HL Deb 06 May 1930 vol 77 cc339-63

LORD NEWTON asked why, under the new Anglo-Russian Commercial Agreement, all diplomatic privileges and immunities have been accorded to the Soviet Trade Representatives and to the offices occupied by them in London, whereas similar privileges have been withheld in other parts of the Empire; and whether diplomatic immunity has been accorded to Soviet commercial agencies in foreign States?

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am, of course, aware that this Question has already been answered in another place, but I think it highly probable that His Majesty's Government may be glad to avail themselves of the opportunity to make a fuller statement; and I am also perfectly well aware of the answer which I shall receive. I shall be told that the answer to the Question on the Paper is that the foreign trade monopoly is the monopoly of the Soviet Government. I venture to think that that is an answer which, although it sounds all right, is by no means either conclusive or satisfactory, and the ordinary individual would probably find it very difficult to understand why a purely commercial mission should in any circumstances require diplomatic privileges and immunities.

Everybody knows perfectly well by this time the history of our relations with the Soviet Government during the last few years, and everybody knows perfectly well why those relations were broken off. That being so, and in view of the circumstances in which our relations were broken off, it would naturally be expected by the ordinary person that the Soviet Government in asking for further recognition would appear in the guise more or less of a suppliant offering to give guarantees for future good behaviour, and that on our part we should insist upon effective guarantees with regard to those particular points. One would also have expected, in the circumstances, that His Majesty's Government would have insisted on certain special conditions and guarantees regarding the future. The really astonishing thing is that the Soviet Government are returning here, not upon our terms, but upon terms which they appear to have fixed themselves. To put it shortly, the result is that the Soviet Government and the Soviet Trade Delegation reappear here provided indirectly with money by this country which, in all probability, will be utilised for purposes of which the House is already fully aware.

I might remind our Lordships that during the period from 1921 to 1928, when a Soviet Trade Delegation was in this country, a surplus of no less than between £70,000,000 and £80,000,000 went to the credit of the Soviet Government. Very little of it was spent in this country, and the balance of it, as far as I know, was probably expended either in foreign countries or in propaganda against ourselves. They come back having secured that advantage. In addition, they have obtained full diplomatic immunity not only for persons but for offices, which will enable them to carry out any operations they please without the possibility of interference on our part. In short, they have obtained privileges which were even denied to Arcos, and considering the trouble that Arcos gave us without this particular privilege your Lordships can imagine for yourselves what the case will be when these people have been accorded the full diplomatic immunity of which I speak. I should like to emphasise the fact that, on the other hand, we get nothing whatever in return for these concessions. We get no compensation for the robberies which have been perpetrated upon British subjects in the past, although I observe that this subject is to be indefinitely discussed in the remote future. We get no reciprocal advantages for British traders. We get no guarantee that the large sums of money which they will obtain in the shape of credits, which are really large amounts on loan, will be spent in this country. Incredible though it may sound, we have no direct undertaking that this new Soviet Delegation will abstain from anti-British propaganda.

I would like to call the attention of the House to the Article in the new Temporary Commercial Agreement which deals with this question. The new Temporary Commercial Agreement is, if I am rightly informed, an agreement hastily patched up in a few hours in order to satisfy the extreme supporters of the Government. The Article which I mention runs as follows:— The Trade Delegation acting in respect to trade for and on behalf of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Government of the latter will assume responsibility-for all transactions lawfully concluded in the United Kingdom by the Trade Representative or by persons duly authorised by him. The next is the important sentence:— The Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics will not, however, accept any responsibility for the acts of State economic organisations which, under the laws of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, are exclusively responsible for their own acts …. In other words, that means that any hostile propagandist body, if it chooses to start under a new name, will be disavowed by the Soviet Government, and allowed to do as it pleases as far as we are concerned.

It appears to me that the only step which has been taken by the Foreign or other Minister to secure our rights and privileges is that he has placed his veto upon the visit to this country of a Bolshevist football team, and even this cannot be placed to the credit of the Foreign Secretary, because I understand that the desire or intention to protect one whom Mr. Rudyard Kipling has irreverently termed the "muddied oaf" from the pernicious influence of Bolshevism is not due to Mr. Henderson but to the Home Secretary, Mr. Clynes. The Foreign Secretary has defended his action in making these concessions on the ground that every other country has done it, and by "every other country" I conclude he means every European country. I am not at all satisfied that that is a correct statement. In fact he has already had to modify it by admitting that the French Government has not accorded the diplomatic immunity which has been granted by this country; and he omitted to state that there are a large number of Governments in Europe who have been sensible enough not to resume relations with the Bolshevist Government at all In cases where there is only A trade mission, and where there is no diplomatic representation, it may have been considered necessary to grant this immunity, but I think we may safely say that the only people who have granted the immunity are Governments who stood in such fear of, and were subject to such pressure from, the Soviet Government that they were obliged to make the concession.

