24. Lieut.-Colonel Sir FREDERICK HALL
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will take steps to ascertain whether the Soviet Government will be prepared to co-operate in the appointment of a commission of inquiry into the question of the conditions of 11 labour obtaining in Russia on similar lines to the inquiry recently set up by the League of Nations at the instance of the Liberian Government?
I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply given on the 26th of January to the hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison), in which it was made clear that the Soviet Government had intimated to His Majesty's Ambassador at Moscow that they would not consider any request for an investigation.
Sir F. HALL
Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied with the reply? Taking into consideration what has been done by the Liberian Government, and the charges that have been made against the Soviet Government, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that he might use his influence to see that they set up an independent tribunal?
We have already used our influence to the extent indicated in my answer to the question. The position of the Liberian Government is different; they invited an investigation.
Sir F. HALL
Is the right hon. Gentleman still satisfied that the charges made against the Soviet Government are not true?
§ Mr. BROCKWAY
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the necessity of making similar inquiries about forced labour in Kenya and the Indian States?
§ Mr. GODFREY LOCKER-LAMPSON
Does the refusal of the Soviet Government extend also to our own Ambassador? Have they refused to allow any member of our Embassy to make inquiries?
I do not think I am charged with the responsibility of using the Ambassador for that purpose.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
Will not the right hon. Gentleman ask the Soviet Government to allow one of our own Embassy in Moscow to go to these districts and make a report on the subject?
§ Mr. BECKETT
Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Soviet Government to co-operate with him in an inquiry into the conditions of labour imposed by public assistance committees in London?
§ 48. Sir WILLIAM DAVISON
asked the Prime Minister what decision the Government have reached as to making further inquiries as to the conditions under which timber exported into this country from Russia is produced and handled, and loaded on British ships?
I have been asked to reply. As the House was informed on the 26th of January, and also to-day, the Soviet Government, who have been approached in the matter, have indicated that they would refuse to consider any request on our part for an investigation into the conditions of the timber industry in Russia. Without proper facilities, I fear that no inquiry would be satisfactory or effective.
§ Sir W. DAVISON
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Government's representative in another place last week said that the Government had grave suspicions as to the method by which this timber was produced and comes to this country, and does he not think that it is desirable that, at the earliest possible moment, it should be decided whether these suspicions are true or false?
We may have suspicions, but that does not provide us with facilities to have an inquiry.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
Are we to conclude that the Government are not going to take any further steps?
The right hon. Gentleman must conclude nothing of the kind. We are watching the position very closely.
§ Mr. KINLEY
Is it not a fact that the labour conditions in question are the subject of an agreement between the trade union concerned and the Soviet Timber Trust?
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
The right hon. Gentleman says that he is going to watch, but are we to understand that no inquiry is going to be made?
§ Mr. MAXTON
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Russian Government are gravely concerned about conditions in the Lancashire cotton industry?