HC Deb 20 May 1957 vol 570 cc840-1
13. Mr. Teeling

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when last our Ambassador in Moscow discussed the question of repayment of Tsarist Russian debts to this country; what were the results of such discussions; and what he now proposes to do.

Mr. Ian Harvey

In spite of repeated representations, the most recent of which was made last year, the Soviet Government have not yet agreed to enter into negotiations for a general settlement of outstanding British claims against the Soviet Union. We shall lose no suitable opportunity of pressing this question.

Mr. Teeling

Does my hon. Friend not think it strange that whereas the Russian Government today are known to pay their debts promptly and probably better than most other countries in the world they do not seem to want to do so in the case of debts incurred only shortly before the Revolution for the building of railways and other developments in Russia, from which they are benefiting today? The sum is very small, but large numbers of people in this country are still suffering from not having received any interest on the money, and certainly no return of their capital, over these many years.

Mr. Harvey

Her Majesty's Government do appreciate the position of those people, and we shall make every effort to get this matter settled, but it is not quite so simple as my hon. Friend would suggest.

Mr. G. Jeger

Is the hon. Gentleman well versed in history, and would he remember the days when those loans were first made, and that the Social Democrats of Tsarist Russia issued a warning to the world that if ever the Tsarist régime passed away the debts would as well and that they would refuse to recognise them?

Mr. Harvey

I am reasonably well versed in history, but I think I should be out of order if I were to answer that today.

Mr. Jeger

Try. It would not be out of order.