The important point—and here again I desire to refer to the White Paper—is that our Dominions have very wisely determined to accord no immunity of the kind. In Article 5 of the Agreement this will be found:— It is understood that any such agent— that is to say, Soviet agent— will in all cases be subject to the ordinary law relating to aliens in the Colony, Possession, Protectorate or mandated territory in which he resides and will not be entitled to enjoy any diplomatic or consular privileges or immunities. That shows that the Dominions are more alive to the dangers of the situation than we are. But even if Mr. Henderson or anybody else were able to name a majority of Powers who have granted these particular privileges, is there, I ask, any particular reason why we should follow their example? It is a perfectly new departure. The practice hitherto has always been that no immunity has ever been granted to commercial missions, and immunity is not even enjoyed by consulates either as regards the Consul himself or as regards his premises.

But we have an additional reason for refusing to follow this example on account of the flagrant misbehaviour of the Soviet representatives when in this country in the past. If the situation were not so thoroughly unsatisfactory it would be most distinctly comic. Here is a Government, the Soviet Government, which is openly hostile to this country, and always has been, and at this moment the newspapers controlled by that Government are exulting loudly over the difficulties which they have caused and are causing for us in India and in other parts of the world at the present moment Yet, in spite of these palpable facts—facts which nobody can ignore, not even the Government themselves—we welcome these people back as if they were long-lost friends. We lend them money in the shape of credits, and we bestow privileges upon them which will enable them to carry on operations, as I have said, against us with greater security.

On the last occasion when we discussed our relations with the Soviet Government the noble Lord opposite, Lord Ponsonby, said he had quite given up trying to understand the Bolshevist mentality. I do not profess to be any cleverer than the noble Lord, and I am not an authority upon Bolshevist mentality, but at all events I do understand what their objects are, and the object of Bolshevism is to bring every other country to the ground and to reduce it to the state of misery and penury which prevails in their own country. I confess myself that when consider what is against it I feel a certain amount of exasperation, which I dare say is shared by noble Lords around me, at witnessing the humiliation to which we have been subjected in the eyes of the world by the proceedings of the Government with regard to this particular matter. There is only one reason which will explain it to the rest of the world, and that is that we are afraid of these people. In any case I look upon it, as I believe many others do, as one of the most disastrous things which have taken place for a long time. I feel, I might almost say, ashamed of the conduct of His Majesty's Government upon this particular matter, and I am convinced that in their own minds noble Lords opposite are just as much ashamed of their conduct in this matter as I am.


My Lords, this Trade Agreement is in some respects absolutely unprecedented in the diplomatic history of this country so far as I have been able to discover. There are two main points which for a very few moments I wish to draw your Lordships' attention to in this Agreement. The first is this, that three Trade Representatives nominated by the Soviet Government are given all the diplomatic immunities which by International Law attach to an Ambassador or a Minister of a foreign country and his immediate staff. The second point is that the offices in which these trade persons conduct their operations are given the same diplomatic immunity as attaches by International Law to the residence or residences of an Ambassador or a Minister. What is the effect of these concessions?

Let me take first the effect upon the three persons who constitute this Trade Delegation. By International Law and by the effect of this Agreement they are exempt from the criminal jurisdiction of this country. If they use their opportunities as the members of the Arcos organisation used them not so many years ago—in the words of the Prime Minister who recently went out of office, to carry on military espionage and subversive activities throughout the British Empire and North and South America—it would be perfectly impossible to prosecute them in the criminal courts of this country. The only thing we possibly might do would be to make some diplomatic representation to the Soviet Government and the Soviet Government, if they so thought fit, might punish or recall their guilty agents. But I do not think the effect of our representations to the Soviet Government in times past would give us much hope of any real result from any such representation. So that we might say that these trade persons are given immunity from criminal jurisdiction whatever crime they may commit in this country—an immunity which, so far as I know, has never been given before to purely trade agents.

Then, as regards the effect of giving immunity to the offices of the Trade Delegation, that is possibly the more serious point of the two. These offices are by this Agreement made absolutely immune. In other words by International Law they would be either looked upon as part of the territorial area of the country from which these trade agents come, or they would be looked upon as receiving that immunity as incidental to the immunity of the persons who occupied them. What is the effect of that? The effect would be that these offices might be in the future, as they have been within your Lordships' recent recollection, the centre of Communist, treasonable activities against this country. Incriminating documents and correspondence might he well stored there as they were in the past. Yet these offices would be inviolable. No British officer of the law could enter there. There would be no means of discovering what is going on there, the place could not be either searched or raided, and there is no means by which you could discover what is going on.

