HL Deb 16 December 1924 vol 60 cc114-38

LORD NEWTON rose to ask how many persons connected with various Soviet Missions have been a admitted into this country since the conclusion of the Anglo-Russian Trade Agreement; and how many are resident here now; and whether all these employees of the Soviet Government enjoy either complete or partial diplomatic immunity. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in putting this Question upon the Paper I was, of course, well aware of the fact that it is very unusual to comment upon the proceedings of any foreign Mission in this country, but the circumstances of this case are so peculiar that I do not feel it necessary to make any apology whatsoever for the course which I am taking. Anybody who takes the trouble to examine the official list of Embassies and Legations in London will observe that the Russian Mission consists of only throe persons—that is to say, of Mr. Rakovsky, a counsellor and a secretary—and some simple-minded persons might assume from this fact that this represents the whole of the Russian official activity in this country. The real facts do not correspond to this view in the least.

It may be a surprise to the House to learn that since the conclusion of the Anglo-Russian Trade Agreement over five hundred persons have been admitted who are connected with what are termed "trade and miscellaneous services," and nearly four hundred have been admitted who are described as belonging to the staff. In addition to these there are about twenty Russian couriers who arrive here at least once a week and who, of course, bring with them sealed luggage which undergoes no examination whatever. It therefore comes to this: Since the conclusion of the Agreement which I have just mentioned we have admitted into this country something like nine hundred persons who by no stretch of imagination can be described as being friendly to us in any respect whatsoever. I would commend this fact more especially to the people who appear to be so greatly exercised at the present moment over the proposal that a few dozen German stewards should be admitted, for the purpose of convenience, into our mercantile marine. It may be contended that, in view of the fact that trade is a Russian Government monopoly, it is necessary that large numbers of Russian representatives should be established in London, although as a matter of fact, so far as I can make out, revolutionary propaganda is the main article of Russian export. However that may be, the numbers of persons belonging to these different associations—to Arcos, Ltd., to the Soviet Trade Delegation and to bodies of that kind—must now be very considerable. Arcos alone, which, of course, is a Government undertaking, has grown from five to over five hundred persons. It is interesting to note that if the abortive Treaty had ever been ratified all these hundreds, and possibly thousands, of people—for all these Missions have attached to them assistants of British nationality—would be enjoying diplomatic immunity. I would also like to point out that amongst these numerous persons who are here ostensibly for the purpose of trade there appear to be a large number of young men brought from the centre of Asia, such as Armenians, Turcomans, and so forth, who have presumably come here to acquire knowledge which will be useful in conducting propaganda against the British Empire in Asia and elsewhere.

So much for the persons who are here in connection with trade and miscellaneous services. Now I come to the "staff"—persons who come under that heading. What is meant by that? By diplomatic staff you mean the persons who are attached to a Legation or to an Embassy and in very few cases do they number more than a dozen people. In this particular case, as I have already stated, the persons who have apparently been admitted into this country under the heading of staff number something like four hundred, and as I said just now the total number who have been admitted appears to be approximately nine hundred. It may be assumed, in spite of the fact that Russia is represented as a sort of Elysium by the late Government, that the majority of these people are here now, because I observe that once people have left Russia they show no desire to return to that country.

The staff, I imagine, is camouflaged in an ingenious way and all these three or four hundred persons are sub-divided into various categories; but I think it must be fairly clear that if they are not connected with trade and are not connected with what is known as "miscellaneous services" they are here for political purposes, and for political purposes only. There are two questions which I should like to ask my noble friend with regard to these particular people. First of all, how do they come in? How is it done? Does Mr. Rakovsky come to the Foreign Office and ask for permission for So-and-So to come into the country, or is it done by means of permits from Moscow granted by our representative there? When they are here, do they or do they not enjoy diplomatic immunity? To this question I have been quite unable hitherto to obtain a satisfactory answer. So far as I can gather, five or six of these people enjoy what is called full diplomatic immunity, and I am under the impression that the status of the other persons has never yet been defined but that they enjoy a sort of quasi- or semi-diplomatic immunity. Under the Anglo-Russian Trade Agreement Articles V and VI lay it down that official representatives are to enjoy the same privileges as the representatives of any other Government—that is to say, diplomatic privileges—and of course our Mission in Russia is entitled to the same privilege.

My impression, as I said just now, is that some of these people have real diplomatic immunity and that the others are left with a doubtful position. I am under the impression that supposing, for instance, it was thought desirable to make a raid upon Arcos or some similar institution, we should be confronted by a gentleman who was able to show that he possessed complete diplomatic immunity and that therefore it would be impossible to search his particular premises, in which, of course, anything compromising would be concealed. There is one thing about which we need have no doubt and of which everybody is convinced, and that is that all of them are engaged in some kind of anti-British propaganda. I admit that it would be very uncharitable for me to make these charges were it not for the facts recently disclosed by the Zinoviev letter. That letter has been described as a bombshell. It was a bombshell in the sense that it blew to pieces for the time being the Socialist Party in this country, but in every other sense "bombshell" is a very inapplicable word to use. There was nothing whatever surprising about the letter. To do the Soviet justice, the Soviet representatives in Russia have never made any secret whatsoever as regards their feelings towards this country. In every speech that has been made by Soviet leaders in Russia they have emphasised the fact that it is this country which is the real enemy of the Bolshevist system and the one country which ought to be attacked, and in case there should be any doubt as to their meaning it may be within the recollection of the House that at stated intervals they have burned ray noble friend Lord Curzon in effigy.

