Plymouth is of course extremely familiar with the difficulties that have arisen in consequence. That is a frightfully dangerous situation. I do not think one can exaggerate the danger; it is very extreme. I do not wish to utter a word of criticism of the motives which have dictated the policy of His Majesty's Government. They are absolutely unimpeachable. I am sure the Government were perfectly right and that the great object which we should have in view is to prevent this struggle extending beyond the borders of Spain. Horrible and terrible as the result of the revolution in Spain has been, it is of course infinitesimal compared with the horrors of the renewal of a European war. I am sure that was right, and I am bound to admit that I thought the policy adopted by His Majesty's Government at the first was perfectly right.
I hope my noble friend will not think that I am desirous of criticising them in any way about it; I think it was the reasonable policy to try to establish a real neutrality so that no country from outside Spain should join in the struggle at all. If that could have been secured, it would have been an admirable thing, I have not the least doubt. I admit I 443 am not quite so sure about it now. My noble friend Lord Plymouth will no doubt be able to tell us, and I hope he will be able to give us reassuring information, but it does look as if that policy had failed: the policy of "keeping the ring," if I may put it in that way. I do not know which country began it, but first one country began helping one side and then another country began helping the other side, and there can be doubt—at least I think there can be no doubt—that very extensive assistance has been given by outside countries to both sides. We read with great anxiety—at least I do—statements in the newspapers, which I hope are exaggerated, of increasing excitement in the countries outside on this subject, and of an increasing danger of something happening which might precipitate a conflict. I confess that seems to me a very serious situation. Your Lordships will perhaps remember that Lord Lothian, in an interesting speech which he made the other day in this House, said—I think with absolute truth—that there was very little danger of any country starting deliberately a European war. That is not the danger that we have to fear; the danger is first that some incident will set the countries in opposing camps and then that a deplorable crisis will arise and we shall slip into war, as some people think we slipped into war in 1914. That is the danger.
I feel extreme anxiety about the present position. It is my only excuse for venturing to trouble your Lordships with these observations. I agree with what I think Lord Crewe said: that the shipping danger seemed to him very great. So it is; there is no doubt that an incident on the sea might precipitate the most frightful catastrophes. I read, too, this morning in a daily newspaper, I think it was the News-Chronicle, a statement which may have been accurate or inaccurate—I do not know; possibly the Government can tell us—of a most formidable position in the island of Majorca, where this gentleman, the correspondent whose name is given and who got into the island secretly, reports that the whole place is absolutely controlled by the Italian Government; that it is absolutely governed; that they have shot 1,500 civilians; that no ship is allowed to go into the harbour if it is not an Italian or a Spanish ship; and that there are a great quantity of aeroplanes evidently 444 being got ready for the bombardment of Barcelona. That is his story I mention it in this House in the hope that my noble friend may be able to give us an assurance that none of these things have taken place and that it is not true. I dare say he has no information; it is very difficult to get information. But that is the kind of thing that I think is very serious.
Do not let us hide from ourselves what is threatened. What is threatened—it has been threatened definitely and openly—is the bombardment of this great city of Barcelona. Because they think they cannot carry it by assault, therefore they propose to destroy it. That is what is threatened. And I am quite sure of this: if that takes place a situation will have been reached which is of the utmost danger to the peace of Europe. I am quite sure of it. The country has been horrified by what is going on in Madrid, and I am quite sure that if it is repeated in Barcelona there will be the greatest possible danger to peace. That is the feeling I have, and I hesitate to make any suggestion on a matter which is evidently one on which the Executive Government must determine. But I cannot help feeling that what we need is some impartial account of what is actually going on in Spain. I believe that if that account were put before the people of the world they would be able to make up their minds who is most to blame, and what ought to be done. I admit it is doubtful whether it would have any effect, but I cannot help feeling that the great moral pressure which might be exerted in that way might do something to bring the terrible state of things to a conclusion.
I should like, I confess, that the matter should be brought As an international matter before the Council of the League of Nations, and that they should appoint some impartial Committee to inquire into the matter and prepare a report with rapidity, among other things, as to what, in their judgment, if they could form a judgment, the people of Spain really wish, and the possibilities of a settlement. Even if that turns out to be impracticable, I cannot help feeling that a great international appeal, launched with all the solemnity which might attend it, might still have some influence in bringing about a settlement of this horrible struggle. My noble 445 friend, in his concluding observations, compared it to the war between North and South in America. I cannot agree with him that it has any serious resemblance to that struggle. No doubt very horrible things occurred in that as in every similar struggle, but nothing occurred comparable to the things alleged to have been done on both sides in Spain, to the things which certainly happened in the case of the bombardment of Madrid, and the utilisation of the Moslem soldiers, in the name apparently of religion, to destroy the fellow countrymen of the leaders of this revolution. I trust that something may be done to meet this case.