It might be said, possibly—I do not know whether the noble Lord who answers for the Government will suggest such an explanation—that by Article 2 of the Agreement this immunity for the offices is only attached to the offices if they are exclusively used for trade purposes. Surely that is a purely illusory provision. How are we to know, if we have not the right of entry and search, whether they are being used for purely trade purposes or not? Of course the suggestion will not bear examination for a moment. The truth of the matter, as I venture to suggest to your Lordships, is that these concessions are not only wholly unnecessary for trade purposes, but are mischievous and dangerous to the highest degree.

I say they are unnecessary. If the Soviet Government and their agents confine their operations to legitimate trade purposes no difficulty could possibly arise, and in fact by another Article of the Agreement—Article 1—the citizens of Soviet Russia and their property are given all the rights and privileges in Great Britain in respect of trade that are enjoyed in Great Britain by the citizens of any other foreign State, and not only the citizens but their property. May I ask His Majesty's Government to tell us why the representatives of Soviet Russia should enjoy rights and privileges which are not conceded to the Trade Representatives of any other State? There may be an attempt at justification—though I hardly think the noble Lord, who will answer for the Government will make such an attempt—by saying that the reason these privileges are given is that by the law of the Soviet State the foreign trade of Russia is a State monopoly. I venture to think that is a singularly inconclusive reason. If you look at the case of the United States you will find there is no such agreement. The United States carries on a very large trade with Soviet Russia and Soviet Russia carries on trade with the United States. Yet there is no such concession made by the United States in the way of giving traders coming from Soviet Russia diplomatic immunity, or in the way of giving the offices occupied by those traders any immunity from search. It is all the more remarkable because in the case of the United States they do not even recognise the Soviet Government diplomatically at all.

I venture to think that the sum of the matter is this. The experience we had in the Arcos organisation was that the trade offices of this Soviet trade organisation were used for dangerous and revolutionary propaganda against this country. The same result might well happen in the future unless there is some change of heart and of policy on the part of Soviet Russia, of which we have seen no indication. I confess, for my part, I find it impossible to resist the conclusion that the real object of these clauses in the Agreement to which I have drawn attention was to give immunity in the Courts to the persons of the Trade Delegation in case they conspired against our country, and, further than that, to protect the offices in which they carry on business from the possibility of a raid by the British Government and the discovery thereby of revolutionary propaganda by the Soviet Government.


My Lords, I confess I am very much surprised that any British Government should recognise even such a Government as the Soviet Government. I have had to deal with many contracts and treaties in my time. The one thing which I always look to is the reputation of the person with whom I am making a contract or treaty. I judge by deeds. I do not judge by words. I feel quite sure that there is no impartial commercial man knowing the history of the Soviet Government who would for a moment attempt to make a treaty with them. Their treaties are of very little use. We have seen that in the past. Look at the character of the present Government. The present Government is not a Government elected by the people of Russia. I do not believe that it represents the people of Russia. There was a Government under Kerensky which represented the people of Russia, but that representative Government was destroyed by the existing Government getting control of the Army, and depend upon it they will take good care that no one else is ever likely, if they can prevent it, to be able to do anything against that Government.

When you consider their character, they murdered the Tsar of Russia and his family in the most brutal manner, they have murdered some of the Bishops of the Greek Church, they have murdered hundreds of priests of the Greek Church and they have murdered hundreds of thousands of peasantry simply because they differed from them with regard to their political opinions. Surely, when you find that you are dealing with a Government of that kind, you should hesitate before you make any special treaties or contracts with them. We have had such arrangements before and they have not carried them out satisfactorily. I fail to see why Great Britain, than which there is no country in the world so jealous of its reputation, should make these treaties with such a Government. You find a country like America standing on one side and refusing to do it, and you see France pretty much in the same position. The Soviet Government have repudiated all their debts and taken possession of practically everything that we held in Russia. There must be many of your Lordships in this House who have had personal experience of the seizure of property in Russia. They are now using that money for propaganda purposes in order to do as much injury as they can to British Governments in other parts of the world. The British Empire is laid open to propaganda more than any other. Our Empire is scattered and its parts are not within one boundary, like those of the United States. We have Colonies and Dependencies in all parts of the world, and they are open to such propaganda as the Soviet Government produces.

Why are we doing this? I fail to see any reason, unless it be trade. Nobody is more anxious to get trade than I am, but I have had experience enough in business to know that, if you are to trade satisfactorily, you must trade with people of high reputation who are likely to carry out the bargains that they have made. Is there any justification for saying that the Soviet Government are a Government of that kind, when you consider that they have done their utmost to destroy Christianity in every shape and form in their own country? It is no good saying that this is not the case, for the evidence is overwhelming. They have held up to ridicule some of the most sacred ideals that we have in connection with our religion. This of itself, in my judgment, is quite sufficient reason for having no dealings whatever with this Government, unless we see some change. Is there any change? Have they shown any sign of repentance of their terrible deeds? They hold processions with the intention of casting ridicule on some of the dearest objects we have in connection with our religion. Surely that in itself ought to be sufficient to prevent any British Government, I care not of what political complexion, failing to think, not once but twice or thrice, before they have any dealings with the Soviet Government.

