Skip to main content


Volume 345: debated on Monday 20 March 1939

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government contemplate granting de jure recognition to the German Government's annexation and control of the territories formerly forming part of Czechoslovakia, namely, Bohemia and Moravia?

His Majesty's Government will require to give full consideration, in concert with other Governments, to all the consequences of German action against Czechoslovakia before any statement can be made on the question of recognition.

Is the British Legation in Prague still to receive diplomatic immunity, more especially in view of the fact that a large number of British citizens have taken refuge in the Legation?

Perhaps the hon. and learned Member will put that question down.

In the meantime, what is the position of the Czech Legation here?

I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman must put that question down.


asked the Prime Minister what reports reached him from Prague or elsewhere, on or prior to 6th March, 1939, that it was the confirmed belief of the people of Prague that the Germans would march into Prague on 15th March; and what inquiries he made in Berlin and Prague on such reports?

There is, so far as I am aware, no basis for the assumption made in the first part of the question. The second part of the question does not, therefore, arise.

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to a statement made by Mr. Edwards, a member of the executive of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, and published in a London paper on 6th March, that it was the confirmed belief of the people of Prague, from whence he had just returned, that Hitler's troops would march in on 15th March?

I have not seen that, but if the hon. Member will bring it to my notice, I shall be very glad to look at it.

Are we to understand that a statement published in the London Press on the subject was not known to the British Intelligence Service? Are these things concealed from the wise and prudent of the Foreign Office, and revealed only to the "Daily Worker "?

I have no doubt that the wise and prudent of the Foreign Office noticed it, but it did not happen to come to my notice.

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been called to a statement made in the French Chamber by the French Foreign Secretary that he indicated something on the subject to His Majesty's Government about nth March?

I will inquire into the point which the hon. and gallant Member has brought to my notice.


asked the Prime Minister how many pieces of artillery, tanks, and military aircraft have passed from the Czecho-Slovak Army into the possession of the German Army?

Has the right hon. Gentleman received a report, attributed to the French General Staff, that there are 3,000 guns, 2,000 tanks, and 1,500 modern aircraft?


asked the Prime Minister whether he has been informed of the terms of the ultimatum delivered by Herr Hitler to President Hacha on 15th March; and what representations have been made by His Majesty's Ambassador in Berlin, following the intervention of the German Government in the internal affairs of Czecho-Slovakia?


asked the Prime Minister whether it has now been decided to call home His Majesty's Ambassador at Berlin to report on the situation, or whether the Ambassador has been instructed to make any representations to the head of the German Government regarding the German annexation of Czecho-Slovakia?

I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT the text of the Agreement signed on 15th March between Herr Hitler and the President of the Czecho-Slovak Republic. So far as I am aware, no written ultimatum was presented to Dr. Hacha prior to his acceptance of this Agreement. His Majesty's Ambassador in Berlin was instructed on 17th March to inform the German Government that His Majesty's Government desired to make it plain to them that they could not but regard the events of the past few days as a complete repudiation of the Munich Agreement and a denial of the spirit in which the negotiators of that Agreement bound themselves to co-operate for a peaceful settlement. Sir Nevile Henderson was also instructed to say that His Majesty's Government must take this occasion to protest against the changes effected in Czecho-Slovakia by German military action, which are, in their opinion, devoid of any basis of legality. His Majesty's Ambassador has now been recalled to London to report on the situation.

Has the Prime Minister's attention been drawn to a statement in the Press that Herr Hitler threatened to send his air squadrons to bomb Prague unless the President of Czecho-Slovakia accepted his demands?

