§ VISCOUNT BRENTFORD had given Notice that he would call attention to the relationship between this country and the Government of the Soviet Republic of Russia; ask His Majesty's Government—
- 1, What steps they have taken or propose to take dealing with Russian propaganda in the Empire;
- 2, Whether they propose to take any and, if so, What steps to prevent the dumping in this country of the products of Russia grown or manufactured under unfair conditions;
- 3, Whether they still intend to continue the export credits scheme to Russia;
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, the Questions which I desire to ask the Government this afternoon are, I venture to submit, of some considerable importance. In putting the Questions, I really am going to suggest that the Government or the Foreign Secretary have been guilty of either misleading Parliament or, at all events, of a complete change of view—one or the other—since these troubles began. Your Lordships will remember that as long ago as March, 1927, when we were in office, the present Prime Minister declared quite definitely that the propaganda of the Russian Government in this country was illegitimate. He went out of his way to make that declaration. Moreover, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer at the same time, in March, 1927, made a very clear statement that there was no difference between the Russian Government and the Communist International. In fact, his statement was very considered. Indeed, said Mr. Snowden, the Soviet Government, the Communist International and the Russian trade unions are a trinity—three in one, and one in three. I want your Lordships to remember those two statements, because a complete change seems to have taken place as far as I can gather in the mind of Mr. Henderson, the present Foreign Secretary.
§ The Government were determined, apparently, to re-establish relations with Russia. Mr. MacDonald himself, in a speech during the Election, said that they must do it, if they came into power, by hook or by crook. "By hook or by crook" is the foundation, as it were, of the policy of the present Government in dealing with the question of relations between us and the Soviet Government. As soon m the present Government came into office there was an announcement in the King's Speech that discussions had already begun. The Foreign Secretary, in order to make it clear to the 97 House—and I venture to think in order to placate opinion on our side of the House—laid it down quite clearly that we were not going to tolerate any form of propaganda, of interference in the internal affairs either of this country or of any of the Dominions or of any part of the British Empire.
§ That is the basis which the Foreign Secretary laid down as the one upon which negotiations were going to take place between Russia and ourselves, and when an arrangement was come to between Russia and ourselves, it was clearly provided that we should each of us refrain from and restrain all persons and organisations under their direct or indirect control from any act liable in any way whatsoever to endanger the tranquillity or prosperity of the British Empire or the Soviet Republic. That is an extract from Article 16 of the previous Treaty made in 1924 between the Labour Government and the Soviet Government. Article 16 was actually re-enacted by Mr. Arthur Henderson and by, I think, Mr. Dovgalevski, who was Russian Ambassador or Russian Envoy to treat in these negotiations. Article 16 actually went so far as to bar all organisations receiving financial assistance from either Government. I ask your Lordships specially to take note of those words "financial assistance," because I shall show to your Lordships very shortly that financial assistance has quite recently been given by the Russian Government to one or other of these organisations.
When these negotiation's took place the present, Prime Minister was perfectly aware of the position between the Russian Government and the Third International. Really the charter as it were of my case in this debate is the celebrated Despatch by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald when he was Foreign Secretary, dealing with the Zinoviev Letter of October 24, 1924. Re sent a Despatch to Russia in which he laid down with the utmost clearness that—
No one who understands the constitution and relationship of the Communist International will doubt its intimate connection and contact with the Soviet Government.
He went on to say:—
he was speaking of our own Government, the Government of Great Britain—
will ever tolerate an arrangement with a foreign Government by which the latter is in formal diplomatic relations of a correct kind with it, whilst at the same time a propagandist body organically connected with that foreign Government encourages and even orders subjects of the former to plot and plan for its overthrow.
I would like to ask the noble and learned Lord, the Lord President of the Council, who I understand will reply for the Government, whether any change has taken place in the view of the Government since that celebrated Despatch of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald in 1924. I would like to ask whether they are now prepared to tolerate in a Government with which they are "in correct"—that is his expression—"correct diplomatic relations," propaganda organically connected with that foreign Government.
Mr. Henderson, speaking in the House of Commons on November 5 last year, when he was dealing with the question of the resumption of these diplomatic relations, referred to that Despatch of 1924, and ho said:—
It has been plainly stated to the Soviet representative, and stated again twice by myself, that the Communist International will be regarded by His Majesty's Government as an organ of the Soviet Government.
In your Lordships' House the late Lord Thomson, whom we miss so much, said on December 4 last:—
From the outset the Government have made it clear that they will regard this undertaking—
that is, the undertaking in reference to propaganda—
as including the Third International.
If these statements were at the time correct, and I believe they were, I want to ask the Government this afternoon whether they adhere to them, whether they regard the Third International as organically connected with the Soviet Government, and whether they regard the undertaking given by the Soviet Government as still including the Third International.
§ I cannot conceive it possible that they are not aware that either the Third International or the Government itself is still indulging in propaganda. In September last year there was a Conference of the principal scouts of the Red agita- 99 tion in the East, and Stalin himself—not merely a member of the Third International, but, as far as we can fix the appropriate rank, the Prime Minister of Russia at that time, and certainly the leading member of the Russian Government to-day—Stalin informed the Assembly that the Soviet Government had decided to grant for the year 1930 to the special section of the Third International occupied with work in the East a total credit of 500,000 dollars, of which 200,000 dollars was for India alone. Here you get the most powerful member of that Government announcing to the Red Scouts, a branch of the Third International, that the Government was actually going to provide them with a definite sum of money for agitation in India. That clearly comes within Article 16 of the Treaty of 1924 to which I have referred.
Then, as your Lordships know, the Daily Worker, a paper which perhaps one does not always read, was started on January 1 of this year, and its first issue in this country contained a message from the head of the Third International announcing that it was to be "a new and powerful weapon in the fight against capitalism, against nationalism, and against the Socialist-Fascist-Labour Government." I am here trying to help the Labour Government. I sympathise with them in the attack that has been made upon them by the Socialist Republic of Russia. But, whether we have a Labour Government or a Conservative Government, I equally deny the right of any foreign country or foreign propaganda organisation, after the signature of that Treaty, to take any part in propaganda against the Government in this country. On January 17 the Daily Worker made no secret about its desires when it stated that the International was engaged in stirring up unrest in this country, in India and in Australia. That was too much for the present Foreign Secretary, Mr. Henderson, who apparently had his attention called to it in the House of Commons. He told the House that he had called the attention of the Soviet Ambassador to this and had informed him that such action was likely to impede the improvement in the relations between the two countries. And then Mr. Henderson added, in a moment of real bathos:-
For the present His Majesty's Government do not propose to take any further steps.
He clearly admitted, by calling the attention of the Soviet Ambassador to this matter, that it was propaganda within the meaning of Article 16, propaganda which the Soviet Government had undertaken not to indulge in. He calls their attention to it and he says that for the present His Majesty's Government intend to take no further steps.