The really surprising thing about the Zinoviev letter was that when controversy inevitably arose as to the authenticity of the letter the followers of the late Prime Minister asserted as one man that the Soviet officials were telling the truth and that the late Prime Minister was, if I may put it mildly, saying the opposite. The ex-Prime Minister, who appears to be a very emotional person, was so worked upon by the attack from his own friends that before long he had persuaded himself, if he did not succeed in persuading the country, that the whole of the letter arose from a conspiracy which apparently he imagined was concocted in the recesses of the Carlton Club. Persons with a distorted imagination and an hysterical temperament are apt to think that the rest of the world are engaged in a conspiracy against them, and the late Prime Minister appears to be a person of that character.

The real surprise of the Zinoviev letter arose from the fact that, owing to the enterprise and public spirit of the Daily Mail, it was invested with perhaps undue importance, and had the effect of enabling even the most dense and stupid people in this country to realise what was going on. I have said many hard and disagreeable things about the Daily Mail before now, but I feel inclined to retract a good many of them, in view of the inestimable service which it has rendered to the public. I go further, and I venture to assert, that if it had not been for the Daily Mail, and if Mr. Ramsay MacDonald had remained in office, we should never have heard a word about this particular letter. It is perfectly obvious what happened. The Daily Mail must have gone to the Foreign Office on the day before publication. They must have said: "We have this letter and are going to publish it ourselves to-morrow and the other newspapers will publish it, too." In the circumstances, how could the Foreign Office, or the Government, possibly avoid publishing the letter themselves?

What I think people must have grasped, if they did not grasp it before, is that these Soviet Missions do not come here, and do not go anywhere else, for the purpose of promoting trade or friendly relations. They go to every country with the intention of destroying existing institutions. They come here, and they are actually promised money by the Government of the day in order that they may carry out their purpose of destroying our institutions. Wherever these people go trouble inevitably follows. Look at what has happened in the case of Georgia. Look at what has happened in Bulgaria. Remember what took place in Hungary, where, unfortunately for that country, they succeeded in establishing themselves in power for several months. Remember what took place in Germany. The German Government, who apparently have less superstitious belief in diplomatic immunity than other Governments, raided the office of the Bolshevist Mission in Berlin, and discovered a perfect arsenal of material to promote, a revolution in that country. The result, strangely, has been that relations between Germany and Soviet Russia have got no worse, and probably the Soviet Government entertains a much higher respect for the German Government than before this particular raid took place.

But that does not exhaust their activities. Look at what took place the other day at Reval. In that case the Bolshevist Mission was directly implicated, and some of their officials were actually killed during the proceedings. It is worthy of note that a member of the British trade union delegation in Russia at the present moment actually had the audacity to go to the Esthonian representatives in Russia, and to intimate that if the Esthonian Government took drastic measures they would meet with extreme displeasure at the hands of the British trade unions. Take, again, the case of Mr. Krassin. Mr. Krassin goes to Paris after the Soviet Government has been recognised and immediately disturbances take place. Not only does he himself insult the French Government, but provocative demonstrations are held by the Communists in Paris; and there is probably considerable trouble ahead. We may, if we tolerate this kind of thing, have the same experiences ourselves.

I should like to ask any impartial persons, what they suppose would be the fate of any official or unofficial person who went to Russia and attempted to corrupt the Soviet Army, or to interfere in any degree with the Soviet domestic administration. When I think of the complacent manner in which we have tolerated the behaviour of these people I cannot help being reminded of what took place in our own case a good many years ago. In the year 1888 we were represented at Washington by a most inoffensive gentleman, Sir Lionel Sackville-West, and during the Presidential Election a British-born American citizen wrote to Sir Lionel Sackville-West, and asked him to give his impartial advice as to how he ought to vote. Sir Lionel Sackville-West, unfortunately, fell into the trap. He wrote a letter, couched in very moderate terms, in which he gave his advice. And what was the result? The American Government immediately insisted upon the withdrawal of this Minister—and he was withdrawn in circumstances of almost unparalleled ignominy within a very short time.

