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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]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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