159 Mr M. MacDonald, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Mr J. A. Lyons, Prime Minister

Circular Cablegram B80 LONDON, 24 March 1938, 2.55 a.m.


Following for Prime Minister:-

My telegram Circular B. No. 75. [1] It is proposed to include the following passage relating to Spain:-

There is another subject which is of such great importance that the House will rightly expect me to make reference to it.

With regard to the unhappy situation in Spain the policy of His Majesty's Government has been plainly declared. That policy has consistently, from the outbreak of the conflict, been one of non- intervention in Spanish affairs and the loyal observation of our obligations under the Non-Intervention Agreement. [2]

This policy was adopted in view of the dangerous international situation which threatened to develop with the first signs of civil strife in Spain.

From the early stages of the conflict, the prospect of open and active assistance to both Spanish parties from outside constituted a menace to the peace of Europe. If nothing was done to check this process, it might well have culminated in a general European war.

His Majesty's Government, acting in concert with the French Government, came to the conclusion that the only way to avert this very serious threat was by inducing other European Powers to fall in with their own determination to adopt a completely impartial attitude to both parties in Spain and to refrain from giving material assistance to either side.

His Majesty's Government are fully alive to the fact that infringements of practice on non-intervention have taken place and continue to take place. But they feel that serious as these infringements are, in their view there has been a great exaggeration both of their extent and value which they may have been in rendering assistance to one party rather than to the other in Spain. They have occurred in varying degrees at different times in favour of both sides.

These circumstances do not however alter the judgment of H.M.

Government that the policy of non-intervention, even though infractions of this policy may take place, affords the best means of avoiding a major conflagration.

In the meanwhile H.M. Government in a spirit of complete impartiality have devoted their efforts to such humanitarian work as has been possible for the benefit of the Spanish people as a whole. They have greatly deplored the excesses committed during this strife as affecting the civilian population, and they have taken every opportunity which presented itself to convey to both sides their strong disapproval of the employment of such methods which have earned public condemnation and are contrary to the rules of international law. It will be within the recollection of the House that so recently as on March 18th last, I expressed in this House horror and disgust at the indiscriminate bombing which was being carried out at Barcelona at that time, and strong representations have since been made to Salamanca authorities on this matter in conjunction with the French Government. It is a matter of some satisfaction to note that though their representations have as yet met with no definite response, there has been no recurrence of bombing at Barcelona since their representations were made.

1 Document 154 2 On 15 August 1937 Britain and France pledged not to interfere in Spain, and announced a prohibition on the export or re-export of all armaments and materials of war, to be effective as soon as Germany, Italy, U.S.S.R. and Portugal adhered to the declaration.

[AA : A981, GREAT BRITAIN 8B, ii]