Compare the case of Sir Lionel Sackville-West with that of the Soviet representative who is here now, Rakovsky. Only a month or two before that gentleman was appointed Soviet representative in this country he addressed a meeting at Kharkov, in which he indulged in a violent and scurrilous attack upon this country. It is interesting to note that at this particular demonstration there were numerous placards and banners bearing inscriptions to this effect: "Death to Curzon"; "We want Curzon's blood." In spite of these demonstrations that gentleman came here and was accepted as the Soviet representative. I believe that my noble friend, quite rightly, kept him at arm's length, and refused to allow him to enter the Foreign Office. Anyhow, he is now in the position of any other diplomatist, and what does he do? He writes Notes of so insolent a character that one of them is considered so unbearable that it is returned to him. And yet here is this gentleman, enjoying all the privileges of a friendly diplomatist, attending functions, and going on his way quite happily.

I have never been able to see what advantage we have obtained from recognising the present Soviet Government, and I am confirmed in this opinion by what fell from Mr. Chamberlain in another place last night. Mr. Chamberlain admitted that the fact of recognising the Soviet Government had in no case produced any increase in trade at all. The fact is that, as everybody knows, trade is quite independent of diplomatic recognition. Trade will find its own channels, in its own way, quite independently of this sort of conditions. You are really not advancing matters at all by this kind of recognition, which is only done by one Government because another Government has done it, and it is feared that it may obtain some advantage from the fact.

Not only do you not get any advantage out of this official recognition, but it is a distinct disadvantage, because what you are doing, theoretically at all events, is to prop up a Government of the most detestable kind—and when I say "detestable" I do not think I am using any exaggerated language. I will go so far as to say that I do not think that in modern times any Government has existed which approached for cruelty, and for every kind of vice, the present Soviet Administration, with the possible exception of the Mahdi's Government in the Sudan—and, at all events, the activities of the Dervishes in the Sudan were confined to their own neighbourhood, and they did not trouble the rest of the world.

If we let these people alone they would perish as the result of their own crimes and their own defects. But, now that recognition has been resolved upon, I suppose it is perfectly useless to expect that the policy of the Government will be changed. I do think, however, that, quite apart from recognition or non-recognition, it is only reasonable to ask that far greater stringency should be shown with regard to the admission of these Soviet officials and employees into this country, that their status should be clearly and definitely decided, and that, if there is the slightest suspicion of their interfering with our domestic concerns, they should be immediately and summarily deported to their own country.


My Lords, the questions which my noble friend has brought to the notice of the House are, to my mind, very important, even if they are not absolutely vital to our national interests. Under the Trade Agreement of 1921 a Bolshevist Delegation was allowed to establish itself in this country, but on the condition that there was to be no propaganda of any sort throughout the East. That condition was absolutely ignored and the noble Marquess who leads the House drew forcible attention to a long series of shameless violations of it. But nothing happened and the propaganda went on as before.

This year, in connection with the negotiations for the most preposterous Treaty that was ever drafted, another large Delegation was brought into this country and it established itself here under Rakovsky who is not a Russian but a naturalised Bulgarian revolutionary. Now the Trade Delegation at Soviet House, with the assistance of Arcos and some other bodies, carries out a certain amount of trade in this country, as my noble friend has said. Consider what that trade is. This year it sold to us Russian products to the value of £13,000,000 and it bought from us products to the amount of £1,800,000. But of the Russian products which it sold to us here a considerable proportion consisted of property stolen from British citizens. The balance of the proceeds, I assume, was either spent in other countries—certainly not here—or employed to keep the Soviet Government in Moscow in being. That is not sound trade and the general effect of it is to accentuate our very serious adverse trade balance at the present moment.

All these places are also centres of propaganda, centres most conveniently situated for the purposes for which I maintain they were created. Thus they publish a journal called Russian Information and Review. That is filled up with information supplied from Moscow and it is intended to present in the most rosy possible light the progress and prosperity of the proletariat in Russia. That, however, is above board. Behind the scenes there is a great deal more activity than that, and if a census of employees in Soviet House was now taken I think it would very much surprise the public in this country. That house harbours a great many people who are not Russians, but who are exceedingly useful for liaison and propaganda, purposes.

When a similar Trade Delegation entered Canada its luggage was discovered to be bulging with subversive propaganda literature. Remember that similar bases to Soviet Houses and these other places have been established in almost every other country. As my noble friend said, one of them in Reval, the other day, was able to organise a most serious revolution. The Esthonian Government, very much to its credit, promptly put down that revolution, but there was a very considerable loss of life. Then Bulgaria, to which also my noble friend referred, has never been able to settle down into orderly progress because of the revolutionary movements throughout the country which have been engineered directly from Moscow. Recently, as my noble friend said, Mr. Krassin arrived in Paris and there was immediately a large and dangerous Communist demonstration which so alarmed M. Herriot's Government that they had to resort to a large number of deportations.

There are very few countries in the world at present which are not suffering from Bolshevist efforts in one form or another, but the main object of them all, believe me, is the attack on the British Empire which is being carried on everywhere but especially in this country, in India, in Afghanistan, in Persia, in Iraq, in Egypt and in the Sudan. The Times stated the other day that the inflammatory leaflets which helped to cause the mutiny in the Sudan came from Stockholm, which also has a Bolshevist base of operations. I have myself seen in this country incendiary propagandist literature which hailed from either Berlin or Vienna. All these bases of operations are under very clever central direction and they all co-operate for the purposes for which they were started.