Following is the text:

Translation of the text of the Agreement signed on 15th March by Herr Hitler and Herr von Ribbentrop on behalf of Germany and by Dr. Hacha and Dr. Chzalkovsky on behalf of Czechoslovakia:

"The Führer to-day in the presence of the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs, Herr von Ribbentrop, received the Czecho-Slovak President, Dr. Hacha, and the Czecho-Slovak Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Chzalkovsky, at their request in Berlin. At the meeting the serious situation which had arisen as a result of the events of the past week on what was hitherto Czecho-Slovak territory was closely and frankly examined. Both sides gave expression to their mutual conviction that the aim of all efforts in this part of Central Europe should be the safeguarding of calm, order, and peace. The Czecho-Slovak President declared that in order to serve this purpose, and in order to secure final pacification, he placed the destiny of the Czech people and country with confidence in the hands of the Führer of the German Reich.
The Führer accepted this declaration and expressed his determination to take the Czech people under the protection of the German Reich and to guarantee to it an autonomous development of its national life in accordance with its particular characteristics."


asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the recent annexation of Czecho-Slovakia by the German Government, His Majesty's Government contemplate consultation with other Governments adhering to the principles of the League Covenant and the Kellogg Peace Pact, with a view to securing common measures of defence against unprovoked aggression?

The whole situation is at present under review by His Majesty's Government.


asked the Prime Minister whether arrangements have been, or will be, made to avoid a repetition of the great congestion which occurred at the Legation and Consular offices in Vienna after the annexation of Austria by providing a substantial increase in staff and accommodation at Prague for dealing with visas, passports, etc.?

The necessary arrangements are being made, and further increases in staff are under consideration.


asked the Prime Minister whether the premises of His Majesty's Legation at Prague still enjoy extra-territoriality; what is the position of British subjects who have sought refuge in the Legation; and how their evacuation from the territory formerly known as Czecho-Slovakia will be effected?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. His Majesty's Government are endeavouring to arrange with the German authorities for such British subjects, other than the staff of His Majesty's Legation, who are at present living in the Legation, to be allowed to return to this country without hindrance.


asked the Prime Minister whether he can give any information concerning the suicide of the honorary British Vice-Consul at Brno, Czechoslovakia?

I have been asked to reply. Yes, Sir. I much regret to say that Mr. Walter Neumark, British Vice-Consul at Brno, committed suicide on 16th March. It is known that Mr. Neumark had been in poor health for some time and was suffering from depression, and it would seem probable that the strain of recent events aggravated his condition.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a number of important people committed suicide on the same day?

Did this gentleman not apply recently for British naturalisation? Has there been any delay?


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he intends to take to safeguard the interests of the bondholders, and others, who are owed money by the late Czecho-Slovak Government?


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has any further statement to make as to the release of the gold reserves of the bank of the late kingdom of Czecho-Slovakia to the present controllers of the finances of the new State?

The House is already aware of the action taken with regard to Czechoslovak gold or balances held by the Bank of England, and I must now further report to the House that on Friday last the Bank of England, at my request, informed banks and other financial institutions in this country which hold balances, securities or gold on behalf of the former Czecho-Slovak Government, the National Bank of Czecho-Slovakia, or any other persons in the former Czecho-Slovak Republic that His Majesty's Government consider that it is desirable that they should not make any payments from such balances, or part with securities or gold without the assent of the Treasury. Legislation is required to validate compliance with this request, and to secure that the institutions concerned are effectively indemnified. The necessary Bill will be introduced immediately.

May I ask whether people who have balances in the Bank of Czecho-Slovakia and who are now refugees in this country and in France will be able to. withdraw any of their money if they can prove that they had balances in the Bank of Czecho-Slovakia?

Can the Chancellor of the Exchequer inform the House whether it is the case that German military lorries have removed £25,000,000 sterling from the Bank of Czecho-Slovakia to Berlin?

I cannot answer the last question because I do not know. With regard to the question of the hon. Lady, that is one of the considerations which is now being looked into. This is a complicated matter, and I think for the moment that the thing to do is to secure an effective embargo.

May I ask whether, pending the legislation to which my right hon. Friend has referred, the various banking institutions in this country have agreed to the suggestion of His Majesty's Government not to pay out any money of the former Szecho-Slovak Government?

Is it possible for the right hon. Gentleman to say what are the gold reserves of the Czecho-Slovak Bank in this country, or balances held over here?

Will the legislation apply to branches of foreign banks in London as well as to British banks?

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for raising that point. I will look into it. I do not think I can answer it now.

If there are claims by the German Government upon Czech assets in this country other than bank deposits, will they similarly be resisted?

I think the practical thing for the moment is being done. It deals with gold, securities and balances which might otherwise be moved from institutions in this country. That is the practical thing to do.