My Lords, I think there is no one in this House who can have failed to be moved by the obvious moderation of Lord Cecil. I am afraid that I find him to have been in certain details too moderate, and it seemed to me that at moments he verged on a too impartial attitude. It is, of course, an attitude which we expect of Lord Cecil, and which, for that reason, carries great weight, but when Lord Crewe and other noble Lords said that there was nothing to choose between the two sides, and Lord Cecil said he would not judge, I am afraid I cannot follow them. I can judge, and I do judge, and I consider that your Lordships should judge. There are said to have been atrocities on both sides. I am afraid, from all the information we have, that that is only too true. But one side denounces these atrocities and has done its best to suppress and prevent them, and the other side has announced them on its own wireless and gloried in them.
On one side you have the massacre of two thousand people ordered by the rebel Generals. I do not think any noble Lord will question that, and on no occasion can it conceivably be, suggested that such an order was given on the Government side. The Government have always deplored the fact that, largely because they were so short of arms, they were unable to arm the police behind the lines and unable to prevent outbreaks of terrorism. Nevertheless, the Government have always deplored them. Noble Lords on the other side talk about attacks upon the Church. I have, for various reasons, taken care to become well informed on the question of Spain. We have taken a great deal of trouble to try 446 to confirm or disprove the stories of atrocities on the Government side. I am sorry to say there have been excesses, but never, as yet, have I found any story of an official atrocity which it has been possible to confirm. I have heard atrocious stories of the burning of nuns and the killing of priests, and so on, but when inquired into, and followed up from street to street, they have been found to be untrue.
Priests have been shot, but priests have shot other people. Stores of money have been found in the cellars of churches. Let your Lordships recall the stores and money found in the Cathedral of Vich. I regret the destruction of the Goya frescoes, but I do not regret the burning of that church. It was an auto da fé. It was burned because it was used as a store for the rebels. I have a number of friends in Catalonia, and they all tell me that it is not true that priests, as such, have been killed. They have not been shot because they were priests, but because they were rebel agents, and so far from being ministers of religion they are taking sides and shooting other men. The Church stands in a particular category, and it must be most particularly careful not to be involved in anything of this sort. A friend of mine arrived yesterday from Spain. In the small town from which he came there were two priests. One remained where he was. The other was found sniping from a corner with other Fascists. He was taken to Barcelona and probably shot. I do not know whether there is such a thing as justifiable homicide, but if there is that would seem to me to be justifiable homicide.
I have heard stories of nuns being burnt, but I have been unable to confirm them. On the other hand I have heard from Barcelona, where nuns were turned out of their houses, that these nuns, although shut up and not allowed out, were brought out in lorries to vote against the Spanish Republic. These nuns, after being turned out of their houses, were given money to take them into France, where they were received by other members of their Order. There have undoubtedly been assassinations in Government territory, but never by the Government themselves. The Government have always deplored them, and done their best to suppress them, and such assassinations are no longer taking 447 place. Lord Cecil has just referred to the latest news from Majorca. Into that the Government might will inquire. There are lots of things that His Majesty's Government might inquire into there. We have the massacres of Badajoz. What about the British Rio Tinto mines? Have the Government any information about that? The noble Earl, Lord Plymouth, looks as if he had, and I hope he has, and that it is better than mine. But these are all massacres ordered by the rebel government.
I do take sides in this matter; it seems to me that there is a right and a wrong. When on one side you have a man like General Queipo de Llano, who broadcasts and announces his late atrocities, we can only hope it is as the drunkard that we know him to be, and that he has not been able to satisfy the sadism which he expressed on the wireless, and that his utterances were exaggerated or untrue. It makes me regret when I hear noble Lords from the Liberal Benches saying that there is nothing to choose between the two sides. There is a great deal to choose. Noble Lords talk about organised government, and the noble Lord, Lord Strickland, produced an elaborate legal theory on the subject which I regret I was unable entirely to follow; it seemed to me a little involved. On Maltese subjects I have thought the noble Lord most interesting; perhaps that is because I do not know Malta, and I do know something about Spain. The noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, doubted whether the present Government was an organised Government. It seems to me a perfectly organised Government so far as a Government, the half of whose country is in a state of rebellion, can be organised. Considering its difficulties and the disastrous treachery towards it, it seems to me to be singularly well organised.