That was eleven months ago. Perhaps the noble Lord opposite will tell me whether "for the present" is still to be read as applying to the present day, and whether they are taking or have taken any further steps. When he was further pressed in the House of Commons, Mr. Henderson actually said:-
I did not ask His Excellency for any reply.
I suppose it was a kind of pleasant afternoon at the Foreign Office, and the Foreign Secretary said to the Russian Ambassador "This is all very wrong and against Article 16 and your solemn Treaty; have another cup of tea, and do not trouble to answer." The Foreign Secretary said: "I did not ask him for any answer." I wonder what the Ambassador said. We were not told this in the other House. The Foreign Secretary, after making this complaint, did not ask for an answer. Did the. Ambassador sit still and say nothing at all? I should like to know that. A few days after, the Izvestia, which, as your Lordships know, is one of the official papers in Russia, said that the Soviet Ambassador had given Mr. Henderson a very definite and unequivocal reply to the effect that his point of view with regard to the activities of the Comintern was not, and never would be, accepted by the Soviet Government. The Foreign Secretary has said that the Ambassador made no reply and, if the Lord President says that the Ambassador never said this, I accept that in preference to any statement in any Moscow newspaper whatever.
In May it went a little further, and the Foreign Secretary told the House of Commons that he was keeping an eye on the matter. He did not explain the precise manner in which he was keeping his eye upon Russia, because he was not certain that it would be in the public interest to do so. Things have
moved since that date, when it was not in the public interest for Mr. Henderson to tell the nation what he was doing with the eye that he was keeping on Russian propaganda in this country. In May of this year the Third International sent out two telegrams of rather great importance, signed by Stalin—I repeat, by the most important Cabinet Minister in Russia. These were an appeal to the people of India, Asia and Oceania. One ran:—
We send you an appeal asking you to fight against capitalists. Wage battle against them without mercy. Our Government takes under its protection all revolutionary organisations of the entire world.
This appeal is sent out broadcast to the people of India by a man who is a responsible Minister of the Russian Government, which has entered into a Treaty with this country to stop all propaganda, either here or in any of our Dominions. On the following day the Pravda, another official newspaper of the Russian Government—as your Lordships know, no statement of any importance regarding foreign policy can be made in any newspaper in Russia without the full approval of the Government of the day, for there is a strong censorship—the Pravda declared that the International would give the Indian revolutionaries its sympathy and unlimited assistance, which would enable them to fight to the finish. It is bad enough to have propaganda in this country, but it is worse for a Government which has entered into this solemn Treaty to make this attempt at propaganda on the very combustible character of the Indian people.
Therefore it is no longer necessary for me to prove the propaganda. In the House of Commons on June 6 of this year the Foreign Secretary made a statement in which he said:—
I have never denied, and I am not going to try and persuade the House that propaganda is not going on.
I am simply quoting from the mouth of the Foreign Secretary—
I have to bring that propaganda home to the Government before I can take action.
Stalin is a member of the Government. I have quoted to your Lordships telegrams sent by him. Mr. Henderson went on to say that if the Government could bring it home that the Russian Government were responsible, the
Government would do one of two things. Here at last is a really strong action that is going to be taken by the Government! As soon as they can bring it home to the Russian Government that there is propaganda, they will do one of two things. I wonder if all of your Lordships realise what those two things are. The Government would either break off relations with the Russian Government, or they would—
ask the House to release us from the statements that we made in the early stages of debate on this subject.
Was there ever a more pusillanimous statement made by a Foreign Secretary in the House of Commons, or made on behalf of this Government? It was made by the successor of Disraeli, Palmerston and all the great Foreign Secretaries of the past. "Either we will break off relations": we all know that they will not break off relations. Russia, must know by now that nothing will induce them, however much they may be kicked by Russia, to break off those diplomatic relations which they have establislhed by hook or by crook.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (LOAD PARMOOR)
Will the noble Viscount tell me the date of the last statement?
§ VISCOUNT BRENTFORD
On June 6, in the House of Commons, and then Mr. Henderson said that if they did not break off relations the other great step they would take would be to ask the House to release them from the statements made by them in the earlier discussions. What does that mean? The Government made certain declarations to the House of Commons, which I have read to your Lordships' House. They were perfectly clear and perfectly definite, and then Mr. Henderson says: "If we find that those agreements are being broken then we will ask the House of Commons to release us from the statements we have previously made." Is any further faith ever to be placed in any statement, of the Government, either in the House of Commons or elsewhere? When they get, into difficulties they will ask the House of Commons to allow them to be released from their statements made about Soviet propaganda!
I go further. In July of this year-Stalin made a speech to the 16th Con- 103 gress of the Russian Communist Party. I quote him because he is one of the most important Ministers—the equivalent of a Cabinet Minister in this country—in Russia to-day. He spoke of the revolution in China and referred to an Indian revolution whichwill hasten the end of the capitalist domination over Asia. The workers' movement in India should emerge from the limits of non-violence as well as of full nationalism.This is your friend or ally, with whom you have entered into diplomatic relations. This is the leader of a great friendly Government, who has undertaken not to have any propaganda of any kind inimical to the British Government and to the British Empire. He continued:—The problem to be resolved is how to throw the English into the sea and put an end to the imperialistic exploitation.What is the representative of the Foreign Office in this House going to say to your Lordships this afternoon with regard to that? Is it a breach of the Treaty? Clearly it is propaganda. It is an incitement to the subjects of the King-Emperor to rebel. It is an incitement to violence on the part of the subjects of the King-Emperor in India. Is the Foreign Secretary coming down at long last to say: "I am exceedingly sorry but I must withdraw all I said with regard to propaganda, and ask the House and the country to release me and the Government from what I have said" I do not think your Lordships will release them, and I doubt whether the Opposition in another place will do so.
But more has happened since Parliament met. On October 29 Mr. Henderson, replying to a Question by Sir William Davison, said he had been making inquiries into this propaganda and as a result he had seen the Soviet Ambassador and represented to him that his Government had not been observing the pledge against propaganda which was exchanged last year. Mr. Henderson added:—The Ambassador assured me in reply that his Government had done and will continue to do all in their power to observe the pledge regarding propaganda."All in their power," when I have read the statement of the Prime Minister in Russia himself which is an appeal published to the world and to the people of 104 India to throw off their allegiance ! Then the Ambassador, Mr. Henderson says, went on to add that "his Government could not control the activities of the Third International." We know they can. I am sorry to give a blunt negative to the Russian Ambassador. The Russian Government are in the closest touch with the Third International. They have what is known in the City as interlocking directors. There is no secret about, it. It is known to the world and to our Government here. I have read the statements of Mr. MacDonald and of Mr. Henderson and it is no good the Russian Ambassador denying it. Our own Government say they agree that the Government of Russia is responsible for the Third International and that is why we made Article 16 explicit. It was to cover any body which was either in touch with or subsidised by the Russian Government.
