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Rome (Bombing)

Volume 390: debated on Wednesday 30 June 1943

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3.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will endeavour, through a neutral Power, to obtain from the Italian Government reliable guarantees that by an early date, to be specified, Rome shall be divested of all military and other installations likely to assist the Axis war effort so that the city may be regarded by the United Nations as an open town?

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether representations have been made to the Italian Government that Rome should be declared an open city in order to avoid any possible destruction of ancient monuments in connection with the inevitable bombing of the large industrial plants and military objectives in and around Rome which will be necessary in order to save British lives during the forthcoming invasion of Italy; and what reply has been received?

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government are willing to declare Rome an open town and safe from aerial bombardment if all military objectives are removed; whether this restriction of aerial warfare without detriment to the war effort will also be applied to other areas in Great Britain, the countries occupied by enemy forces and in enemy countries; and whether diplomatic and international action has been or will be taken to secure sympathetic consideration of this possibility of minimising the destruction of life and cultural treasures?

His Majesty's Government have made no approach of any kind to the Italian Government in regard to the bombing of Rome, and we do not intend to make one. I repeat that we should not hesitate to bomb Rome to the best of our ability and as heavily as possible if the course of the war should render such action convenient and helpful.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he does not think it desirable, in connection with the essential and inevitable bombing of war objectives in and around Rome, to place the responsibility for any consequential damage to ancient monuments upon Signor Mussolini in not proclaiming Rome as an open town?

I think the responsibility is clear enough. Nobody invited Signor Mussolini to attack France, and nobody invited him to send his bombers to bomb London.

On what authority then was the statement made by one of the daily newspapers that, if Rome were divested of military objectives, it might be considered as an open town?

What happened was that there was a misunderstanding of some remark made off the record in a Press conference, but what I have just said is the position of His Majesty's Government.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the principle involved would not be considered, seeing that it would be in the interest of common humanity to consider the possibility of not bombing open towns divested of military objectives?

On a point of Order. I believe the right hon. Gentleman was going to give me a reply to my supplementary Question, and will it be permissible for me to receive it?

I was only going to remark that I think it would be in the interests of humanity if Signor Mussolini was to realise that the best thing to do for his country is to accept the unconditional surrender terms of the Allies.