It was described by the noble Lord, Lord Newton, as a Red Government, but I would remind the noble Lord that it was not against the present Government that the rebellion broke out. The Government against which the insurgents rebelled was a most moderate Government, in which there was not even a member as dangerous as my noble friend Lord Strabolgi, or my noble friend Lord Listowel or myself. There was not a single Socialist in the Government. Their most revolutionary proposal was 448 that uncultivated land should be distributed amongst the peasants in order that it might be cultivated. I do not know whether Lord Newton knows the conditions of the Spanish peasantry in Estramadura. Their habitations are picturesque, but while we on this side found the provisions in the Government Bill on overcrowding inadequate, such habitations as were there outlined would lave appeared to the Estramadura peasants to be fit for princes. Noble Lords can have no conception of the conditions in which they live—and that merely because the land belonged to people who used it for sport, or did not use it at all, so that it could not be cultivated. That was the most revolutionary proposal of this "Red" Government against which, in the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Newton, Spaniards were justified in rebelling. If there is at present in Spain a Government somewhat Socialist—and I only say "somewhat"—it is thanks entirely to his friend General Franco, who naturally drove all forces together to resist him.
The noble Lord, Lord Rankeillour, mentioned several subjects, and was partly answered by the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil. He made reference to the "Russian pit." I think I have referred to that in the matter of the composition of the original Spanish Government. Lord Rankeillour seemed to think that the Church was justified in defending its property. I find that for priests people inevitably have slightly different standards, but property is not, so far as I remember, recommended to members of the Church by its Founder. The noble Lord spoke of education. He does not seem to be very well informed on that, because though the Spanish Church has had control of education in Spain ever since there was education, it has strenuously resisted any intrusion of other authorities upon its ground. It was dispossessed of that control by the Republic when it came into power because the Church was known to be so passionately opposed to the Republic, and since that time I am in the happy position of being able to inform the noble Lord that, so far from 50,000 out of 90,000 being turned out of the schools and having no school to go to, the number of pupils in Spain has been doubled. Ho spoke of the most reverend Prelate's cold detachment. The most reverend 449 Prelate did not seem to me to be coldly detached, and I hope that his brother will speak up on his behalf. It seemed to me, on the contrary, that he was taking the warm and the chivalrous part in this matter.
One thing that I greatly regret is that the Committee on Non-intervention is so named. The inevitable reaction one has to that title is that its contrary would have been intervention. Nobody in the world, outside the Fascist countries, has ever suggested intervention in Spain. I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, that at the beginning there was a great deal to be said for the, position which His Majesty's Government took up, but I am afraid it is true that had there been no such policy as non-intervention the whole of this trouble would have been over much more quickly. The Spanish Government would have been able to provide for itself, and would have dealt with its rebels and restored order in its own country. I am afraid that is true. In the meanwhile we have this Non-intervention Committee, and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made a very surprising remark the other day in another place when he said that Italy and Germany were not the worst offenders. That may be so—I do not know to whom he was referring—but whether it is so or not, I think we must inevitably admit that this Committee is farcical.
On the other hand, the affronts which have been placed on British Ambassadors are less farcical. At the beginning of August our Ambassador in Berlin had an interview with the German Foreign Secretary, Baron von Neurath, who informed him that no arms or munitions had been sent to Spain, or would be sent. I can hardly suppose that even His Majesty's Government at that time believed, or can conceivably now believe, that that statement was truthful. To us on these Benches it seems curious that we should have to be defending national honour. We believe in it as much as noble Lords opposite, but we are most of us internationalists; yet we do not much like to see an insult of that sort offered to a British Ambassador. In fact, it seems to me an occasion when our Ambassador-should be withdrawn until such time as that curious statement has been explained. 450 We have now a similar position arising again. The noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, has spoken about Majorca. The Government must be as aware as I am that in all except name there is an Italian occupation of Majorca. As yet the report which we all read with horror in this morning's News-Chronicle has not been confirmed, and it will be difficult to confirm; but I would draw the attention of the Government to the fact that it is Italians who are supposed to have commanded that massacre, and the Government must know as well as I do that it is Italians who have organised the whole of the rebellion and the defence by the rebels of Majorca. If the Italians intend to retire from Majorca when peace is restored in Spain, I shall be one of the happiest members of your Lordships' House, but possibly one of the most surprised, I trust that His Majesty's Government will not be quite so surprised. The whole of this trouble is due to the fact that the Government have had no policy at all, that they never had a foreign policy, that they are divided among themselves, as we all know full well, and that the foreign policy of the Government has been run by a reactionary permanent official in the Foreign Office.