What are we supposed to gain by this? I suppose it is trade. Yet America, as a previous speaker has pointed out, has an enormous trade with Russia. During the six months ending June last the imports from Russia into Great Britain amounted to £14,844,000 and the exports, the trade we got from them, amounted to £3,983,000, leaving a difference of £10,861,000. What was the case with America American imports from Russia were only £2,148,000, and the exports to Russia were £13,680,000, leaving a difference of over £10,500,000. They get £10,000,000 from us—for we have to pay for the things that we get from Russia—and how do they use it? They use it against the British Government in every possible way. With such a balance as that, is it necessary that we should give them any financial help in carrying on business? I say that it certainly is not.

I do hope that the Government, when it comes to consider this matter, will not carry out this Treaty, because am certain that, as time goes on, they will find that they will not get satisfaction from the Soviet Government. I have lived for some time and I have known many Governments, and read accounts of many Governments, but I have never read of any Government—and the facts are beyond dispute—of which the cruelty, injustices and tortures have been such as those committed by this Soviet Government. I am ashamed that a British Government should carry on such negotiations with the Soviet Government. It is not necessary to carry them on. We shall get the trade if they like to pay us for it. I think it is a monstrous thing that the Government should find themselves in the position that they are in now. They seem to make excuses for all the actions of the Soviet Government. I hope that your Lordships, at all events, whatever may be the position of the Government, will say that you will have no responsibility whatever in the matter and that you refuse to sanction any such arrangements as are being made under this Treaty.


My Lords, I rather hoped, when the noble Lord who had put down this Question opened his remarks, that the debate would be confined to the Question on the Paper, but the word "Russia" always carries with it a very wide meaning. If I were to reply adequately to the speeches that have been made, I should have to deal with the questions of our recognition of the Soviet Government, of our having Treaties with the Soviet Government, of our having a Commercial Agreement with them, of our trading with them, of our granting diplomatic immunity to their Trade Representatives, and of our not protesting against religious persecution. I do not intend to embark upon all those questions, and I am sure that your Lordships do not consider it necessary on this occasion that a Government reply should be given on the whole wide scope of the Russian question.

will endeavour, however, to meet the points raised by the noble Lord who put the Question upon the Paper, because, as he said, they have been raised in another place and, as he kindly suggested, this will give the Government an opportunity of clearing up some misunderstandings, and of stating more definitely the actual facts of the case. I think noble Lords are under the impression that something entirely new has been done in granting diplomatic immunity to these three Trade Representatives of the Soviet Government, the recognition of these representatives being due to the fact, as one noble Lord stated, that the Soviet Union has a State monopoly in trade. It is not a new departure. As long ago as 1921, when a new Agreement was drawn up with the Government of the Soviet, before there was any question of recognition at all—it was simply a Trade Agreement, which held the field right up till 1924, when recognition was given by the first Labour Government—there was an Article, Article V of that Agreement, which granted to the Russian official agents (that is the trade agents) in the United Kingdom the same privileges in respect of exemption from taxation, central or local, as are accorded to the official representatives of other foreign Governments, and if official representatives are exempted from taxation, central or local—-I think they are exempted from the payment of two-thirds of the rates—it necessarily follows that that will apply to the premises. The noble Lord, Lord Danesfort, is very much alarmed lest the premises of the Trade Delegation shall be used as a centre of some form of criminal conspiracy against this Government.


Will the noble Lord allow me to interrupt him? Is there anything in the Trade Agreement of 1921 which exempts from search, and gives diplomatic immunity to the offices, such as is given by this Agreement?


No, I meant to make that clear. I said that as they were exempted from the full amount of the rates in 1921, the immunities and privileges were not started for the first time by the present Government, but were initiated in a partial sense in 1921. Let me take up that point of the noble Lord. If they are intent upon some form of criminal conspiracy against this Government, why cannot they use the Embassy? I must say that I do deprecate this continual suspicion that is cast against a Government which—after all His Majesty's Government with regard to foreign affairs represents this country—this country has recognised. This country has recognised the Soviet Government, and the Soviet representative is within our shores. I do not know why, whenever that representative or his Government is mentioned, it should be necessary for one section of the Parties in this country always to cast aspersions on them and impute motives. I dare say there are noble Lords who think they are justified in doing this because, for instance, of the Arcos raid. But I dare to say that most people in this country regarded the Arcos raid as one of the greatest possible farces ever perpetrated.