Then the Secretary of State went on to say:—In the interview that took place I very fully stated the interpretation which this Government placed upon the question of propaganda, and the obligation which we thought that his Government entered into when they signed the propaganda undertaking on the 3rd October.No wonder the House of Commons was startled. Sir Austen Chamberlain got up and asked whether the reply of the Soviet Ambassador was not a repudiation of the interpretation which the British Government had put upon the Treaty. The answer of Mr. Henderson was certainly the most astonishing answer that I can remember. He said:—It is quite clear that there are two interpretations. I placed my interpretation, and I have given the House what he said was his interpretation. That is as far as I am in a position to take the matter.The Government said: "This is our interpretation. We entered into the agreement relying upon that interpretation. The Treaty was based upon that interpretation. We told the Ambassador what that interpretation was. Now the Ambassador puts forward a different "I interpretation." shrug my shoulders," says Mr. Henderson, "and that is as far as I can take the matter." I hope the President of the Council will be able to take the matter a little further this afternoon, and that he will 105 be able to give us a little more assurance that his Government are going to take the matter further.
It was taken a little further in the House of Commons on November 5, when a further Question was asked by Sir Kingsley Wood and Sir William Davison, who enquired as to what date Mr. Henderson first ascertained that the Soviet Government repudiated our interpretation of the pledge, and Mr. Henderson replied referring to the speech which he made on November 5, 1929, and said that the hon. memberwill nowhere find any statement by me to the effect that the Soviet Government accepted the interpretation which His Majesty's Government placed upon the pledge—namely, that it covers propaganda by the Third International. No question of repudiation, therefore, arises. I have, however, repeatedly made it plain that this is the interpretation which His Majesty's Government place upon it.How were those negotiations conducted? They were not five-minute negotiations, as the House knows. There were negotiations in London, and then the Foreign Secretary and Dovgalevski motored off to a small hotel in the town of Lewes, and there had their negotiations and came to conclusions. Are we asked to believe that the Foreign Secretary enters into negotiations on a very important question, which the Government put very much to the forefront with the electors in the course of their campaign, and that in the course of these negotiations either in London or Brighton or Lewes, they never, to put it quite frankly, had it out with one another, that Mr. Henderson never said to the Russian Ambassador "Well, quite clearly we are going to guard against the Third International interfering: that is our object"?
Are we to assume that the Soviet Ambassador said nothing the whole time, and never stated his view? Obviously, if the Ambassador had said: "Oh no, the Third International has nothing to do with us," then the Foreign Secretary would say: "It is no good entering into this Treaty." This is, of course, the 1924 Treaty which has been revived by Mr. Henderson. But it is a very curious statement. It goes a little further than anything Mr. Henderson said in the House of Commons last week. If the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House would look at the speech 106 of Mr. Henderson in the House of Commons on November 5, 1929, he will find, a rather more definite statement. He, said—After 1924 it has been plainly stated to the Soviet representatives, and stated again twice by myself, that the Communist International will be regarded by His Majesty's Government as an organ of the Soviet Government.Only last week Mr. Henderson referred to that statement again and said: "That is my position—the position I laid down in a speech on November 5, 1929." He-further said:—We stand by the declaration of 1924 that we could not allow any direct interference from outside in British domestic affairs and would insist on the promise, given by the Soviet Government to refrain….And then he added this very remarkable' sentence—This is, in fact, an undertaking that: Soviet propaganda will not be tolerated in any form or at any time.To that statement Mr. Henderson referred only the other day in the House of Commons.
Finally he said at the end of his speech:—Let the put the House, in mind of the two conditions which were laid down last July … First the Government declared that an agreement embodying a definite undertaking with regard to propaganda was necessary … The first (condition) has been fulfilled in the restoration of Article 16 and the interpretation which I placed upon that Article in the negotiations with M. Dovgalevski.That is the first time I have been able to find out that Mr. Henderson has ever admitted that in the original negotiations fifteen months ago with M. Dovgalevski he told him then and there of the interpretation which he placed upon it. Well, in that case how can we be satisfied to leave this matter in the hands of the Government who now practically take refuge in saying "We have nothing further to say"? I ask these Questions of the noble and learned Lord this afternoon. I do not want to-use harsh language, but I think the wriggle and the wobble of the Foreign Secretary in the last few weeks in the House of Commons, the efforts he has made to evade this question are such as to entitle us to ask these Questions in this place, where more freedom is possible perhaps than in another place.
107 May I deal for a moment with the question of dumping? This question is becoming a very serious one indeed, particularly if the answer to the first Question I put is, as I think it will be, unsatisfactory. If the real truth is that the Russian Government first of all try to beat us by propaganda, and secondly try to beat us in the economic market by destroying our trade and commerce, then really we have to consider in the third Question whether we shall go on any longer financing them with export credits. The Trades Union Congress even dealt with this matter. Mr. Ernest Bevin, a trade unionist, told his colleagues there that Russia was dumping goods here which were manufactured for little or no wages, but only for food and clothing. The Daily Herald gave descriptions of food queues in Russia and imports into this country. I will not labour that, but I want to make quite clear what I mean by "dumping." Ordinary dumping, of course, is the export of the surplus which the home market cannot reasonably dispose of. But in this case the dumping is part of a deliberate policy of a Government to destroy our trade here—dumping which consists of manufactures or cereals produced by what is, in effect, slave labour, without, as Mr. Bevin said, the payment of any wages, but only payment by food and clothing.
Are we to draw the line, or are we to go on and on till the Russian five-year plan is fully carried out? Five hundred tons of Russian soap were dumped here the other day. Coal, of course, is being dumped in all part of the world in competition with ourselves. I agree that we cannot prevent coal being dumped in Italy or other countries which are not members of the British Empire; but coal is actually being dumped in Canada to-day at a figure which leaves the price of Is. 3d. a ton, pit-head, after the cost of transport has been paid. But Canada appears to be one of those countries which is a little more alive to the evil of dumping of slave-produced goods than we are here. I should like to know the opinions of trade unionist miners on the dumping of Russian coal. Actually some of it has been sent here. We have heard of carrying coal to Newcastle, but at a time when the Government have just passed a Coal Bill for increasing the price of coal and protecting the work and wages of the miner, they are apparently 108 prepared to allow Russian coal to be dumped here. I have no time to go fully into the activities of the Russian five-year plan, but it is known that the plan lasts for five years, 1928–1933, no fewer than 2,000 new factories are being built, various State trusts are being put into operation, trusts for machinery, trusts for cotton, trusts for steel, trusts for canning, and so forth; and the whole scheme involves expenditure in the heavy industries of nearly £1,000,000,000 and in the light industries of £260,000,000, while the people of Russia are starving. The dumping, of course, has been most felt in the East of Europe, in Rumania, Bulgaria and so on, and from the dumping of timber in the Baltic States. The timber trade in Latvia and Estonia is almost at a standstill.