Certainly. Why not? If the Government want to shuffle off their responsibilities, it is a way of doing it, but it is not a very creditable way. The Government, we hope and believe, are in essence neutral in this matter, but they have most unfortunately given an impression of unfriendliness to the Spanish Government. Personally I should be most happy if the Government could in any way dissipate that impression. There have been most unfortunate episodes connected with the refusal of admission to this country of persons coming from Government territory in Spain. There have been persons of irreproachable character, coming here merely for commercial reasons, who have been refused permission to land. There have been others who have come here to express the Spanish Government's point of view and who could not be regarded as dangerous revolutionaries. They, too, have been refused permission to land. I should like a word of explanation from the Government of that particular attitude, which has created a most unfortunate impression.
451 There is one thing which I should like to remark upon and to which the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, referred—the humanisation of this war, if you can talk about such a thing in connection with war. The Government have talked about it a lot. We all thought they were doing something about it but, as I have said, they do not seem to have done some of the things which strike us as obvious. They have not protested against the massacres. They might have protested against the massacre of Badajoz; they might have protested against the massacre in the Rio Tinto British-controlled mines; they might now protest against the massacre in Majorca. These are all large facts difficult to disprove, difficult to excuse. The noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, mentioned the Bulgarian massacres. At that time Englishmen had the courage to say what they thought and the conviction that they were right when they were on sound principles. Are we afraid now to disapprove of massacres? I hope not. I hope the Government are going to tell us they are protesting, that they have protested, and will do it more and more publicly. An interesting sidelight on that has been provided by a book which I have just received entitled "Behind Spanish Barricades." I suggest to your Lordships, who think that your position is truly British, that you should read that book. You should read the reports of English Conservatives in Spain in the last century, who reported with infinite admiration the defence by Spaniards of their own country and their enthusiasm for democratic causes.
One hundred years ago we thought we were a fine democracy. We still say we are. I should like to think we are. One begins to wonder a little bit, when one finds members of your Lordships' House expressing the opinions we have heard this evening, whether that is any longer true. I am a little inclined to doubt it. In the last century it was certainly in our interests to intervene. Spain rose against Napoleon, and we were against Napoleon. But is it any less in our interests today? I do not think so. I do not think it would be any safer now or better for British interests to have the Mediterranean controlled at both ends by the same Power than it was during the last century when we strained every nerve to see that no one should control the entrance to that sea. I do not think so. I 452 hope the Government are happier about this situation than I am. I hope the Admiralty are happier about it, and I hope, if they are considering alternative routes to India, they will not forget that the Canaries are on the way round by South Africa.
There is one minor point on which I should like to ask information. I had occasion to go to buy some sherry the other day, and I was informed by my wine merchant that soon they hoped to be able to arrange means of payment with the shippers of sherry from Jerez. There is a clearing-house arrangement with Spain in operation under which all payments must be paid in here, and are at the disposal of the Spanish Government, which naturally does not distribute them in rebel territories. I should like an assurance that in no circumstances, without the consent of the Spanish Government, will this arrangement be abrogated. It is a matter of private information, and probably my informant ii entirely misinformed, but I should like to be assured on the subject. I have kept your Lordships a long time, but I lave not said one-eighth of what is to be said on Spain or one-eighth of what is seems to me every Englishman on any side, as a member of a democratic State, must inevitably feel. Finally, all I wish to say is that I hope the Government's influence will be used to prevent any kind of annexation of Spanish territory and any threat to British interests.
§ THE UNDEE-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH)
My Lords, I am sure the House will not expect me to approach this subject in the same spirit as that which has been displayed by the noble Lord who has just sat down, during the course of his remarks, which I consider deplorable and not calculated to help any of us in the very difficult task we have before us in steering a safe course through the very troubled waters of Spain. He furthermore took the opportunity of attacking a civil servant, though admittedly he did not name him, but I need not remind your Lordships that that is a practice which is never recognised as proper either here or in another place. I do not intend to follow him in the various rather wild statements that he made, but there is just one point to which I should like to call attention before I proceed to deal with other points 453 which have been raised during the debate. The noble Lord stated that it is his view that it would have been a very much better thing if the policy of non-intervention in this struggle had never been initiated. I thought that a short time ago, at any rate, the policy of non-intervention was a policy to which the Party to which he belongs adhered. I am therefore very much surprised to hear him express the view that it would have been very much better if that policy had never been put into operation. He finished by accusing His Majesty's Government of having no policy in regard to this matter. That is an accusation which I deny, and I think any reasonable person who has followed the course of events will realise that we have adopted a very sensible policy; but I would like to say this, that if he considers His Majesty's Government have no policy in this matter, it is perfectly clear that the Socialist Party have at least half-a-dozen policies.