The noble Lord who introduced this Question wanted further guarantees. The propaganda clause in the Protocol that was signed by the Foreign Secretary at the time of the initiation of these negotiations naturally covers all the activities and all the staff of the Diplomatic Mission. The noble Lord who last spoke, I am sorry to see, has left the House, but I think, strong as his speech was, it was typical of a certain opinion which exists in this House and in another place. The only point I am anxious to correct was his statement that in commercial matters the Soviet Government could not possibly be trusted, because I wanted him to quote a single instance in which a commercial contract undertaken by the Soviet Government, or any organisation acting under them, had not been carried out.

I would now like to answer the Question on the Paper, if I may, because there the noble Lord wants really to know the distinction that is made between what is done in this country and the Colonies and Dominions. He also asks what other countries have done similarly to what we have with regard to these Trade Delegates. A distinction must be made between the Soviet Trade Delegation in London and the trade agents who may take up residence in British Colonies. The Trade Delegation in London is an organisation representing the Soviet Government, as I have already explained. Its representative character has been recognised in this Temporary Commercial Agreement to the extent that the head of the Delegation and his two deputies are accepted as members of the Soviet Embassy, and as such enjoy all diplomatic privileges and immunities.

In the Colonies the position is different. There are no foreign Embassies or Legations in those places, and there is no reason why there should be a Soviet Trade Delegation with the representative functions of that established in London. Such a Delegation could only be properly established at the headquarters of that portion of the British Commonwealth administered by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. But if the Trade Delegation, or the various subsidiary trading organisations of the Soviet Union, are eventually in a position to send agents to any British Colony, in accordance with the terms of the Temporary Commercial Agreement, there is no objection to such persons carrying out the commercial duties assigned to them, in the ordinary way as commercial travellers, without privileges or immunities. These are the reasons which have impelled His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to draw a distinction between Soviet trade agents in London and other places under their administration.

With regard to the Dominions, it is within the province of His Majesty's Government in each of those Dominions to make what arrangements they please if and when the time comes. The matter has not come forward at present. Noble Lords will observe at the end of the Trade Agreement that the Irish Free State and the Union of South Africa are exempted from the Agreement. The reason for that is that it entirely rests within their own discretion, and is not a matter which we have any need to discuss or comment upon at all. Certain States, in addition to this country, have similarly recognised and given diplomatic privileges and immunities to the Soviet Trade Delegations.


And premises?


I think so; I think premises in a number of cases as well. The States are:—Germany, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Sweden, and Turkey. If the noble Lord wishes me to give the exact numbers I am afraid I have not got them. In the case of Germany I think it is ten members, but I am not certain with regard to the others, thought I dare say that could be ascertained. Otherwise it amounts to precisely the same method of recognising these Trade Representatives in limited number as part of the Soviet Diplomatic Mission. I should be glad to furnish the noble Lord with any further details on that point that he requires, but I think that it is not necessary for me to enter into the wider question that has been raised this afternoon.


My Lords, I do not propose to deal with the wider question myself this afternoon. I think the noble Lord opposite was well advised in not expressing any opinion upon the acts of the Russian Government to which the noble Lord below the Gangway, Lord Joicey, referred, and which have from time to time been animadverted upon in this and the other House. There seems to be always something that appeals to the present Government, and indeed which appealed to the Labour Government of 1924, in the acts and feelings and ideas of the Russian Government. At all events, we on this side of the House do not share that friendly opinion, and, though the noble Lord rebuked my noble friend below the Gangway and those of us who from time to time have cast, do cast, and may quite well continue to cast aspersions upon the acts of the Russian Government, I are not going to stand here in a white sheet, but I am going to say I have done so and shall continue to do so when I think it desirable in the interests of this country. I will confine myself, however, to one or two points raised by the noble Lord upon this Trade Agreement. The noble Lord led off by quoting the Trade Agreement of 1921 as a precedent for giving this diplomatic immunity, but in the first place there was at that time no Embassy here at all. Then, when he was challenged by my noble friend behind me, Lord Danesfort, it appeared that the only immunity given was that they did not have to pay rates.


[ought to have stated more fully in reply to Lord Danesfort's interruption that after the Trade Agreement of 1921 the question arose in 1925, and the Government were legally advised in 1925 that immunity from arrest and search, which is mentioned in Article 5 of that Agreement, did extend to the premises of the Soviet representatives.