A very remarkable letter from a British officer on one of our ships at Archangel appeared in the Daily Mail in August of this year—I have verified this letter—describing the loading of timber vessels by convicts, as he calls them, working on twelve-hour shifts, marched about in gangs of two to three hundred, and all of them destitute. He says that they were not convicts in the ordinary acceptance of the term, not criminal convicts; they were slaves, pure and simple, and as slaves ninety-five per cent. of them did not know why they were there. To see them hungrily watching our men going along the decks at meal time with their steaming soup, roast beef, vegetables and so forth would make a stone heart bleed.
There are also some very remarkable statements made by two Socialists who have recently been to Russia—Mr. Toole, Member of Parliament for Salford, and Mr. Hughes, who, I think, is on the staff of one of the Government papers called Forward. They tell us what they saw of the horrible condition of affairs in Russia, of the food queues, of the efforts of men and women to get even a small quantity of food. Remember that wheat, the main food of all, is being exported very largely from Russia. My noble friend who will open the debate on agriculture to-morrow or myself will deal with the food question, so I will not touch upon it now. But the prices of food in Russia compared with the prices at which it is dumped here show clearly that there is a definite attempt on the part of 109 Russia to impede our own trades in this country. She has actually exported to this country a great deal of confectionery and sugar goods which, I believe, have been very largely manufactured out of the Cuban sugar which we exported to Russia under the provisions of the exports credits scheme, which your Lordships will remember was discussed in this House a few months ago. Actually, we are lending money to Russia to buy Cuban sugar in order that it may be Made into sweetstuffs there and re-ex-ported to this country to the detriment of our own manufacturers. Mr. Toole, who is a Socialist, remember, gave a very grim picture of Russia. He said that it will take many years to make the place -sanitary. From the worst English slums there does not issue a stench—this is a Socialist Member of Parliament who is speaking—like that from parts of Leningrad and Moscow. If this is a real effort on the part of Russia, and I think it is, to destroy or to hinder our trade, as part and parcel of their propaganda scheme, surely we are entitled to ask the Government what they are going to do about it.
In October of this year another Russian Government publication was issued which I have had translated as "National Economy." It has a rather difficult name to pronounce—Narodnoye Khoziav stvo. It is an economic paper issued by the Government, and it definitely says—We are making a concentrated effort on the export front. Our exporting organisations … are exporting and will continue to export everything that can be disposed of in foreign countries. Our enemies may howl about dumping as much as they like. Our system"—our system !—enables us to compete against all corners at all times.In a second paper, the Economic Review, also a Government paper, there is this statement. Again, I may say, that I am indebted to the courtesy of a newspaper with which all your Lordships may not always be in agreement, the Daily Mail, for supplying me with certified extracts from these papers. The Economic Review says:—Our five-year plan provides for an increase in our exports from 774,000,000 roubles to 2,050,000,000 roubles in 1932 … Exports of industrial products are assuming greater importance at the expense of agricultural exports. Despite the 110 howls of the capitalist Press against our exports, our competitive ability will soon show that we can stay on the market.That is what is going on.
Now just as in connection with the last question I appealed to the present Prime Minister, so I appeal to him again. Speaking at Birmingham in October -of last year, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald dealt with the question and said:—Where there are glaring examples of sweated goods produced under conditions against Which people could not compete without lowering their standard of living….Will any noble Lord deny that the goods produced in Russia to-day for the export trade are produced under conditions against which British people could not possibly compete without lowering their standard of living? They are produced under conditions of slavery, as the noble Lord knows. They are produced under conditions of poverty and hardship such as God forbid that our English workmen should ever be driven down to. What was the remedy mentioned by the Prime Minister?—"the remedy is not safeguarding but prohibiting the entry of such goods.I again appeal to the Prime Minister. There is his statement, that the remedy for sweated goods pouring into this country is prohibition. What are the Government going to do about it? Are they going to adopt the Prime Minister's opinion of last year, that it is not a question of tariffs, but of prohibition? I say to your Lordships that it is time—and it will be very much time in 1932—for arrangements to be made to prohibit absolutely the importation into this country of sweated goods at a price utterly below that at which English workmen can compete. France is moving already, and a special Commission has just been instituted to control the import of goods from Russia. Holland is moving. Belgium is establishing a system for dealing with the matter. Rumania has already stopped goods from pouring over her eastern frontier, and, as I told your Lordships, Canada has moved. Are the Government doing anything? America realises the position. The Assistant Secretary to the Treasury made the very remarkable statement recently that this is part and parcel of an economic war against the capitalist 111 States of the world. We have propaganda, and we are asking the Government to deal with propaganda. We have imports of sweated goods. We now ask the Government what they propose to do in regard to them.
Lastly, and I think I need not deal at any length with this, there is the question of export credits. The Minister for Overseas Trade in the House of Commons last week said that we have given Russia £4,750,000—sterling not roubles—in export credits, of which the Government are liable for £2,750,000. When he was asked what security we have for this £4,750,000 of money, he said it is in effect a loan that we have made to Russia. This in spite of the fact that, as I said a few months ago in dealing with this matter, there has been for some time past a balance of trade in Russia's favour in this country, a very large balance of money which Russia is using, not to buy British goods—she prefers to buy British goods on credit—but for buying goods from some of our competitors in America and so forth. Is it reasonable that we should go on lending Russia more and more money when she is really using all the cash she can get to finance this five-year plan for importing into this or any other capitalist country, or any country which is in close relationship with ourselves, goods produced under the conditions which I have described, and which are certainly described by the Prime Minister's statement?
I ask the Government to answer those three questions, to deal fully and fairly and frankly, as I am sure the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House will, with the question of propaganda. Whether he is able to make any statement on behalf of the Government I do not know, but I ask him to make a statement, if he can, as to what the Government intend to do regarding this dumping, either of food or manufactured articles, and whether they intend to take any action in the near future in regard to that matter; and finally whether they still think it right, necessary, or wise to continue the export credits system between this country and Russia. I beg to move.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
My Lords, I want to say one word on the subject of export credits. The present Government have given Russia credit to the extent 112 of several millions of pounds in spite of the fact that the record of that Government is the record of a bandit and a robber. In regard to the future possibilities, I would point out that Russia, with its immense population, as the noble Viscount has already pointed out to your Lordships, organised agriculturally and industrially, working for a pittance and less than a pittance, can so undercut our world trade and our home markets that any Government here in the future might find it necessary to pass an anti-dumping measure against Russian imports. Supposing that happened, the men who control Russia would have a strangle hold. They would be the masters, and they would say: "Very well; we refuse to pay for the goods we have bought from you if you refuse to allow our produce to came into your country." I think no more credit should be given to Russia, if only for that reason. If people want to trade with Russia, let them do so at their own risk. I am entirely against the taxpayers' money being risked to provide the Government of Russia with the means to destroy our trade and prosperity. That is the only point I wish to make.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, has used some strong language in moving his Motion. I hope to show that the allegations he has made, particularly against the Foreign Secretary, are wholly without foundation, and for that purpose I shall quote consecutively what the Foreign Secretary has said from the time when he first spoke about this matter in November, 1929, up to the present time. I quite admit that we approach this question from an entirely different standpoint from that of the noble Viscount. The present Government approach it as a very important factor in what is called the unemployment question, and both the Labour Party and the Liberal Party, naturally enough, during the last Election, both by statement and speech, said that in order to deal with the curse of unemployment they would do what they could fully to re-establish trade relationship between this country and Russia. That really has been the basis on which the whole of our policy towards Russia has been based. I should like to ask the noble Viscount this. Assuming that that basis is right—that it is of enormous im- 113 portance in order to increase the volume of exports from this country and so to relieve the great evil of unemployment that we should encourage our export trade to Russia—would be then use the language that he has used in addressing your Lordships this evening?
