HC Deb 22 November 1920 vol 135 cc11-4

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been drawn to the scarcity of work in the boot and shoe and clothing trades; and whether, in view of the fact that millions of people in Russia are in need of boots and shoes and clothing, and are anxious to trade with this country, he will take steps in this direction in order to lessen the unemployment now existing in the trades mentioned?


I am aware of the situation in the trades to which the hon. Member refers. As regards the second part of the question, I would refer to the statement made by the Prime Minister on 18th November. I would, however, beg the hon. Member not to assume that the opening of trade with Russia will mean an immediate exchange of goods with that country. It will take a considerable time before Russia will be in a, position to send us goods in any appreciable quantity.


Is my right hon. Friend aware of the fact that for this particular industry some thousands of exservice men have been and are being trained and that this industry is already over-stocked?


A certain number of ex-service men have been trained for the industry, which is not very thriving at the moment.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Have not large contracts been signed provisionally between the Trade Delegation for Russia and manufacturers in the West Riding of Yorkshire? Why not get on with them?


Yes, but the hon. Member must remember that, before goods are sold and delivered, terms of payment have to be arranged.

Lieut.-Colonel CROFT

Is it the fact that the depression in the boot industry is largely due to the fact that the Government have unloaded great stores of boots?


That is not my information.


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he can state the quantity of timber imported from Russia in 1913; whether he is aware that by a resumption of these imports the building of houses would be accelerated, and that such imports would have an advantageous effect upon present prices; and whether he is taking any steps to secure a resumption of these imports?


The quantity of timber imported into the United Kingdom from Russia, registered during 1913, amounted to about 5,400,000 loads. This figure includes timber from regions that are no longer in Russia, and with which trade is being carried on to-day. As to the resumption of trade with Russia, I can again only refer to the Prime Minister's statement of 18th November. Building is not in any way being impeded by lack of timber. So far as Russian timber is concerned, the hon. Member must not be so optimistic as to assume that it would be possible to obtain any large quantities in the near future.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the large majority of the sawmills in the Archangel district, which is the largest timber shipping district of Russia, have been destroyed?

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

By your people.


asked the Prime Minister when it will be possible to open formal negotiations with the Soviet Government representatives for the conclusion of the agreement for trading between Russia and this country; and what has been the reason for delay?

45. Mr. RAPER

asked the Prime Minister whether, considering the great importance of the proposed trade agreement with Soviet Russia from a political as well as an economic standpoint, he will submit the exact and complete terms of the proposed agreement to this House for its approval before the same is signed?

47 and 48. Sir WILLIAM DAVISON

asked the Prime Minister (1) whether he will assure the House that no agreement for reconstituting trade with Russia will be entered into with the Soviet Government which does not secure the recognition of all Russian debts and the rescinding of the Decree made by the Soviet Government in 1917 repudiating debts;

(2) whether adequate safeguards will be provided in any trade with Russia agreement to prevent the Bolsheviks replenishing warlike stores for further aggression?


asked the Prime Minister if the trading agreement with the Bolshevist Government of Russia will at least contain provisions that the factories, mines, and other properties owned by British and by British and French investors in Russia and Siberia shall be returned to them so soon as free communications exist, and the managers and officials who have been expelled are able to return safely to them?

53. Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

asked the Prime Minister whether, in the proposals for re-opening trade made to the Russian Government, any alteration, and, if so, what, has been made in the Clauses dealing with British financial claims upon the Russian Government in the draft agreements of 30th June and 7th July last?

55. Major BARNETT

asked the Prime Minister whether, under the proposed trade agreement, it will be competent for Soviet Russia to barter in exchange for British manufactured goods petroleum stolen from the British oil companies at Baku?

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Lloyd George)

I cannot add anything to the answer which I gave on Thursday last, beyond stating that the Government will communicate the basis of the proposed agreement to the House before it is actually signed, and if there should then be a general desire for its discussion, time will be found£ or that purpose.

Lieut. -Commander KENWORTHY

Why is there all this delay, in view of the fact that this delegation arrived in this country to conclude this agreement ten months ago?


I could easily answer that. The fault is by no means so one-sided as the hon. and gallant Gentleman seems to imagine. I am perfectly prepared to make that clear to the House when the time comes.


Will the right hon. Gentleman not consider that the first thing in re-establishing trade with another country is to re-establish credit, and is it possible to re-establish credit on the basis of disclaimed debt?


I can answer that when the time comes.


Has the Soviet Government already broken the conditions of their agreement with Sweden?


I know nothing about that.

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