HC Deb 06 April 1939 vol 345 cc3087-8

2.31 p.m.

Mr. Wedgwood Benn

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I desire to take up just a minute or two to deal with a matter which, though small in itself, touches a much bigger issue, namely, the good relations between ourselves and the Soviet Union. For many years, both in this House and out of it, I have done what I could to promote a closer and more friendly understanding with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. On Many occasions I have criticised British Government policy for what I considered to be failures in this regard. I was surprised, therefore, to notice in the "Times" of 5th April a report of an article from "Pravda" alleging that I was a party to some plot for inciting Germany to activity in Carpatho-Ukraine. This plot—so "Pravda" alleged—the British Press wished to keep from the light. "Pravda" is entirely mistaken in its facts. In January I made a journey from the Baltic to the Danube. This journey was purely private, and was undertaken on my own initiative. It had for its purpose an objective examination of the existing situation among Germany's eastern neighbours. So far was it from being secret that I wrote accounts of it for three British papers. The study, in so far as it threw any light on one aspect of German policy, was intended to check it. My own opinion was expressed as follows: "We must re-establish with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics the cordial relations which existed at the time of the Eden visit. We must remove the belief that we are joining Germany in excluding Russia from European councils." I venture to quote this passage in order to dispel a misunderstanding. In common with, I believe, nearly all Members of the House, I earnestly desire to see the closest co-operation established with the Soviet Union, one of the most powerful friends of international law and world peace.