I do not want to detain your Lordships' House, but there is one point which I should like to emphasise. I know of no precedent in history for entertaining in this country the agents of a hostile power, and I maintain that the Government of Moscow is, on its own showing, at open war with the British Empire. I do not rely for a moment on the Zinoviev letter to which my noble friend referred, because it is only one of innumerable hostile acts directed against our country and Empire. It may be argued that strenuous efforts to create revolution do not amount to actual war, but we must remember that in India, in Egypt and in the Sudan these efforts have caused a considerable loss of human life. The notorious Treaty has been happily abandoned, as we all know. I assume, therefore, that the obligations which it threw upon the Delegation have lapsed. If that is so, is Soviet House at liberty to do exactly what it likes, or is it not?

Meanwhile, as I understand the matter, all the obligations which were accepted when the Trade Agreement remained in power are being systematically and artfully violated every day. I think, therefore, that His Majesty's Government might now consider whether, if all subversive propaganda emanating from Moscow and directed against this country is not absolutely and finally stopped, the maintenance of bases for hostile operations in London can any longer be tolerated. When Senator Borah was strongly pressing upon America the recognition of the Soviet Government, the United States Government placed its cards upon the table, and they were very strong cards. It directed its own officers to go before a Committee of the Senate and give some very important and very serious evidence. The result of thus placing the whole matter before the public of America was most beneficial and went far to end the agitation for recognition which, otherwise, would have gone on for some time. Could not His Majesty's Government follow that most excellent example?

Mr. Chamberlain used these words yesterday in another place. He said: Normal relations with any Government require that the Government should observe the normal rules of friendly conduct existing between friendly nations. I submit that those words contain the crux of the whole matter.


My Lords, there appear to be three bodies of representatives of the Soviet Government in this country at the present moment. There are, first of all, the trade representatives who have come in under Article IV of the Trade Agreement of 1921. There are, secondly, the official agents, whatever they may be, who have come in under Article V of that Trade Agreement. Then there are the diplomatic representatives who have come in by reason of the recognition of the Soviet Government by this country. I venture to think it is exceedingly important that we should know, and I have no doubt the noble Marquess can tell us, the exact status of each of these three different classes of representatives and the degree of immunity they respectively enjoy.

There is one other point to which I would draw attention. By a clause of the Trade Agreement we have power to restrict the admittance of any of those trade representatives into specified areas, and we may refuse any person admittance to our territory or request any person to go who has been admitted on certain grounds therein specified. By Article V the same provisions, in slightly different language, apply to official agents. We can either prevent them from coming in, or we can request them to leave when they have come in. I hope that the noble Marquess will be able to tell us, first of all, what inquiries are made and where, either in this country or in Russia, concerning the persons who are about to be admitted; and secondly, whether, when those persons are admitted, inquiries are made from time to time as to their doings and their activities in order to see whether a case has arisen for requesting them to withdraw in accordance with the Trade Agreement.

The whole question is one of great importance. Possibly its importance has not been greatly increased within the last-few weeks or months, but public attention was undoubtedly concentrated upon it during the recent Election in a manner in which it had not been heretofore. I think the public of this country do now realise the dangers to which the country is subject from interference by representatives of the Soviet Government, either authorised or unauthorised. It is a matter of public interest and of public security, and I am sure we shall be glad if the noble Marquess will give us some reassuring information on the point.


My Lords, this debate, notably in the speech of my noble friend who put the Question, has ranged, as our debates usually do, over a rather wide area, but in my reply I propose as far as possible to support the order to which in this House we so rarely conform by con fining myself to the subject-matter of the Question as it stands upon the Paper. My noble friend puts to me a number of questions which he was quite entitled to ask, and replies to which this House and public opinion have an equal right to expect. Those questions were supplemented by one or two additional queries addressed to me by the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat, and I think it will be in my power to return a direct, and I hope a sufficient, answer to both those categories of questions.

They fall, as I understood the speeches to which we have listened, broadly speaking, into two categories. First, I was asked as to the conditions under which Russian subjects are admitted into this country, as to the numbers in which they come, as to the precautions that are observed in admitting them, as to the manner in which their activities are under observation while they are in this country; and the second category of questions was as to the degree of diplomatic immunity which any of their numbers enjoy. Those are the two groups of questions as to which it is my duty to give information to the House.