§ VISCOUNT BRENTFORD
If the noble Lord asks me a question, I will answer it, but if he is to put a series of questions perhaps I had better answer them at the end.
§ LORD PARMOOR
The noble Viscount, will answer them, if he desires. He will have an opportunity of replying. I want to keep the questions in regard to the Foreign Secretary, extremely important as they are, distinct. I desire at the moment to test what has been said about the export credits. It really is the third question—"Whether they still intend to continue the export credits scheme to Russia"? I will say at once the answer is that we certainly do. But what the export credits scheme to Russia means is this, that we give the credits to our own exporters which enables them to carry on that export trade which in other circumstances they could not succeed in doing. Is that a laudable thing or not? I say that under existing conditions of unemployment—I do not want to quote, but I could quote any number of illustrative statements—nothing is more important than to increase the volume of our experts, and a Government with that object should do what I shall show in a moment we have done—namely, give credits to enable that export trade to be carried on.
I must say one or two preliminary words before I come to the actual terms of what is called the export credits scheme. I know that the noble Viscount took a different view from what I am stating at the time of the Arcos raid. I am not going back into that. He has since stated—and I do not say I agree with him, because I do not—that so long as the credits were continued the political diplomatic breach was not of much moment. The answer to that is, I think, quite complete, and it is that the moment a breach took place our trade decreased and decreased in a steadily growing proportion. After all, that is only what you would expect. Trade, to a great extent, depends upon diplomatic friend- 114 ship between the two countries concerned. In fact, that is the basis of a large amount of our foreign trade. You may obtain foreign trade in one country or another, but in our present condition it is essential that we should keep the volume as large as possible, and for this purpose we are utilising our system of granting credits to exporters in order that they may be able to carry on a trade of this character. They could not carry it on without these export credits, certainly not to the extent that they do now.
Let me give an illustration in answer to what the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow said. He seems to think that the object of the credits system is to provide money for Russia for Russian trade or to assist the propaganda which has been referred to against this country. The matters involved in propaganda I desire to keep distinct for the moment. I shall have to go through them, I am afraid, at some length before I sit down. The Overseas Trade Acts from 1920 to 1930, which you are now dealing with, empower the Board of Trade, with the consent of the Treasury and after consultation with the Advisory Committee appointed for that purpose, to give guarantees in connection with the export of goods wholly or partly produced or manufactured in the United Kingdom. So far as the Consultative Committee is concerned the noble Viscount knows quite well that it has a free hand. As a matter of fact the Chairman and all its members except three were appointed before the present Government came into power, and they were appointed from the point of view that they were persons who had great knowledge of trade conditions here and abroad. The Committee comprised a large number of the first men in the City of London, and they had sufficient knowledge to give advice to the Board of Trade in any particular case whether it was advisable to give these credits to the exporter or not.
Since 1921 there has been practically no legislative restriction on the destination of exports in respect of which guarantees might be given, but Russia, under conditions which I shall state, was excluded from the scope of the scheme by administrative action until August, 1929. Therefore up till August, 1929, the benefit of fostering export trade 115 by helping the credit of the exporter—he was the person aimed at—was not attained as regards Russian trade, although it was as regards trade in all other directions. That was not a legislative restriction but an administrative one. The President of the Board of Trade then announced that the Advisory Committee would be free to consider applications in connection with transactions in Russia. At a meeting of the Advisory Committee held a few days later the Chairman stated that the President of the Board of Trade had made it clear to him that in the case of Russia, as in the case of other countries, the Committee would be free to recommend or decline any transactions and to form their own opinion as to the length of credit and any other matters which might come up for consideration.
Does the noble Viscount desire that this system of assisting export trade should be discontinued? That is what it really comes to. Are we in this great market of Russia—in which, of course, we would seek to do trade if we were not met with what I may call "propaganda difficulties"—are we, apart from that, to stop credits of this kind, or are we to encourage trade which in the aggregate tends to become a very large trade indeed, giving employment to a number of men who would otherwise be unemployed in this country? I have a quotation from the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, himself. The reference is to the House of Lords OFFICIAL REPORT of Thursday, July 3 last. The noble Viscount said:—your Lordships will find if it is very carefully examined that the increase of trade is due more to the removal of the ban"—that is the ban against giving credit to exporters to Russia—and the opening of the export credit system to Russia than to any resumption of diplomatic relations.I entirely agree in one sense with the noble Viscount. I think the resumption of political relations was more favourable to trade than he considers, but I think he is quite right in saying that the encouragement of resumption of this trade—which after all is far less than it used to be with Russia in the old days—is more due to removal of the ban which up to that date had prevented credit being given to exporters to the Russian market.
116 I entirely agree with him there, but when we come to the question of propaganda he may say that the advantages are more than counterbalanced by disadvantages on the other side. I am dealing, however, for the moment, with the credit system and I find—I do not know whether he himself used this expression—that the expression has been used in many quarters that in order to relieve the great burden as well as the great misery of unemployment, it is hoped that the Government will give full assistance by taking off the ban which up to a certain point had prevented credit being given to exporters to Russia. When speaking of trade with Russia, members of the Opposition, I think—I do not want to say anything personal—invariably talk as though the primary object of the export credits guarantee scheme were to benefit the Russian Government. Of course it is nothing of the sort.
§ LORD PARMOOR
Incidentally it does benefit them. That is all the better to my mind—a double advantage. But that is not the basis of the scheme. The scheme is to increase our exports, and I say again that in view of the present conditions of unemployment that is the most serious question which any Government has to face. The object of the scheme is to assist exporters from the United Kingdom, to increase their overseas trade. Incidentally some benefit may be conferred on Russia, but surely that is not a reason for withdrawing these facilities? In any case the Government have no intention of doing so. I do not want to repeat myself, but the Government look on this Russian question as in the main an economic question. They regard Russia as a great field for absorption of the manufactures of this country. They believe that as far as combating unemployment is concerned it is a most fruitful field to which they can look in the immediate future. Therefore, although Russia may be incidentally benefited, they give these credits, not to Russia but to the exporter—to the British exporter—in order to encourage the maximum exports of goods which otherwise would not be sent abroad, in return, of course, for the remuneration which comes here.