I do not think that there really is very much information which I am able to give to the House that your Lordships have not already at your disposal. Ever since the beginning of the civil war in Spain the policy of His Majesty's Government has been one of strict non-intervention in the internal affairs of that country. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made a full statement with regard to the formulation and execution of that policy in another place on October 29, and therefore I do not think it is necessary for me to cover the same ground as he did at all fully, but there are one or two observations of a general character which I should like to make. The object which His Majesty's Government have always had in view has been to prevent the civil war from spreading outside the frontiers of Spain itself, which would lead to very serious complications indeed and might Lave incalculable results which we should all very greatly deplore.
I should also like to emphasise this point—one that has been raised by one or two speakers during the course of the afternoon—that His Majesty's Government do not share the view of a number of people that the carrying out of the policy of non-intervention has operated against the Spanish Government and in favour of General Franco. People may have their own opinions on that subject, but that is not the view of His Majesty's 454 Government. My noble friend Lord Snell made the appeal before he left that an effort should be made to make this policy of non-intervention real instead of a sham. Well, all I can say is that it is quite easy to put that question, but it obviously is a great deal harder to devise a method of making non-intervention really effective. I would say that on their part His Majesty's Government are endeavouring to do, as far as they are concerned, everything in their power to make that policy effective, and I will endeavour to explain that point to your Lordships during the course of my later remarks.
Your Lordships will remember that the initiative which led to the conclusion of this Non-Intervention Agreement was taken by the French Government, but from the very start His Majesty's Government have accorded that initiative their full support, and throughout these difficult weeks they have worked in full collaboration with the French Government. I want to state quite categorically that His Majesty's Government propose to continue that policy of non-intervention in the future. They are not doing so because they believe that it has always been successful in preventing arms and war material from going to Spain, but because it has prevented, and we believe can still prevent, an enlargement of the conflict beyond the Spanish border. They also do believe that it has greatly reduced the amount of arms which might have been imported into Spain and thus saved some suffering to the Spanish people. I should like to add, in this connection, that contrary to certain rumours which we have heard, the French Government have stated during the last few days that they, too, intend to continue the non-intervention policy.
I would also like to state that there is no evidence that the Italian and German recognition of General Franco implies that those two countries will abandon non-intervention. The German Minister for Foreign Affairs stated to His Majesty's Ambassador in Berlin that it is not their intention to do so, while the Italian Foreign Minister also informed His Majesty's Ambassador on November 19 that the Italian Government—and here I am quoting—intended to go on in the Non-intervention Committee which was devoted solely to questions relating to supply of munitions to 455 both parties. Recognition therefore did not in any way change the position.I think I have made it quite clear that the Government intend to pursue the policy of non-intervention to the very limit.
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made an important statement in another place on 23rd November, which dealt with certain matters that have been raised to-day—namely, the question of belligerent rights at sea, and all other questions which are germane to that issue. He pointed out during the course of his statement, that our policy was one of non-intervention, and that in pursuance of that policy the Government have been considering further the importation of arms into Spain by sea, and the various problems that arose from that matter. He stated that belligerent rights have not been accorded to either party in Spain, and that there was no present intention on the part of the Government of doing so. As a consequence of that policy, His Majesty's ships will, should it prove necessary, protect British merchant ships on the high seas against interference by ships of either party engaged in the conflict in Spain outside the three mile limit. At the same time, it is not the intention of the Government that British ships should carry war material from any foreign port to any port in Spain, and in order to make this as effective as possible in the difficult circumstances which obtain, the Government intend to introduce legislation immediately rendering the carriage of arms and war material to Spain by British ships illegal.
I should like to point out in connection with the question of according belligerent rights that we would not normally consider the internal troubles of Spain as justifying any Spanish authority in searching British ships on the high seas. In the present circumstances this attitude is even more justifiable in view of the Non-Intervention Agreement by which we have undertaken ourselves not to supply arms to Spain. In so far as that Agreement did not prevent the supply of arms from foreign ports to Spain on British ships, and so to that extent was incomplete, our new policy we hope will complete it and stop up the gap. There is therefore in our view no reason why belligerent rights at sea should be required by either of the contending parties. I think that the 456 grant of belligerent rights would be liable to misinterpretation both at home and abroad. It would have appeared as if we were, in a sense, departing from our policy of neutrality, and assisting one or other of the parties to establish a blockade of the ports of their opponent. The present position, therefore, is that His Majesty's Government have not recognised General Franco, but, on the other hand, they are maintaining unofficial contacts with him, in so far as this is necessary for the proper protection of British interests in those portions of Spain which he controls.