Let me take the first category to begin with. One of the two noble Lords behind me asked in what circumstances is the application made for a passport, or a visa to a passport, and in what circumstances is it granted. The procedure that is adopted is as follows. The Soviet Government, desiring to receive permission for any Russian subject to enter this country, makes an application, and at the same time gives the necessary information to our representative at Moscow or Petro- grad, as the case may be. In a few cases the Chargé d' Affaires has considered himself at liberty, knowing the circumstances of the individual and the case, to grant a visa on his own responsibility, but they are few in number, and in the great majority of cases he communicates by Despatch or by telegram the application which has been made to him and his views upon it to the Foreign Office here. The Foreign Office then communicates with the Home Department, whose duty it is to deal generally with matters of this description. The Home Office then, with the records at its disposal, considers very carefully the case of the individual in question, and advises the Foreign Office as to whether the visa can or cannot be granted. That is the procedure adopted, and as far as I can see no flaw exists either in its adequacy or its completeness.

Then we come to the next question put by my noble friends, and that is as to how many persons come in in this way, and what are the purposes for which their admission is either sought or conceded. It may be said that here again they fall into two groups. In the first place, there are the Russians for whom admission is sought because they are required either to join the Legation in London, or the representatives of the Russian Government Trade Department, or one or other of the various societies and organisations, such as Arcos (which has been mentioned), the Centrosoyus, and other subsidiary bodies which are concerned under the Trade Agreement of 1921, with conducting, or attempting to conduct, Russian trade in this country. The figures with which I have been supplied, and which I have also verified, are not quite in accord with those which have been given by my noble friend behind me. I think I had better give the exact totals to the. House of the applications that have been received for visas for Russian nationals for the purposes just described.

Since the Trade Agreement was concluded in 1921, 340 have been granted, and that 340 includes the members of the Soviet Mission who came over in the course of the past year to discuss the terms of what many of us regard as the unfortunate Treaty that was attempted to be concluded by His Majesty's late Government. The noble Lord, I think, mentioned particularly the case of Arcos. His information led him to think that an enormous number of persons were connected with that institution. The actual figures of those employed in Arcos are as follows:—Russians, 160; British, 260; so that it will be seen that the larger proportion of those who are associated with that commercial body are not Russian in nationality. That is the first category of Russian nationals admitted to this country.

Now I come to the second, and those are persons who, without any direct connection either with the Russian Legation or any of the trade organisations of which I have spoken, seek permission to come into this country mainly for business purposes of the ordinary sort, to investigate some, particular aspect of our national life, to study industrial or technical questions, to investigate possibilities of trade, sometimes for such innocent purposes as to study in the British Museum, and cases of that description. The total number of applications which have been granted since 1921 in this category amounts to five hundred. When a visa is granted it is always granted for a specified period, which is stated in the permission. For those persons coming here to join any of the special organisations to which I have referred a maximum period of six months is fixed; for those who are coming for the more general objects that I have described the maximum period is six weeks. In both cases this period may be extended, but only upon application and re-examination of the case.

I have given the numbers of these cases in which, in both classes, visas have been granted, but it does not follow from that that in every case advantage has been taken of the permission. For what reasons I do not know, but at any rate in a good many cases the individual who has been permitted to come has not come. Nor, of course, can we be exactly aware at any given moment as to how many have gone before the expiry of the term for which the permission was granted, or how many are actually in the country who have applied for and received permission to stay for a longer period. But so far as I can gather, it is the case that the number of Soviet citizens who have been admitted for Legation or trade purposes is, as I have said, something over three hundred, and of these something like two-thirds are believed at this moment to be in the country. If I may say so, it is rather difficult to dogmatise on a matter of this sort and I am not disposed to think that a very excessive number of persons is engaged here in the diplomatic and commercial objects to which I have referred, all the more so because, as the noble Lord recognises, the Russian Government is one which, wisely or not, makes an absolute monopoly of trade. It will not allow anybody to touch it except its own people and, therefore, it is not so dependent upon outside effort and independent activity and enterprise as other Governments or other States would be. So much for the facts as regards admission.

Next, we come to the question of what these people do while they are here and whether they indulge in propaganda or intrigue against the institutions of our country. There are no inherent improbabilities in their doing so because, as we know, we have the evidence of the Zinoviev letter. Attempts have consistently been made, not for months but for years, to poison our life by this species of propaganda and intrigue, and, as one noble Lord has said, a good deal of my time was occupied in controversy with the Russian Government in pointing out what we had discovered them to be doing and in calling for a cessation of these activities. Therefore, it may very well be that some of these persons to whom I have referred may have occupied themselves in activities foreign from the purpose for which they were admitted. But there is this to be said. If the Russian Government wants to conduct this sort of propaganda in this country it is not always necessary for it to employ Russian citizens to do it. It can employ, and it docs employ, non-Russian foreigners of whom there are plenty in this country willing to serve its purposes, and, further, it is capable of finding, and it does find, in the ranks of the British Communist party, plenty of persons who will assist. It is a lamentable and deplorable fact, but nevertheless a true one.

So far as the Russians are concerned it is of course true, as Lord Danesfort pointed out, that it is in our power, if any one is caught in a serious form of intrigue, to deport him, and that power will undoubtedly be exercised. These persons are not at liberty to pursue their machinations unobserved. Their activities are, generally speaking, carefully regarded, but out of the number to which I have referred no case has so far arisen in which it has been found necessary, upon the advice of the Home Office or the police, to exercise the particular power of deportation.