At all events, at that time it is clear there was no Embassy. There were no means of getting communications through from the Russian Government to their sole representatives here, who were at that time the Trade Delegation, without the privileges which were accorded to them, such as they were. But the real argument that I think we are entitled to address to the Government here is that they have not profited by experience. The Russian Trade Delegation received certain privileges. They practically had their trade embassy in the Arcos building, and certain events took place. The noble Lord is good enough to describe what is generally called the Arcos raid as one that is generally believed by the majority of the people in this country to have been a political farce. I do not know whether the noble Lord has taken the trouble—he is now in a position to do so—to investigate the Papers that were left at the Home Office, to see the heads of the police, and, before making that statement as a Minister of the Crown in this House, to discuss the matter with the advisers of the last Government in connection with the inception of that raid and the consequences of that raid.

It is not possible for me now—and. indeed, noble Lords will realise that it would be the last thing a member of a late Government ever does—to consult or engage in correspondence, either verbal or otherwise, with the civil servants who were their civil servants during the last Government. But that opportunity is open to the noble Lord opposite, who makes the statement that the Arcos raid was a political farce. I challenge him to inquire what really happened. I happen personally to have been the Minister who was responsible for that so-called raid. It was the duty of the Home Secretary to protect this country against any means of propaganda harmful to the best interests of our own nation. It was also our duty, so far as it was possible, to prevent foreign espionage. We were informed by those who were responsible that foreign espionage on the part of Russia was being conducted on a large scale. We were informed that in all probability that centred in the buildings of the Trade Delegation. We were informed, moreover, that certain documents had been stolen, or obtained, from one of the Government offices, and had been photographed in this very Arcos building. When this and other facts came before me, after consultation with the Prime Minister, I decided that an investigation should be made into the contents of the Arcos building, and what is called the raid took place.

Probably the noble Lord will not accept my statement that that raid was justified. That being so, perhaps he will accept the statement of a man who was responsible as an officer of the Government for the conduct of that raid. I do not advocate the publication, by civil servants who have left the Government employment, of memoirs, particularly if they contain anything indiscreet; but in this particular case a book has just been published by Sir Wyndham Childs, who was the head of the political secret service at Scotland Yard, and who was my right hand man in connection with the whole of this matter. The noble Lord may refuse to accept my statement, but I have taken the trouble this morning to copy out of this book what Sir Wyndham Childs says. Lest there should be any misunderstanding, let me say that, as far as I have been able to see, it does not contain any indiscretion. This is what Sir Wyndham Childs says, writing two or three years after the event: the man who, above all others, had the best means of knowing whether this raid was a political farce or not.

On page 237 of his book "Episodes and Recollections," he writes:— We discovered conclusive evidence that Arcos was being utilised as a focus for the dissemination of revolutionary propaganda, and that the Russians had violated the provisions of the Trade Agreement. He goes on to say:— The documents we discovered contained precise information as to how to send legal documents, legal telegrams, illegal documents and illegal telegrams, cipher telegrams and money. And he adds that Arcos was used for the transmission of those telegrams, those documents, and that money from Russia, not only to this country, hut to a large number of countries, particularly in South America, a list of which he gives. I can confirm that, if any confirmation is necessary, but I prefer, as the noble Lord has chosen to designate my action as a political farce, not to ask him to believe my statement; but I do ask him, if he has any doubt about it, that he will go and see the other civil servants, some of whom are still in the Government service, and ask them whether that statement of Sir Wyndham Childs is or is not a correct statement.

If it is correct, and I am here to say that it is, my complaint against the Government this afternoon is that they have not benefited by the experience which the late Government had. They have not maintained that continuity in foreign policy which has always been to a great extent the secret of the success of British foreign policy. They have chosen entirely to revoke our decision. I am not dealing with the Embassy; I have my own views and doubtless noble Lords on all sides of the House have their views, as to the wisdom or otherwise of reopening diplomatic relations. Let that go for the moment it is not the question we are discussing this afternoon. But to reopen the Arcos Trade Delegation and to give the Arcos Trade Delegation exactly those privileges and immunities which would enable them to do exactly the things that they did three years ago seems to me really the height of folly. That is the reason why I am here to support the Question of my noble friend behind me. The noble Lord told us that similar privileges are not to be given to any Trade Delegation in the Dominions. Why not?


I said that it rested entirely with Dominion Governments as to whether they would or not.


I beg the noble Lord's pardon. I thought, he read from a document, perhaps he was reading from his own notes, words which I took down. He said that in the Dominions they can carry out their trade without diplomatic privileges or immunity.


I think it was in the Colonies.


Let us assume for the moment that the Russians choose to send a Trade Delegation to a particular Colony, and that a large trade is developed between that Colony and Russia, larger perhaps than the very small trade which is now carried on between Russia and this country. If it is necessary for them to have diplomatic immunity here, why would it not be necessary for them to have the same diplomatic immunity in that Colony, more particularly having regard to the fact that in the Colony they will not have an Embassy round the corner to which they can appeal from time to time? The real point in diplomatic immunity, as noble Lords know, is really the diplomatic bag—the ability to send correspondence, information, money, propaganda, if necessary, through the diplomatic bag which, by the comity of nations, is not, of course, interfered with.