I would like to pass for a moment to the work of the Non-Intervention Committee which I have referred to quite shortly already. It was set up by an agreement between the signatories of the Non-Intervention Agreement in order to supervise the application of that Agreement. I want to say quite frankly that His Majesty's Government have been aware for some time past that breaches of the Agreement have been committed by more than one signatory to the Agreement, but your Lordships will readily understand that it is extremely difficult definitely to prove those breaches. I would merely inform the House that the Government have sent on all the evidence they have been in a position to sub-stantiate to the Non-Intervention Committee which will examine it in due course. In connection with the Non-Intervention Committee I would add what has already been explained by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in another place—namely, that His Majesty's Government are collaborating in every possible effort to make the work of that Committee more effective than it can be at the present moment. A scheme of control and supervision has been agreed to in principle by that Committee with a view to making their work more effective, but until now no approach has been made to either party in Spain on the subject. The scheme is not quite complete, and therefore, as I say, so far no approach has been made to the two parties in Spain.
The noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, referred to the position in Majorca. I am afraid that I am not in a position to confirm or contradict the information that appeared in the News-Chronicle this morning. I think it is generally acknowledged that there are a considerable 457 number of Italians on that island. All I am in a position to say is—and this affects the future rattier than the present—that there have been suspicions on various sides that it was the intention of the Italian Government, perhaps as a result of a bargain with General Franco, to take over one or more of the islands in the Balearic Group. I wish to say that on several occasions in recent months the Italian Government have given His Majesty's Government full assurances as to the absence of any Italian intentions in regard to the Balearic Isles.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
Might I interrupt for a moment to ask whether my noble friend would consider the possibility of laying on the Table the exact terms of the assurances which have been given? I think it would be at any rate a great satisfaction to some of us to know exactly what was said.
§ THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH
I will certainly consider that point. Only a few days ago the Head of that Government, in an interview granted to a British Press correspondent, repeated this declaration in the most ample and satisfactory form. His words must, of course, be taken as a full and sufficient official assurance, and I would only add that His Majesty's Government regarded it as almost unnecessary in view of the previous assurances spontaneously and on several occasions prior to this declaration given officially to them.
Certain references have been made to the humanitarian side of this terrible conflict, and I feel that I must make some reference myself to that and to the question of mediation. The Government have on their part made every possible effort to help in this way. The offer of His Majesty's Government to place His Majesty's ships at the disposal of the two parties for effecting exchanges of prisoners, hostages and others remains open and both parties have been informed to that effect. His Majesty's representative in Madrid has formed a committee with two of his colleagues for the purpose of offering on behalf of the Diplomatic Corps their services to the Spanish Government for any humanitarian mediation which might be suggested. They also offered, if necessary, to cross the lines and negotiate humanitarian exchanges with the insurgent forces. Both His Majesty's 458 representative in Madrid and His Majesty's Ambassador at Hendaye are in continuous touch with the representatives of the International Red Cross.
I entirely agree with the noble Viscount on the Cross Benches that every possible effort should be made in order to bring this struggle to as early a conclusion as possible. Anything that any person or any country can do to that end will be something for which the whole of the rest of the world would naturally be grateful. His Majesty's Government would lose no opportunity of making their contribution in this connection if the opportunity arose. I can only say for the moment that I regret that His Majesty's Government have received indications that there is at present little basis for reconciliation between the two parties. Therefore they do not consider that the present moment at any rate is opportune for a general offer of mediation.
I think I have dealt with the majority of the points that have been raised during the course of the debate. There are so many aspects that it is difficult to deal with these matters at all fully, but they have been dealt with at different times by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and it seemed to me that it was perhaps not necessary on this occasion to go right, back to the very beginning of the trouble and cover it once again. But I think I have made it clear that His Majesty's Government are fully conscious of the various difficulties and considerations which are involved in the situation in Spain. I think I have furthermore made it clear that His Majesty's Government have most rightly and willingly adhered to a policy of non-intervention from the very beginning of this struggle, and that they intend to continue in that policy in the future. I believe I am justified in saying that they have the support of the vast majority not only of your Lordships but of the people of the whole country in following out that policy.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Snell has asked me to apologise to the noble Earl, Lord Plymouth, and to your Lordships, for having been called away on a public engagement after he had made his speech in introducing this debate. He asked me to make any remarks that I thought necessary in his absence and I will 459 do that as quickly as possible. I regret as much as any noble Lord in this House the terrible things that have happened in Spain. I used to know that country well, and I found the Spanish people, high and low, some of the most agreeable and admirable people in Europe. The Spanish peasant is as fine a man as one can find anywhere in Europe, a courteous, honest and decent fellow. The Spanish gentry, the upper classes, are the most delightful and gallant people that one can hope to meet. It is a nation which has given much to art, learning and literature, and now it is racked by this terrible struggle. I must say that the people who started this business and who instigated it will answer before their Creator. I regret very much that certain things have been said from the other side of the House which would seem to excuse and apologise for the ghastly things which are happening in Spain to-day.