I think I have dealt exhaustively with the questions put by my noble friend as to the conditions under which these persons come here, stay here, and go. Now I pass to his further question about the degree of immunity which they enjoy. Here I think a good deal of misapprehension prevails which it is very desirable to clear up. And let me first remind the House of the Agreement that was made when the Trade Agreement of 1921 was concluded. This was the Article that referred to the matter—Article V:— Either party may appoint one or more, official agents to a number to be mutually agreed upon, to reside and exercise their functions in the territories of the other, who shall personally enjoy all the rights and immunities set forth in the preceding Article and also immunity from arrest and search provided that either party may refuse to admit any individual as an official agent who is persona non grata to itself or may require the other party to withdraw him should it find it necessary to do so on grounds of public interest or security. Such agents shall have access to the authorities of the country in which they reside for the purpose of facilitating the carrying out of this Agreement and of protecting the interests of their nationals. Official agents shall be at liberty to communicate freely with their own Government and with other official representatives of their Government in other countries by post, by telegraph and wireless telegraphy in cypher and to receive and despatch couriers with sealed bags subject to a limitation of 3 kilograms per week which shall be exempt from examination. Telegrams and radio telegrams of official agents shall enjoy any right of priority over private messages that may be generally accorded to messages of the official representatives of foreign Governments in the United Kingdom and Russia respectively. Russian official agents in the United Kingdom shall enjoy the same privileges in respect of exemption from taxation, central or local, as are accorded to the official representatives of other foreign Governments. British official agents in Russia shall enjoy equivalent privileges, which, moreover, shall in no case be less than those accorded to the official agents of any other country. Thus it will be seen that the privileges which were accorded under the Russian Trade Agreement of 1921, and which Lord Newton described as "a partial diplomatic immunity," or a quasi-immunity, are really these—immunity from arrest and search, freedom of communication in cypher and by sealed bags, exemption from taxation, central and local, similar to that accorded to official representatives of other foreign Governments. These privileges did not include immunity from the processes of our Courts.

I now come to the number of persons who have, under the terms of that Agreement, enjoyed this immunity. They are four in number, and four only. During my time at the Foreign Office the Russian Representatives here were M. Krassin, head of the Trade Delegation, M, Berzin and M. Klishko. They enjoyed these quasi-diplomatic immunities, and the Russian Naval Attaché was the fourth. It was granted to no other person. That condition of affairs continued until the noble Lords who sit opposite took their seats upon this Bench. Then, as we know, they gave, as many of us think quite unnecessarily and prematurely, de jure recognition to the Soviet Government, Thereupon these three gentlemen to whom I have referred became converted from trade agents into diplomatic representatives, and the immunity which they had enjoyed hitherto under the terms that I have read was merged in the diplomatic immunity to which, as members of the diplomatic body in this country, they naturally had a claim. But under the régime of the noble Lords opposite, as under ours, the number of persons still enjoying the immunity to which I referred was four, and no larger number has been given that immunity.

Now we come to the Treaty which the late Government proposed to conclude, which they were happily prevented by recent events from consummating, but which would have brought about, or might have brought about, a very different state of affairs. If the House will look at the terms of the proposed Treaty of Commerce and Navigation which they bad in contemplation to conclude with the Soviet Government, they will observe in Article 2—I am speaking of the question of immunity—the following:— The Trade Representative and his assistants (members of the Council of the Trade Representation), the number of which shall be determined at a later date by mutual agreement of both parties, shall be members of the Union Embassy in London and shall, as such, enjoy all the privileges and immunities appertaining thereto, including extra-territoriality for their offices in the Embassy. It is not for mo to interpret that which the late Government had in view when they proposed to include that form of words. It may, of course, be said, that when they laid down that the number of these persons was to be "determined at a later date by mutual agreement between both parties" they had it in their hands to continue to limit the number to three or four or whatever number they chose, and it may be that we shall hear, if anybody speaks from that Bench, that such was their intention. It is not for me either to explain, or even to conjecture, what they had in mind.

But the particular words to which I have referred were followed by another sentence which I must ask leave to read and which does seem to me to be of a more sinister import. Article 2 goes on to say:— For this purpose the existing offices of the Trade Delegation and such other offices as may form the subject of future agreement shall form part of the Embassy. Here, again, it is possible to argue that, as agreement had to be arrived at upon the matter, His Majesty's Government would have retained an absolute check upon any proposals that were made, but I am bound to say that these words not unnaturally suggest and, I think, did suggest when they were made public in Parliament, that an attempt would be made to give these privileges to Soviet offices outside the Russian Legation, to Soviet offices not merely in London but perhaps in different parts of the country, and to invest them with the diplomatic immunity which, as I pointed out, has hitherto been enjoyed only by a limited minority in London. I can only ask for an explanation of that point from the noble Viscount opposite, if he will be good enough to favour me with it.

