HC Deb 03 July 1933 vol 280 cc7-9

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the nature of the recent negotiations which have taken place between himself and M. Litvinoff; and whether he will assure the House that in any negotiations for a trade agreement with the Russian Soviet Government after the release of the British engineers, security will be taken for the payment of the arbitral award of approximately 213,000,000 in favour of Lena Goldfields, Limited, as well as an acknowledgment of liability in respect of the private property of British nationals which has been appropriated without compensation by the Soviet Government?


My right hon. Friend's recent interviews with Monsieur Litvinoff have been directed to the release of the two remaining Metropolitan-Vickers employés in prison in Moscow. The House will have seen, from the announcement issued by the Foreign Office on Saturday evening last, that the petitions of Messrs. Thornton and Macdonald came before the Praesidium of the Executive Committee of the Soviets last Saturday, and that the sentences have been commuted. Both men left Moscow last night. The purpose for which the embargo was imposed has therefore been attained.

Arrangements will promptly be made to resume the trade negotiations at the point where they were interrupted. In these circumstances, my hon. Friend will appreciate that my right hon. Friend cannot at this moment give any assurance as to the manner in which the claim of the Lena Goldfield, Limited, will be dealt with. Similar considerations apply in the case of claims in respect of the private property confiscated from British subjects.


Can the House be assured that the Government, in the two cases referred to in the question, will bear in mind that in previous agreements special reference was made to the claims of British nationals?


All matters affecting the trade negotiations that are now to be resumed will be in the hands of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, but I will call his attention to the point.


Will the Government undertake not to give any further credits under these schemes while Russia has a favourable trade balance?

Major-General Sir ALFRED KNOX

Has the hon. Gentleman any information regarding whether the Russian employés of Metropolitan-Vickers. who were convicted at the same time as our two fellow-subjects have been released, or whether it is possible to make any representation on their behalf?


I think that the hon. and gallant Gentleman had better put that question on the Paper.


In the course of the negotiations that are being carried on, will the question of compensation to Messrs. Thornton and Macdonald be considered?


I think that the statement that I have made shows that the events to which I have referred are closed.


Do these gentlemen leave Russia with any stigma on their characters, and has any admission been made that they have been wrongfully imprisoned?


I feel sure that my hon. Friend and the country will rest content with the statement that I have made.


Do the Government recognise the bloomer that has been made, and will they now urge on the negotiations with a view to getting our men back to work?

31. Commander LOCKER-LAMPSON

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the embargo on the importation of Russian butter or timber is being strictly enforced; if so, since what date; and whether any of these goods have been imported since the embargo?

Lieut.-Colonel J. COLVILLE (Secretary, Overseas Trade Department)

The proclamation under the Russian Goods (Import Prohibition) Act, which has now been revoked, came into force on the 26th April last, and while it was operative the import of Russian butter and timber into this country was prohibited except under licence. As I have explained on several occasions, licences were granted during the existence of the embargo in respect of certain consignments of butter and timber products from the Soviet Union because substantial payment had been made for the goods concerned before the proclamation was issued.


What does my hon. and gallant Friend call a substantial payment?

Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE

I think the subject has become somewhat academic, inasmuch as the embargo has attained its object, but I have already stated that we tried to get as near to 100 per cent. as possible.


Can my hon. and gallant Friend say whether the embargo was removed after the release of the prisoners, or were the two actions contemporaneous?


Colonel Baldwin-Webb.

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