117 One noble Lord spoke as if we were piling up the resources of Russia. Of course in one sense all trade is important to both parties concerned, but are we to starve people in this country by keeping up a campaign which in my opinion, and in the opinion of the Government, cannot be justified? Russia is put on the same basis as other countries as regards the encouragement of exports from the United Kingdom. That is the whole matter when you put, prejudice on one side. I do not know that it is necessary to say any more. I cannot believe that, taking that question by itself, any one who feels the terrible conditions which undoubtedly exist—and are growing, I am sorry to say—in this country, can do otherwise than support the Government in attempting to increase as much as may be the volume of our exports and particularly in encouraging exporters to send goods to the Russian market.
There is one more matter on which perhaps it is hardly worth while to dwell at length. The noble Viscount referred to the sugar question. That, again, has been a matter of misapprehension. Very careful inquiries have been made as to the actual facts. I am bound to say that in my opinion there is more prejudice on this point than on almost any other point where Russian trade is concerned. These are the facts. Raw sugar is imported into this country and is refined here, giving employment to a large number of people and representing about 30 per cent. of its value. That refined sugar, like any other product or manufacture, may be exported to Russia under the export credits scheme. Inquiries have been made into this matter. Mistakes and misstatements have certainly been made in regard to it. It is perfectly obvious that this is a trade for Russia itself, and not, as has been suggested, for some outside interests which do not affect Russia or Russian trade at all. I will not go into all the facts, though I have them here, but, your Lordships may take it quite certainly from me—and the noble Viscount gave me a good character in that respect—that inquiries that have been carefully made into this matter have dispelled the illusions with which it was surrounded and have eventuated in showing that this is a trade carried out for the profit 118 of this country, which does the refining of this sugar, and represents about 30 per cent. of its value.
I will come to propaganda last, if I may, because I think it is very important. The next question is dumping. I agree with the noble Viscount that we have to consider first of all what we mean by the term "dumping." I understand that in his opinion it is not dumping if a country of origin has a surplus amount of a particular article and exports it as a matter of business—I am not dealing with the other matter now—to other countries. We do not dump our cotton goods in India because we export goods which are surplus in this respect, that they cannot be consumed in this country. We do not dump Northampton shoes and boots in Canada (I think that was an illustration that I saw given) because our manufacturers are enabled, as a matter of legitimate trade, to produce a surplus quantity. Indeed, if it were not for that, all international trade could be interfered with.
International trade depends on the production of surplus quantities in the countries of origin, and there is no reason why they should not make the best they can of the export of those goods to other countries. As a matter of fact, "dumping" is a word very largely used merely of that process. Long before the dumping of corn from Russia—which, after all, is a very small matter—came to the front, what we were complaining of here was the dumping of prairie wheat, which, of course, can be produced, as we all know, far more cheaply than people can produce it in this country. What people complain of is that another country, which can produce any product of manufacture on lower terms than we can in our own country, should send it here; and "dumping" is used as a term of reproach by people who are anxious in their own interest to stop imports of that character. But that is absurd when you come to the question of trade. It is the very essence of trade to produce commodities where you can do so most cheaply and to exchange them for other commodities produced by another country on cheaper terms, in order that world consumers may in the long run be benefited.
As regard unfair conditions, I entirely dispute what the noble Viscount has said, 119 I am quite aware that on this Russian question you find almost any statement made, and you have to consider everything carefully. We are told about the dumping of wood, and I think even stolen wood, as an export from Russia to America. After investigation, America admitted that timber and no further question was raised upon the ground of unfair conditions. If we were to take the Statute to which the noble Viscount referred—I have not got it with me but no doubt your Lordships are aware of it—I think there is an attempt there to give a specific meaning to the word "dumping," and it was done in this way; that wherever goods were sold at less than their cost of production in the country of origin, that was a case which might legitimately be considered as unfair competition, and therefore dumping. Of course that is a most difficult and complex problem and, as has been pointed out, the definition does not meet the difficulties. Take what we are dealing with here. I will not go particularly into wheat—I think the noble Viscount pointed out that we might have a discussion another day—but, if you take those commodities which are said to be dumped into this country from Russia, they are almost infinitesimal, and really they do not matter, except that everyone who produces those commodities in this country naturally dislikes the importations which are able to undersell him in the ordinary average market. But if you take the view that I do, and that always has been taken, that you have to consider the interests of the consumer, then, if there is nothing unfair, it is unjust to him to exclude commodities because they can be produced more cheaply in some other area than our own.
I want to put this, if I may, to the noble Viscount. I dare say he is aware of the meeting at Warsaw which, I think, took place last spring or summer. A number of countries were represented there, and one of the questions was whether it was fair that countries should give bounties to their own manufacturers in order that they might undersell in the foreign market. The general view was against it, and I should agree with that view. Moreover, an arrangement was made, and a Committee was constituted which is now considering the matter, and I suppose we shall hear some time what the result is. But unless you can find 120 unfair conditions, I am bound to admit that I think the word "dumping" is a mere term of prejudice. Of course, if there are unfair conditions it is different, but when the noble Viscount talks about unfair conditions, we want the conditions very carefully ascertained and very carefully stated in order not to make any error in a matter of that kind.
Let me put this to the noble Viscount. Taking the policy of His Majesty's Government, it is that we desire, and always have desired and advocated in the International Labour Office at Geneva, that, having regard to differences in conditions of climate and so on, you should have a standard living wage for standard working hours, below which no country should be allowed to compete in the international market. I am in favour of that proposal. A good many people may not be, but those who are not in favour of it are always stating the objection that it is an interference with English liberty. I say take that test if you like. Take the Washington Conference. If it becomes a matter of international arrangement then I think the particular country which does not comply with the condition so assented to may well be said to be carrying on what is called dumping under unfair conditions. Does the noble Viscount wish an arrangement to be made so that the standard of living may be made reasonable and decent in all countries? It has not been the policy of the Government with which he was associated, since the Washington Convention in 1920, signed by the late Lord Balfour but never ratified. So far whenever ratification has been sought to be brought on it has been argued that an international standard of living would interfere with the interests of this country. I say that there ought to be such a standard, and then you can determine whether dumping is unfair or not.