I think I have now answered all the questions that were put to me by my noble friends behind me, and my reply has, I think, been of a character to indicate that His Majesty's Government have perfect control of the situation and that the permissions which have been given have been neither of the extent nor of the character which my noble friend was disposed to fear. As regards the general considerations which were placed before us, notably by Lord Sydenham, I really have nothing to add to the many statements that I have made in this House. He knows as well as I know the dangers of the situation, and he may rely upon His Majesty's present advisers to continue careful watch upon the proceedings of these persons, whatever be their station, and not to tolerate, so far as lies in their power, those acts of aggression against public and domestic life in this country with which Russian practice has rendered us too painfully familiar.


My Lords, I was anxious to hear from the noble Marquess the view that he has now stated before intervening even very shortly in this debate. He has made a statement in which he has very wisely, I think, confined himself to answering the questions that were put to him, without going any further. He has given us a picture of the existing system under which entry into this country from Russia is regulated, and I certainly do not think that it is the picture of a system which is wanting in good intentions. Every step is taken by consulting the Home Office here to find out who is an undesirable and known to be such, and the entry of such a person is stopped. On the other hand, other people are allowed to come in only under very stringent regulations. I could not help feeling, when I listened to the noble Marquess's exposition, that two things are sure to happen and, in fact, do happen. In the first place, do what you like, a number of undesirables get in. You may do your best, but you cannot stop them. But that, to my mind, is not the worst, because you can deal with them when they are here. At this moment Russia is still, under difficult conditions, making a brilliant contribution to the world's riches in science, in literature and in music, and the unfortunate people who wish to come over here for that purpose are apparently subjected to still narrower restrictions than the Russians who come over for the purpose of trade or anything else. I think the noble Marquess stated that it was a fortnight or six weeks—


I am not quite certain to what the noble and learned Viscount is alluding, but the period for which the visa is granted is six months in one case and six weeks in the other. Either period is capable of being extended and is frequently extended.


I know; and artists and men of science are not the people who are good at going and asking for these extensions or at getting them, and in consequence there is a good deal of hardship. That kind of thing is inevitable when you are upon such a footing as that which exists between this country and Russia at present, but none the less it is bad, and it prevents that better state of things which we would desire to see developing. For my part I look forward to a day when Communism will cease to exist in Russia, and I think the best way of bringing that about is to encourage the best of the Russians to come here and our own people to go to Russia. One of the very purposes of these Treaties which have come to an end, and about which there was so much discussion, was to bring about an intercourse between the two nations which might put things on a footing very different from that on which they are to-day.

The noble Marquess said that in one of the Treaties there was an Article which he suggested looked as though, under the guise of diplomatic accommodation, a large number of people were being admitted for the purposes of trade who would not normally come within a Convention such as was proposed. I think, however, the noble Marquess overlooked the fact that in Russia trade, and foreign trade particularly, is under the control of the Government. It is the Soviet Government which, under an arrangement which I think is a very bad one, controls the freedom of the citizens of Russia to trade with this country, and when you put into a Treaty, which was commercial in its purpose, a provision which recognises that free entry should be given to a number of people who appear to be getting diplomatic privileges although they are here for the purpose of trade, it really was in the view of the Soviet Government the same thing, because they would not tolerate any individual and private trading with this country over which they did not exercise direct control. That I think is the explanation of the matter referred to.

It has been too much the custom to discuss the Russian Treaties as though they depended entirely upon a loan. They really related to other matters, such as fisheries, trade and commerce, and a number of things of very general interest, and their great purpose was not merely the promotion of trade but the promotion of intercourse between two great nations. Russia is in a very sad condition at the present time, and, as I have said before, I think our policy ought to be to help her as far as possible out of that position; to encourage her to come back to the normal outlook on things; and the best way in which we can bring that about has always been, in my view, to open up relations with her and not damp them clown. When I listened to the three speeches which preceded that of the noble Marquess I could not help feeling that, whatever he had to say—and he did not speak in that sense—the three noble Lords who addressed the House, beginning with Lord Newton, were all in a state of alarm lest more Russians should come among us, because they identify the advent of the people of Russia into this country with the advent of Bolshevism and Communism, and nothing else. I listened to the speeches of the three noble Lords with a sense that this is a policy which is intelligible, because there has always been in this country people who have advocated it as regards a succession of nations. We used to talk in the same way with regard to the French; very often it has been said as regards the Germans; and now it is said with regard to the Russians.

There is always a section of people in this country who thinks there is an enemy behind every bush, and that you cannot be too careful how you restrain foreigners from coming into your midst. The foreigner who does come in generally does you more mischief because he is a capable person, the result of restrictions being that the worst type gets in and the best people do not come. I am sure of this: that it is necessary to see that the laws are observed. It is essential to prevent people doing mischief in this country. That you cannot be too careful about, but it is equally foolish to think you will prevent mischief occurring by putting restrictions upon freedom of intercourse with other nationalities, and endeavouring to keep all and sundry out, on the footing that they ought all to be labelled with the same placard.

