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Volume 320: debated on Wednesday 24 February 1937

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Non-Intervention Committee have now reached an agreement to prevent men and munitions of war from entry to Spain; whether the countries parties to the agreement have been allotted sections of the sea coast or frontiers of Spain for surveillance; and, if so, will he indicate the section placed in the charge of each country?

The International Committee agreed on 16th February to extend the Non-Intervention Agreement to prohibit the entry into Spain of persons proposing to take service in the war in addition to prohibiting the export to that country of arms and war material. The prohibition was to take effect as from 20th February, and I understand that all the Governments concerned took the necessary measures on that date. As regards the remainder of the question, the final details regarding the proposed plan of supervision are now under discussion between the Governments concerned, and it is hoped that a definite agreement on this subject will be reached within the next few days.

Are any negotiations going on upon the Non-Intervention Committee for the withdrawal of those foreign nationals now in Spain?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can make a statement on the latest arrangements which have been approved by the Non-Intervention Committee for the supervision of the Portuguese frontier?

An arrangement has been reached between His Majesty's Government and the Portuguese Government by which 130 British officials will observe the application of the Non-Intervention Agreement on the Spanish-Portuguese frontier. This arrangement has been communicated to the Non-Intervention Committee. The committee have approved the principle of a special AngloPortuguese arrangement, but the final details of the scheme have not yet been submitted to them.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the Communist organisation in Great Britain is recruiting British unemployed workers for the Spanish Government by promises of work at £6 a week behind the lines in Spain and that, on their arrival, such men are at once put into the fighting line without preliminary military training, so that considerable numbers have lost their lives; and whether the Government will take immediate steps to prevent the exploitation of the unemployed in the manner referred to, and will arrange for the repatriation of all British citizens who have been enlisted in the forces of the Spanish Government in the manner described?

I have no information on this point other than that which has appeared in the Press. As regards the second part of the question, the Governments concerned have agreed to extend the Non-Intervention Agreement to cover the recruitment in, the transit through, or the departure from, their respective countries of persons of non-Spanish nationality intending to proceed to Spain or the Spanish Dependencies for the purpose of taking part in the civil war, and this prohibition became effective as from midnight 20th-2Ist February. As regards the last part, consular officers are authorised under standing instructions to repatriate on application any deserving British subject who may be without means. These general instructions would cover those cases referred to by my hon. Friend. Instructions are, however, being issued not to defray without special authority the cost of return journey to this country of any person who left the United Kingdom for the purpose indicated above on or after 11th January, the date on which attention was drawn by His Majesty's Government to the provisions of the Foreign Enlistment Act in relation to Spain. Consular officers are being instructed to refer to His Majesty's Government any cases falling within the above category which may appear to deserve special consideration.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some 40 of these unfortunate unemployed men, who were enlisted as described and who were recently captured by General Franco's forces, made a solemn declaration to the effect stated in the question; and is it not desirable that the Government should take steps to stamp out an organisation which is enlisting these unfortunate unemployed men and which consists of the very people who are doing their best to prevent recruitment for the British Army in this country?

If repatriation of British citizens is not applied, can the withdrawal of volunteers be made effective?

That is another question. In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison), I deprecate as much as anybody else enlistment here contrary to law, but any action in this country is not a matter for me.

In the event of action being taken covering the persons referred to in the question, would it cover also persons who had volunteered to serve in General Franco's army, or are we to understand that no British citizens have thought fit to volunteer for General Franco?

Is the Minister aware that the basis of the original question is a lying campaign being conducted in the "Daily Mail"?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what complaints he has received from representatives of British businesses in Spain regarding treatment of such business interests by the Government of General Franco; what businesses have made such complaints; and whether he has made successful representations to the Government of General Franco regarding them?

Certain British undertakings with interests in Spain have approached His Majesty's Government regarding the difficulties which they are experiencing as a result of action taken by General Franco's administration. Representations have been made to General Franco's administration, and, in view of the prejudice caused to British interests, the matter is under the urgent consideration of His Majesty's Government.


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether it is proposed to attach British naval officers to the German and Italian naval forces operating off the coast of Spain?

Would it not be very useful and important to observe these naval forces in action?

That seems to me to be essentially a question for the Non-Intervention Committee.

Does the right hon. Gentleman's reply indicate his complete trust in his own particular friends?