Then I come to the question of propaganda. I wish that the noble Viscount could have levelled his criticisms against myself rather than against the Foreign Secretary. I believe I am equally guilty, and the Foreign Secretary of course cannot be here. If suggestions are made of mala fides—I think it went, to that—they ought to be made in the Assembly where the Foreign Secretary himself is, and I am sure he would repudiate suggestions 121 of that character with every success. First of all I would say a word as to the general position, and then I will give chapter and verse, as far as I have got them. From the very start—the noble Viscount is quite right—the Foreign Secretary has said that there is a, difference of view. The difference of view was whether the obligation with regard to propaganda included the Third international or not. Also, from the fiery start—this is much more important —-until now, on every occasion the Foreign Secretary has stated quite clearly, I think without any possibility of misconception, the Government's view of what the condition was. The noble Viscount has said that it is a terrible thing to have an arrangement in which the two parties take a different view of an essential term. That may be so, but in this case I think it does not matter. When from the very start that difficulty is recognised and established, if we should take the view, which we of course have, that it includes the Third International, what does it matter? It leaves it in our power, and the Foreign Secretary has made it quite clean—I want to use his own words because his honour has been questioned—made it quite clear from the very start that his view and the view of the Government was that the Third International must be controlled, that it came within the obligations attaching to the Soviet Government, and that they were determined, if conditions arose, to break off the agreement owing to a breach of that condition.
What is there then either dishonourable or false, or anything of that kind, in an arrangement of that sort? It was made quite clear from the beginning. I must in justice to the Foreign Secretary go as shortly as I can through the history of events. I also want to say a word on one other matter which I think the noble Viscount forgot. At some time about last May the Foreign Secretary stated that he had appointed a small body to which could be referred the question whether a breach of the propaganda condition had been proved, and if so what steps should be taken. That body was constituted, and met, and the Home Secretary has stated that in the action lie has taken—or not taken if you so prefer to put it—he did not act out of accord with the representations made, but followed those recommendations. That I 122 thought was accepted in the other House by every one who heard it. I do not like to leave this matter at this stage, and I think reference should be made shortly to what is the history of this matter. Otherwise, unless you have the whole picture in your mind, you cannot, I think, justly deal with an accusation such as the noble Viscount has made. On the other hand, I should not have an opportunity to repudiate, as I do wholly and absolutely, any suggestion of the kind which has come from the noble Viscount.
We are all aware that there is a conflict of opinion between the two Governments as to the relations existing between the Soviet Government and the Third International in Moscow. Not only are we all aware of it, but on every occasion the Foreign Secretary has made that quite clear. The Soviet Government contend that they have no control whatever over the activities of the Third International. That they have always contended. His Majesty's Government, on the other hand, have always maintained and still maintain, without any change of any kind, that the two organisations cannot be thus dissociated, and from that position they neither desire nor intend to retreat.
§ LORD PARMOOR
If the noble Viscount says "Hear, hear," then we come to this point, the question of policy, and when we come to the question of policy I again want to follow the various steps which I think we have rightly followed, with full explanation by the Foreign Secretary in the House of Commons, and with such explanations as Lord Ponsofiby and myself have been able to give in this House from time to time. When the pledges regarding propaganda were exchanged on December 20 last the Soviet Government were under no delusion regarding the interpretation which His Majesty's Government held on the subject of propagandism. No doubt the organs of the Soviet Press have continued to repudiate the responsibility of the Soviet Government for the acts of the Third International, but, if noble Lords 123 have followed the debates in another place they must be aware that His Majesty's Government have remained unshaken by these disclaimers, and that they maintain the view which they have always held and expressed.
Now let us see what the Government's course of conduct has been. In fact, His Majesty's Government have taken serious action on two occasions. On January 1—I recollect very well the late noble Earl, Lord Birkenhead, making a very explicit speech on that occasion—a new Communist publication appeared in this country, called the Daily Worker. I do not know whether I ought to congratulate the noble Viscount because he is the first person I have ever heard of who has seen or read that publication. I do not know whether it has ever appeared except on that one occasion, and then there were only a few hundred copies. That publication contained a message addressed to it by the Presidium of the Executive Committee of the Communist International. So many questions were raised on this article in this House and in another place that your Lordships are no doubt familiar with its terms. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs decided that it could not be overlooked, and on January 7 last he drew the attention of the Soviet Ambassador to the article, and expressed his regret at its appearance in an organ of the British Press. He added that he could not fail to regard the message as an action calculated to impede the improvement in the relations between the two countries which the negotiations at that time had as their object.
§ VISCOUNT BRENTFORD
The noble and learned Lord has accused me of varying things, but I read that to the House half an hour ago. And he himself has not read the concluding words—For the present His Majesty's Government do not propose to take any steps.That is the gravamen of my remarks.
§ LORD PARMOOR
Perfectly right. All the facts were discussed, all the facts were known. His Majesty's Government, who have always declared that they must be the judges in this propaganda question, decided to take no steps—of course, largely owing to the great importance of maintaining friendly trade relationships with Russia. There the 124 matter dropped. It is all very well to go back now nearly a year. The matter was discussed, the Foreign Secretary giving the frankest and fullest explanations. He did not disguise that there had been in his opinion a certain infringement of the undertaking of the Soviet Government, and after that full inquiry, and a very long debate in this House, the impression left on my mind was that the two Houses and people generally were satisfied that on that occasion, at any rate, the Foreign Secretary had taken the right action.
On June 6 last Mr. Henderson again made his position absolutely clear. He did not deny that there were reasons for dissatisfaction at the way in which the propaganda pledges were being carried out. Is not that perfectly straightforward? He adverted to an announcement he had made on May 26 to the effect that His Majesty's Government had set up appropriate machinery for sifting all the evidence of propaganda in their possession with a view to deciding what action would be appropriate in all the circumstances. Is not that right? What is there not straightforward in that? Of course, if the noble Viscount wants to break off relations with Russia in all circumstances, I can understand his attitude, but if we want to maintain, for trade purposes, the ordinary diplomatic friendly relationships, then I say we were quite right not to take umbrage at what is a comparatively small matter and to set up a body which could advise and consider the evidence.
Your Lordships know that on October 29 my right hon. friend again made representations to the Soviet Ambassador on the question of propaganda. He asked the Ambassador to impress seriously on his Government that the continuation of this propaganda would be calculated to endanger the relations between the two countries. In reply the Ambassador assured him that the Soviet Government have done and will continue to do all in their power to observe the pledge given on December 20 last, but he added that they could not control the activities of the Third International. There were renewed Questions on this point in another place—I should think a hundred or more—reiterating the position of His Majesty's Government. The 125 Foreign Secretary emphasised two points, and said, first, that the Soviet Government are still held responsible for the action of the Third International, and, secondly, that His Majesty's Government intended in the first place to be judges of the importance of any incidents that may arise and of the action, if any, which they judge it necessary to take. We come there to a question of policy, not a question of honour. On a question of policy surely the Government must be the judges of whether any particular breach should lead to the giving up of the economic relationship between the two countries. They must be the judges of what action it is necessary to take. Of course, it is impossible for any other body than the Government to be the judges in such a matter. I quite agree that if the Government are not prepared to take a responsibility of that kind they are not worthy to govern she country.