I suggest to the noble Lord opposite and to your Lordships' House that the Government has gone much too far in giving them this diplomatic immunity. I am not going to prophecy. I am not even going to say that if disaster does take place I shall say, "I told you so." I hope not. But what is the experience of other countries? Only a few days ago the United States of America discovered that a plot of a somewhat similar kind to that which undoubtedly took place in this country was being conducted by the Russian Government through the Communists in New York. The noble Lord, with all his desire for friendly co-operation—I do not wish to use any offensive word—with Russia surely must be aware that propaganda is the very life, the very essence of the Soviet position. There is not a Russian Government. There is a Soviet Government, and their desire is that a Soviet Government should be extended throughout the world. For that reason they are employed in various parts of the world by their agents in trying to foment disturbances against capitalist Governments in order that, if you like rightly from their point of view, the Soviet Government may spread into other parts of the world.

His Majesty's Government have opened that possibility not merely to the Embassy but to the Trade Delegation. What took place four years ago with regard to the Russian Embassy I know not. They were immune. I had no power or opportunity, no Government has any power, to investigate the affairs of an Embassy. But having found what we did find, I put it to the noble Lord that his Government is embarking upon a policy which is unnecessary from the trade point of view, as appears to other countries like America, which was mentioned by my noble friend below the gangway. Trade could be carried on every bit as well without this sealed room or these two sealed rooms and the three officials who are to have diplomatic immunity. It can only be for some purpose other than that connected with trade.

There is only one thing I would like to say in conclusion to the noble Lord opposite. It is my deep regret that the Government in their position have taken a course which is distinctly and diametrically opposed to the views certainly of the Party which sits on this side of the House and, I believe, of the vast majority of the people of this country. If there ever was a Government which should have endeavoured to continue the foreign policy of its predecessors, I think it is the Government of noble Lords opposite. Had they come in with a large majority, had they fought an Election upon this point, had they been authorised by the country to change the policy, there would have been something to say for them. They have, however, taken upon themselves the responsibility of entering into an. Agreement with which we do not and cannot agree and, without making any threat, I think it right to deplore the action of the Government in having violated the tradition so long observed of maintaining the continuity of foreign policy.


My Lords, There are one or two points in the speech of the noble Viscount about which I should like to say a few words. I will follow his example in not going back to the question of reopening or not reopening diplomatic relations with Soviet Russia, except on one point. He has charged us with altering the ordinary principle of political life in this country by non-continuity in foreign policy. As a matter of fact there has always been and always will be a large element of non-continuity when one Government takes a fundamentally different view on questions of foreign policy from another. When the Conservative Government returned to power there was an absolute breach of the policy which we initiated at Geneva in 1924. It was their real opinion regarding their duty to the country that they should express the opinion which they entertained in their foreign policy. In the same way as regards Russia, there was a. breach of continuity in the attitude towards Russia when the late Government were in power and the attitude of the present Government. I do not blame them. But would any one opposite say that a Government which has in its charge a great national duty ought not in foreign policy to express its view of that duty if it becomes necessary and essential? I agree in the general principle of continuity, but it may become a perfect danger. I recognise, and I should not be the person to blame, what the noble Viscount said. He said: "If we come into power again we shall reverse this policy which is the policy of the present Labour Party." Why should he not? I may regret it—


Will the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House forgive me? I might have meant it, but I did not say it. I was very careful not to say it. While I am on my feet may I say that I think he does not quite appreciate the argument. I was trying very hard not to twit the Government with being a Minority Government, though I expressed the view that a change in the continuity of policy might have been made had the Government come in with a large backing of public opinion on any particular point.


If I may answer that I will do so. I do not want to give what I may call a mere technical answer. Suppose a Government is in power—as the noble Viscount says, a Minority Government. No Government in power could go on with regard to its measures without the support of a majority in the other place. Suppose a Government came in like the Labour Government did, and found support by a considerable majority in another place for what they considered to be the right thing to do in foreign policy? Then I put it to the noble Viscount or any member opposite, what ought that Government to do as a national duty? I do not think it matters whether you come in as a Minority Government or not. Suppose, in regard to the foreign policy which you think to be right you have a substantial majority in the other place, which has always been regarded as the leading House—that is, the House of Commons. Are you to shirk carrying out that policy, or are you, with courage and determination, to carry out what you believe to be to the advantage of your country? There can be only one answer to that.

