HC Deb 10 August 1920 vol 133 cc351-5

10.0 P.M.


By permission of the House, as I have already spoken, I should like to answer the question put to me by my right hon. Friend. In the course of the discussion this evening a document came into my hands signed by M. Kameneff. I will read it to the House. I could not read it without obtaining the permission of those who have communicated it, and having now received that permission I can read it. I received the document some time after I had spoken this evening, and it is as follows:

" Mr. Kameneff presents his compliments to the right honourable D. Lloyd George and begs to communicate to him the terms of the Armistice and Preliminaries for Peace which will be submitted at Minsk by the Russian Delegates. Mr. Kameneff makes the reservation that these terms may be-supplemented by details of secondary moment.

The following are the terms of an Armistice and Preliminaries for Peace with Poland:—

  1. 1. The strength of the Polish Army shall be reduced to one annual contingent up to 50,000 men and the command and administration of the Army to an aggregate of 10,000 men.
  2. 2. The demobilisation shall take place within one month.
  3. 3. All arms, over and above such as may be required for the needs of the Army as reduced above as well as of the Civic Militia, shall be handed over to Soviet Russia and the Ukraine.
  4. 4. All war industries shall be demobilised.
  5. 5. No troops or war material shall be allowed to come from abroad.
  6. 6. The line Volkovisk-Bielostock-Crajevo shall be placed fully at the disposal of Russia for commercial transit from and to the Baltic.
  7. 7. The families of all Polish citizens killed, wounded, or incapacitated in the war shall be given lands free.

On the other hand:

  1. 1. Parallel with the demobilisation, the Russian and Ukrainian troops shall withdraw from the Polish front.
  2. 2. Upon the termination of these operations, the number of Russian troops on the Russian frontier line shall be considerably reduced and fixed at a figure to be agreed upon.
  3. 353
  4. 3. The Armistice line shall be the status quo, but not further east than the one indicated in the Note of Lord Ourzon of Kedleston of July the 20th. The Polish Array shall withdraw to a disstance of 50 versts from that line, the zone between the two lines being neutral.
  5. 4. The final frontier of the independent State of Poland shall in the main be identical with the line indicated in the Note of Lord Curzon o£ Kedleston of July the 20th, hut, additional, territory shall be given to Poland on the east in the region of Bielostock and Kholm."

That is the whole of the document. Immediately on receiving the document. after consultation with as many of my colleagues in the House, we communicated the terms to Poland and we communicated the terms to France and, I think, to Italy. I do not think that it is quite fair that my right hon. Friend should ask me to express an opinion. My right hon. Friend asks me whether it would be fair to-morrow. I will give my reason why I do not think it would be fair. The Russian Government have insisted on conducting the negotiations direct with the Polish Government—I am not complaining of that in the least. They said that they were entitled to direct negotiations and they have preferred that course. Having taken that course, I do not think it would be fair for me, when the delegates of both sides are meeting, perhaps to-morrow or the day after, to express an opinion which might embarrass the discussion. There are certain things of which I do not quite know the meaning, and on which the Polish delegates would certainly ask for an explanation, and a good deal depends upon the explanation that is given. I think it would be very unfair for us to express an opinion upon detailed terms of this kind. We have given our preliminary impression to the Polish Government. Beyond that I do not think it would be fair for us to go. It would be taking the negotiations out of the hands of the Polish Government. I do not think that we can express an opinion either to-day or to-morrow, but I agree with my right hon. Friend that this creates a new situation.


May I urge on the Prime Minister that he will not close his mind to-night to the urgent request that has been made from these Benches and from our Labour colleagues, and which has received a very large amount of assent from the general body of the House, that the House should not adjourn until the public of this country is fully seized of the actual position.


I trust my right hon. Friend will not press that to-night. I am very hopeful that it will be casting an unnecessary burden upon the House of Commons, even if we agree to adjourn for a few days. If the right hon. Gentleman is still of the same opinion on Wednesday or Thursday, he might put the question again, but as at present advised, I think it would be very undesirable for us at this stage to indicate any acquiescence in the proposals he put forward. I think, from the point of view which we all have in common, namely, the securing of peace between the parties, it would be very undesirable at this stage to give an undertaking of that character.


We are only anxious that peace should be made, and that the House of Commons should have a voice in the making of peace, in deciding whether the terms are reasonable or not. In the meantime, while these negotiations are going on, can the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that we and our Allies will cease from hostile action against Russia, both as regards sending munitions to Poland and as regards any assistance to Wrangel or anybody else acting against Russia, and will the right hon. Gentleman, if he is as sincere as we are in desiring that peace should be made—



The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. A. Chamberlain)

The hon. and gallant Gentleman is singularly offensive.

Captain BENN

I had not the least intention of being offensive, but let me say this to the Chancellor of the Exchequer—


You were speaking in an offensive way.

Captain BENN

If we are to have peace, it is essential that we ourselves should abstain, not only as regards the Polish side of the situation, but as regards Southern Russia, from any offensive action against Russia by ourselves and our friends, and also from any attempt to break up the peace negotiations by the Secretary of State for War or anybody else. [Interruption.] We are simply anxious to get peace, and we want an assurance—[HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"]—All we desire is that peace shall be a permanent peace for the whole of Russia.

Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.