The noble Earl mentioned the Bill which is being introduced in another place early next week and of which we have not seen the text, but which I understand is to prevent British ships from carrying raw material, say, from Antwerp to a Spanish port. I have to ask the noble Earl whether, if the Bill is not yet completely drafted, a clause will be considered, or if it is drafted, whether an Amendment will be considered, to widen it to a certain extent if what I am now going to suggest is not already included. I think we come up here against the difficulty of the doctrine of continuous voyage. If British merchant ships are to carry raw material, say, from Antwerp to Lisbon and it is then to be carried through Portugal into Spain, they will be open to aggressive action possibly by Spanish Government war vessels, and therefore my friends think that the terms of the Bill, if it becomes an Act, should be extended to cover Portugal or any other contiguous country where the continuous voyage may come in.
In connection with this matter of continuous voyage I have seen, as other noble Lords have, the most extraordinary statements in the newspapers—the only information I have had on these matters—about the use of Gibraltar—our Gibraltar!—as a place of transit by aviators, Italians and Germans, in uniform, in the most open way on their way to join the 460 rebels. These things have been in the newspapers and the noble Earl has not heard of it; I know he has not. I am sure he has been hearing of some most extraordinary things in the Committee over which he presides. May I offer my personal sympathy to him? I expect he is having some experience of what I believe is called the "new diplomacy" there. But, if he will allow me to say so, the left hand of His Majesty's Government does not always know what the right hand is doing. In this case I am afraid a great deal must have gone on that has been hidden from him. That is one of the things that has appeared, not once but several times, in reputable newspapers, and many other things have appeared as well.
In connection with that, I must press the noble Earl on the question raised by my noble friend Lord Faringdon and by the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, and that is the situation in Majorca. That, I believe, is notorious. The noble Earl says he has no information, but I hope that your Lordships, whatever your views art; on the matter, will support me in pressing for Papers presently to be laid—not now—on the Table.
§ THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH
What I said was that I was not in a position to confirm or contradict the article to which the noble Viscount had drawn my attention.
I do not ask for Papers to-night, but I wish that the noble Earl would consider circularising in the usual way what information he has. After all, we have had warships, our own warships, continuously in Majorca harbour; they must know what is going on there. We have, I think, a Consul-General in Majorca, and we used to have a very good Intelligence Service—in fact, we had three Intelligence Services, not always acting in complete harmony with each other: the Foreign Office Intelligence Service; what was known as M.I., the Military Intelligence Service, and the Naval Intelligence Service. We had the Military, the Naval and the Foreign Office Intelligence Services in the Mediterranean. They must know what is going on. In fact, I expect they knew a good deal more about what was going 461 on than His Majesty's; Government knew, and they knew what was going to happen before it did happen. If I dared to be perfectly frank with your Lordships, I should express the opinion that they quite well knew what was brewing, that they hoped for a quick decision and were not unsympathetic to the attempt. But I do not want to go into that matter at length, and I will content myself now with answering only a couple of points made by the noble Earl, Lord Plymouth. I must do this.
What was deplorable in the speech of my noble friend Lord Faringdon? I did not think it was at all deplorable. My noble friend spoke with fervour, but I find it difficult to speak on this subject with composure myself. The noble Lord is younger than I am and has not had quite so much experience of Parliamentary speech. With great respect to my noble friend, I think he gave an excellent and well-marshalled speech, and I do not think he was at all strong in his statements. As for his attacking the permanent officials, I am going to repeat that the left hand of His Majesty's Government does not know what the right hand is doing.
