HC Deb 26 April 1932 vol 265 cc189-90
10. Sir W. DAVISON

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the Government will consider the desirability of terminating the trade agreement with Russia and entering into a new agreement whereby Russian imports to this country will be limited to an equivalent amount of manufactured goods ex ported from this country to Russia, any imports over and above such quota to be subject to an import duty of 33⅓ per cent., a portion of which shall be applied to the formation of a compensation fund for British creditors?


The question or securing a more satisfactory balance of trade between this country and Soviet Russia is under the consideration of the Government. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister indicated in a reply to a somewhat similar suggestion on 11th April, His Majesty's Government do not consider that the claims of British creditors against Russia can be satisfactorily dealt with in this way.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that for months past the Government have told the House that this matter is under their active consideration; and has not the time arrived when they should come to some conclusion, especially as the negotiations for a settlement which were part of the agreement for resuming trade relations, were broken off by the Soviet representatives?


Does the right hon. Gentleman think that there will over be any possibility of reaching a solution of the debt problem if trading relations with Russia are broken off?


In reply to the first supplementary question, it is true that the matter has been under consideration, but it is by no means as simple as appears on the surface, and we are most anxious to do nothing which would injure our own interests, which must, of course, be our first consideration. As to whether it would be possible to help our trade relations by cancelling or breaking off our trade agreement, that is one of the things that we are now considering. What we are impressed by is the fact that there is a very large preponderance of Russian business in this country in return for the comparatively small business which they do with us.


Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the business is not always direct between two nations, and that in the annual balance sheet it may be that trade between Russia and this country has been carried out through Germany?