May I deal quite shortly with two other points which the noble Viscount mentioned. I will take the question of America. I only do that because he mentioned it himself. The effect of what he told us was this, that the fact that America had no diplomatic relations, and the fact that America had no trade agencies, had not protected America from the dangers of the advocacy of the Soviet Bolshevist propaganda. That is what he called it, and I understand that is what he gathered from what had recently been said in regard to propaganda in America. I say nothing upon that at the present moment, hut I think a good deal has to be heard before one understands what the nature of that propaganda is. But taking it as the noble Viscount said, what occurs to me, and has always occurred to me in these debates, is that the breach of diplomatic relations—no facilities for trade—has not had the advantage which it is suggested it may have. On the contrary, you find the same difficulties, and perhaps greater difficulties, in this country than you did before. There was another matter, but I do not think it was the noble Viscount's point. I do not want to travel into matters generally. It was suggested that we entered into these relationships with Soviet Russia because of fear.


I did not say that.


No, but that expression was used by one speaker on the other side. I only want to answer that for this purpose. I think it is fear that prevents closer diplomatic or trade relationships with Russia than you might otherwise have. Fear is not something which brings you nearer, but fear—and there is a good deal of it in the country —does prevent those diplomatic and other relationships which may assist trade. But let me come to the real point which, I suggest, is a very small one, and has been very much exaggerated. Of course the question of diplomatic relationships with Russia is important, but that we are not discussing at the present time.

As matters stand there is immunity for the diplomatic representatives of Russia—the ordinary immunity which the noble Viscount has very properly indicated. There is immunity within the bounds of the Embassy premises. What is the effect of this? The trade agencies of Russia are very closely connected with the Embassy. The Embassy is, in fact, allowed to have I think three representatives in the trade premises for the sake of convenience. Every single thing which could be done, as the noble Viscount has himself suggested, every danger you could contemplate in a matter of this kind, comes under the Embassy itself. The diplomatic bag to which the noble Viscount referred does not depend on the trade agency. Diplomatic immunity as regards correspondence does not depend on the trade agency, but depends on the existence of the Embassy itself, and every single thing which it is suggested could be done through the trade agency can be done more conveniently and directly through the Embassy and the Embassy staff itself. There is no question about that, nor do I understand that the noble Viscount questioned it. He stated perfectly accurately that the real benefit, or want of benefit, the real differentiation which attended the privileges or immunities of a country in its diplomatic relationship originated in the Embassy, and was carried out through the Embassy agency. Whether there are these three additional people or not I confess does not appear to me to be a matter of very much importance. I hope it may be of advantage in ordinary trading, but if the Soviet Government intended by propaganda to try to upset the relations in this country, they would do it through the Embassy and there would not be any need of the trade agency at all.

There is one other point I do not wish to overlook, because I realise the importance of what the noble Viscount has said. The difference with the Dominions or Colonies is that there is no Embassy there, and therefore you would be instituting a special immunity for this special purpose. That is a different thing altogether. There is no diplomatic relationship, and there is no basis for immunity, and none of the dangers which have been sketched out could originate in those places because there are no Embassy buildings and no Embassy immunity. I suggest that if we are to have this trade relationship, a matter which has already been settled as one of policy, the question we are discussing to-night is an incidental and accidental one and does not go to the basis and foundation of the matter at all. My own view is that if you have a relationship of this kind you had better deal with it in what I may call a spirit which may really effect the purpose of a more friendly relationship and a business relationship, and I cannot think that this special immunity of three people outside the Embassy, which may be a great advantage, can place the Soviet Republic in any better position as regards what is called propaganda than that which they would get from the Embassy itself if they intended to use an agency of that kind in opposition to this country. I do not believe that is so; I am merely testing the case of diplomatic intercourse with the addition of this small concession for trade purposes.


My Lords, the debate has wandered a long way from the original Question. I only want to draw attention to one small matter, and that is that personally I am quite incapable of understanding the reasons given by the noble and learned Lord why it is not necessary for the Dominions to give these privileges whereas, apparently, it is necessary for us to do so. I take it, although I do not agree with it for a moment, that the privilege is asked for because it is necessary for the proper functioning of this Commercial Mission. Here you have got a Soviet Diplomatic Mission and an ordinary Embassy. In that case, if there was any difficult question of a semi-political nature which arose in the Trade Mission, it would be open to them to go to the regular Diplomatic Mission—that is to say the Embassy—and get it put right there; but in the case of the Dominions they have no means of recourse to any body of that kind. I should have thought, therefore, that the natural and commonsense procedure would have been to deny this privilege to the Commercial Mission in London, because there was already a body here properly constituted to deal with it, and to accord it, if really necessary, to the Trade Missions in the Dominions. That is the way I look at it, and I am totally unable to follow the reasons given both by the noble and learned Lord and his colleagues as to why the Dominions should be placed in a different position. I doubt very much whether they understand it themselves, but the whole thing is so unsatisfactory that I do not think it is worth pursuing the matter any further.