Some of your Lordships may remember that we once had a war in Arabia—I wonder if the noble Earl knows about this; the noble Marquess certainly knows of it—which was fought by deputy between the India Office and the Foreign Office. The India Office were backing Ibn Saud and the Foreign Office were backing King Feisal's family, and each side got plenty of gold and plenty of arms and went on fighting quite happily. It would not surprise me, when the whole story of the war in Spain comes out, to hear that the Admiralty had been backing one side and the Foreign Office the other—not at all—and that the noble Earl had quite honestly been unaware of what had been going on. If we have stirred the curiosity of Lord Plymouth in this debate, my noble friend Lord Snell, I submit to your Lordships, has been well justified. I hope the noble Earl will make further inquiries and will answer my noble friend who is sitting behind me and the noble Viscount on this question of Majorca, because many people are worried about it.
462 The other question is this. I have been very glad to hear that at long last His Majesty's Government are really standing up to somebody for British rights. I refer to British rights at sea. It is really about time that we showed, if I may be allowed to use the expression, a little backbone in this matter. I congratulate the noble Earl on what he said about maintaining the rights for our British merchant ships to pursue their lawful occasions on the high seas. I have in my hand two newspaper cuttings about cases of rebel gunboats apprehending vessels on the high seas. In one case a British ship, the "Thornhope," 2,272 tons, of Newcastle, proceeding on her lawful occasions past the north coast of Spain bound for Algiers, was arrested by a rebel gunboat and taken into Vigo—a British ship, flying the British flag! And then they found that she was bound for Algiers and not for a Spanish port, and so they were good enough to let her go. That was all reported in the Daily Herald of November 17 last, and I should like to know if there is any truth in it. The other report is that a Norwegian steamer, the "Lisken," 2,000 tons, registered at Bergen, carrying a cargo of potatoes from Sunderland bound for a Spanish port in Government territory, the port of Valencia, was taken into Vigo by a Spanish gunboat and the potatoes, presumably belonging to distressed British agriculturists—I hope noble Lords opposite, especially Lord Newton, will have as much sympathy for the British farmers as they have for the rebel Generals—were confiscated. That is an intolerable state of affairs, and I hope that a stop is going to be put to that sort of piracy.
Now I only want to complete these few remarks. I am sorry the hour is late, but this is the only opportunity we have had of discussing Spain in your Lordships' House since last July. There has been no discussion on this matter since the trouble began in Spain. We do not complain on this side of the House. We have had our opportunity, but the hour is getting late. The policy of the Labour Party is perfectly clear. There are not six policies. Our policy was laid down at Edinburgh after a very full discussion, which lasted three days. We want to get back to legality. All the parties concerned have been breaking the 463 law, if I may so put it—the law of nations. The original so-called nonintervention policy, which we reluctantly supported—the Government had all the facts and it was very difficult for the Labour Party—was an illegality. The Government of Spain was a recognised Government with an Ambassador at the Court of St. James's. Whether it was a, bad or a good Government does not matter. I think all Governments are bad—
I say we adhered to it very reluctantly, and I say it is not a question of whether the Spanish Government is good or bad. I think all Governments are bad, only in different degrees—not only the Spanish Government. It was a Government recognised as the Government of Spain, with an Ambassador at the Court of St. James's, and it was an illegality to prevent that Government from purchasing munitions for the suppression of insurrection in its own country. It was a greater illegality for certain Powers to aid and abet the rebels. We cannot always be perfectly logical. I admit that the circumstances were rather difficult, and when the French Government introduced this policy of non-intervention we reluctantly agreed to it. Now it has proved a failure, and we do want to get back to International Law. That is clearly set out in the resolution passed at the Edinburgh Conference without a single dissentient. As to the statement of the noble Lord, Lord Rankeillour, about whether if there were a rebellion in Germany against the Hitler Government we should permit the Hitler Government to buy arms here, the answer is "Undoubtedly." You cannot differentiate in the law between this and that 464 person. There is the law, and you have to carry it out. If there is an insurrection in Germany, and the Nazi Government desires to buy arms in this country, it is an unfriendly act to refuse it, and the legal position is to allow them to do it. In this case I think we must get back to the law of nations. I admit the situation is delicate, and I should personally like to support the plea of Lord Cecil, that if there is real danger the Covenant of the League of Nations should be invoked. Speaking for myself, I think we should have done that long ago.
There is one other warning which I might give, very respectfully. I believe the new danger is a little different. I think there is a new danger. From information which reaches me, such as it if, I think the rebel cause is losing. I think that General Franco is beaten, and that to save himself he will try to involve other nations. I admit that the Government are in a delicate position, and that they have all the information: We are not quite satisfied, however, with regard to the Balearic Islands, that all the information is available, and I hope that they will try to obtain further information. I apologise for keeping the House at this late hour, and in the circumstances ask leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.