I think there is too little intercourse between this country and other nations at the present time. I think that we are suffering from that fact at this moment I think there is greater narrowness in our outlook than characterised us before the war. I should like to see things return to a condition of matters in which the national outlook would become developed by our getting rid of that insularity, which I am sure interferes with our prosperity in the end. The tone of the three speeches to which I have alluded was not such as to inspire any one holding my views with much hope, and I should have been more depressed if I had not listened to it before in regard to the other two nations of whom I have spoken. I think the noble Marquess, in his speech, gave no countenance to that tone. I am glad he did not hold out any idea of sympathy with the policy of simply going back upon such recognition as there has been of the Russian Government, and bundling the whole of the Russian community out, lock, stock and barrel. We have not got to that, and I trust that in the course of time we shall get further and further away from that outlook. Meantime, to-night, we have had a debate which is of use, firstly, because it has brought out a certain amount of aspiration on the part of noble Lords which I rejoice to think has had but little countenance from His Majesty's Government, and, secondly, because it has brought from the Government a clear statement of the conditions which obtain.


My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount who has just sat down told us that he was surprised that my noble friends on this side have associated the coming of Russians into this country with the advent of Bolshevism and Communism. A fortnight ago I was talking to a friend of mine whose brother had property in Russia. My friend told me that his brother's motor-car was stolen in Russia, and he saw it in Bond-street. He therefore went to a policeman and asked the policeman to stop the motor-car, which the policeman did. The police, however, on finding out who was in the motor-car—I am not sure, but I rather think it was at a time when the noble Viscount's Party was in power—refused to prosecute on the ground that it would interfere with negotiations between the two countries at the present moment. I said to my friend: "I wish you had told me earlier, because I certainly would have raised the matter in the House of Lords, to find out what the meaning of this was," and he said that he regretted he had not done so. I do not wish to mention any names publicly, because, of course, what I heard was not from the owner of the car but from his brother. I shall be very pleased, however, to inform my noble friend, the Leader of the House, of the name of my informant and of the name of the Russian who was in the car. I shall also be pleased to supply the noble and learned Viscount privately with the same information, if he desire it. It looks to me as if the desire of the noble Viscount that Communism should vanish in Russia—with which we all agree—is at any rate not being realised at the present moment.


My Lords, I think the protestations of the noble and learned Viscount opposite would have been more convincing if he had not sought to side-track the debate into a harmless discussion on immigration and our relations with the real Russian people. This is no question of our relations with the real Russian people, but of relations with a body of people who are mainly not Russians, but who, by force of terrorism, have established a government, consisting of themselves as a self-appointed Committee, over an unfortunate, suffering Russian people who, not having machine-guns, cannot resist them. That was not the purpose with which my noble friend brought forward this Question to-day. It was for the purpose of ascertaining whether diplomatic privileges are being fairly used, or are being abused in this country. The answer of the noble Marquess is to the effect that there is a great deal of inherent probability that much propaganda is going on in this country, which may, in some cases, be a breach and an abuse of diplomatic privileges, and which is, in any case, an unneighbourly intrusion and an uncivilised discourtesy towards this country.

The noble and learned Viscount's protestation of his hope that Communism will disappear would be more convincing if it were not notorious to all of us that, at critical moments, and always at the last moment, in choosing and deciding the line of policy in specific and concrete matters on the part of the Government of which he was an ornament himself, the last word was always spoken by Communists, and the last piece of bad advice which was followed was always given by the Communist wing of that Government. It was very clever of the noble and learned Viscount to bring in art and science and literature. There was art, there was science and there was literature in Russia of the very best kind long before Lenin changed the form of its government. Our desire is to get every kind of good relation with the real Russian people, and, by the elimination of that force and terrorism which have changed their representation, to resume real, civilised relations with that country. It is undoubtedly unfortunate that we cannot get to civilised relations with them. It is not our fault. It is because they conceive it to be their duty to interfere in the domestic concerns of other countries. It would be just as bad if they wished to fortify our institutions, to make them stronger than they are. We do not want their advice about our institutions at all.

The reply of the noble Marquess was satisfactory enough as regards propaganda, except for one thing. I think it is a rather significant and an ominous and a sinister thing that, out of 420 people employed by the Russians in a trade organisation here, there should be no fewer than 260 of British origin. I do not like this offer of jobs to people in a country where unemployment exists too much, by a foreign Government which openly announces its intention to change the form of governments all over the world, and to interfere in the domestic concerns of other nationalities. I hope that the utmost will be done to promote and encourage the arrival and the residence here of all Russians who will behave as guests should in all foreign countries. But, subject to that, I hope we may infer that when the noble Marquess speaks of things contrary to diplomatic usage of which there is a great inherent probability, he is speaking of things which, though they may not be known to the law, are perfectly well known to everybody else, and that he means, by the use of such powers as are at his command, to continue to discourage and, if possible, to prevent this kind of interference in our society.

[From Minutes of December 11.]