HC Deb 16 November 1920 vol 134 cc1670-1
47. Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

asked the Prime Minister whether all British prisoners have now been released from Russia; and when trade will be permitted between Russia and the British Empire?

Mr. BONAR LAW (Leader of the House)

We are informed that there are still a number of British subjects in regard to whom no information has been received, and we are in communication with the Soviet Government on the subject. I hope that it will soon be possible to make a statement on the subject of trade negotiations, probably in the course of a week.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the understanding signed on the 7th of July was not to the effect that the prisoners should be released simultaneously with the opening up of trade with Russia; and that in any case, in view of the fact that the great bulk of the prisoners have been released, does the right hon. Gentleman not think that the ten months' delay has been too long in view of the parlous state of trade?

Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS

Is it not a fact that there is nothing to prevent people trading with Russia at the present time, if they are prepared to take the risk, and almost the certainty of not getting paid?


I did not say definitely that the statement would be made within a week. I think the position of the Government has been made clear to the House. We have undertaken to resume trade negotiations if certain conditions are complied with; and one of those conditions is the immediate release of the British prisoners. I hope the conditions will be so far fulfilled within a week as to enable us to make a statement.


What is the number approximately of the prisoners still detained?


We do not know. We have given the Soviet Government the names of a certain number about whom we have no information, and have asked for information. If the Soviet Government, as I trust, try to fulfil their engagement to release all prisoners, we hope to be in a position to resume trade relations.

Commander BELLAIRS

Have any reports been received from the prisoners as to their treatment in Russia, and will the information be communicated to the House?


I should like notice of that question. I do not know of any reports of the kind.


Can the right hon. Gentleman give any information as to cases in which trade licences have been refused?


I certainly require notice of that question.