HC Deb 16 May 1912 vol 38 cc1253-4

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has Consular or other information that Russia is suffering now from a famine worse than any since 1891; if so, whether the area affected comprises all provinces on the Middle and Lower Volga, the Ural provinces, and West Siberia; and whether the Russian Government is taking steps to meet the distress; and whether loss of life through starvation is being suffered?


I much regret to say that serious distress prevails in certain provinces of European Russia on the Middle and Lower Volga and over a large area of Western Siberia. The action taken by the Russian Government for the relief of the famine is a matter of internal administration, and not the concern of a foreign Government. I understand, with regard to the second question, there exists in Russia a permanent fund for the relief of periodic agricultural distress, and, in view of the failure of last year's harvest in the abovementioned districts, provision was made in the Estimates for the present year for increasing this fund by £2,000,000. The expenditure on relief has, however, already greatly exceeded this sum, and the amount actually spent on this, or sanctioned is now £13,000,000. Various private organisations also exist for coping with the famine. As regards the last point in the hon. and learned Gentleman's question, have no information. Perhaps I ought to add that I cannot undertake to give information of this kind; but I do not think it is reasonable to refuse all information to the hon. Gentleman. We suffer from famine in some parts of the British Empire, as is well known, and I think it may be of general interest to know how other governments deal with these calamities from which any country may suffer.


Are we right in assuming that this does not affect British subjects?


Yes, Sir, it does not affect British subjects, but, as I added at the end of my answer, my reason for giving the information was that it might be of general interest, because any Government might have to cope with the same sort of misfortune.


Is not the matter one vitally affecting British trade?

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