§ LORD PARMOOR
Yes, but I said—if they are not willing to take the responsibility. The noble Viscount differs from us there, and that is the real basis of the whole of his speech. I am not going to try to convince him; it would be a hopeless task. But what I say is that all the insinuations be made against the honour of the Foreign Secretary are wholly without foundation, and upon this point of policy, whether we are right or wrong, the Foreign Secretary was right when he said that the Government would take the responsibility. I think the noble Viscount agreed with me that if they could not do that they would not be worthy of being the Government of a great country like ours. There is no change. This remains the position. This is what the Foreign Secretary then said. There is no change and no intention to change. I hope the noble Viscount considers that. There is no change of policy, and no intention to change our policy. I would, however, ask noble Lords whether they are not magnifying out of all proportion the question of propaganda so far as it has been carried on in this country. I take that as a test and I take it as to the credit of the Labour Government. Communism has died out. There are only a few thousand left. It is at 126 this country that Russia aid the Soviet Republic look askance, because they feel that the good sense and good feeling and the desire for stability amongst the working classes of this country have been so great, that not only have they made no advance in propaganda here, but they have fallen altogether out of any chance of taking any step in that direction.
I have gone, I am afraid, at great length, but it was necessary to do so, through the points which the noble Viscount raised. Do not let him think that we do not differ. Of course, we differ. But I hope he will reconsider some of the phrases that he used regarding the attitude of the Foreign Secretary of this country. Although I do not want to put any special weight upon this, I would ask him to recollect that Stalin has no official position in the Russian Government. He really represents the Third International, which, although it is an outside body, is, I admit, the body as to which, under the terms of the arrangement we have made with the Russian Government, we did regard and will regard and shall regard an obligation as existing upon them to stop any propaganda from that body. I thank your Lordships for listening to me. I am afraid I have been rather long but the matter is of great importance. With regard to Papers, I should like to say that there really are no Papers that could be permitted. The noble Viscount knows, from his experience of administration, that matters which have passed confidentially in the course of diplomatic relationship cannot be published. If you once broke into the immunity of diplomatic relationship in those matters it would be almost impossible to carry out any real understanding between two countries.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, I have no desire to prolong this debate which certainly, as regards the last speech delivered, has been of the unsatisfactory nature which characterises Russian debates. I only rise to call attention to the conflict between my noble friend Lord Brentford and the noble and learned Lord opposite on the question of dumping. What I gather from the noble and learned Lord is that there is no dumping and that, if there was any dumping, it would be a good thing.
§ LORD NEWTON
I also gathered from him that there is no justification for the expression "slave labour." I will not go into that, but I confess that, so far as I can see, I am entirely in agreement with my noble friend. Here may I say parenthetically that I hope he will not find it necessary to withdraw any single expression he made use of in the course of his speech. With regard to the question of dumping, which appears to me to be far more important than even the question of propaganda, it ought to be plain to the meanest intelligence in the country that the Soviet Government, after waging political war upon us for the last thirteen years, is now embarking upon an economic war. I do not think that anybody can be blind to the fact, and it seems to me one of the most alarming portents that have confronted us for some time. It is perfectly idle to contend that it is not going on. Although it may seem an almost impossible thing for one country to destroy the industry of all civilised Governments, these people, unfortunately, have a much greater potentiality of doing it than anybody else. They start with the initial advantage of repudiating debts. They steal all property and they conscript labour. I believe unemployment is a crime in Russia at the present time.
§ LORD NEWTON
Labour can be conscripted to any amount and, as everybody knows, the ordinary person in Russia is completely under the control of the Government who can do whatever they choose with him. In those circum stances, the so-called five-year plan, which many people are inclined to de ride, is really a universal danger, and in my opinion it is the highest form of folly to speak of it as if it was a contemptible effort to which no attention need be paid. To me, at all events, it seems one of the most formidable menaces that we have been confronted with. I gather from the statement of the noble and learned Lord and from statements in another place that nothing whatever is going to be done, and that the Government are actually going to continue the policy -of financing this movement which is directed against ourselves. All I can say is that though I 128 have often ardently wished for the termination of His Majesty's Government, I feel all the more strongly now that in the interests of this country and of everybody who has any vestige of common sense their end ought to come before long, so that the disastrous policy upon which they have embarked with regard to Russia, fraught as it is with all these dangers, may be immediately reversed by their successors.
§ VISCOUNT BRENTFORD
My Lords, at this hour of the evening, I am sure that the noble and learned Lord will not expect me to deal with the case that he has made. There will be other opportunities, I doubt not, I hope there will be—
§ VISCOUNT BRENTFORD
—to discuss various points with him. Therefore, I will not trouble about the two first points he made. But he has accused me of using language which, perhaps, is not usual in your Lordships' House. I had no intention of using any unparliamentary language, but so far as what I meant is concerned I do not withdraw one word that I said. I charge the Foreign Secretary, in effect, with having stated to the House of Commons on November 5 last year, just twelve months ago, that he had entered into a certain agreement with Russia,. He read that agreement to the House. It was perfectly clear. There was nothing whatever said that we take one view of the meaning and the other side take another view. It was read to that audience of the English House of Commons straight out and it was as perfectly and transparently clear as any legal document could be.
He did not say: "I think it my duty to inform you, Mr. Speaker, and this House that though they have signed this agreement they do not agree with it.
Though we think it includes the Third International, the Russian Government are laughing in their sleeves the whole time because they do not mean to be bound by it." He did not say that. What he did say was—We stand by the declaration we made in 1924 to the effect that we could not allow any direct interference from outside in British domestic affairs and would insist that the promise given by the Soviet Government to refrain from any act liable 129 to endanger the tranquillity or prosperity of the British Empire, and to restrain from such acts all persons and organisations under their direct or indirect control….He used the words again—"refrain" and "restrain." This is, in fact, an undertaking that Soviet propaganda will not be tolerated in any form or at any time.
§ VISCOUNT BRENTFORD
The noble Lord opposite comes and says that it is admitted that is propaganda. Mr. Henderson admitted that in the House of Commons. If you want to break there are sufficient reasons for doing so. May I paraphrase the noble Lord in conclusion by saying: "If you do not want to break then you will stand anything." Is it not possible for the noble Lord to give some Papers?
§ LORD PARMOOR
I do not know the Papers which the noble Viscount thinks could be given, hut if he would suggest them and they can be laid on the Table we will do so, but he knows that these diplomatic matters cannot be disclosed. I am not aware of the nature of the Papers, but I will have inquiries made. If I can assist the noble Viscount I am most anxious to do so, but I hope he will not press the Motion. I am sure that would be the better way.
§ LORD NEWTON
May I be permitted to suggest that there could be no difficulty in publishing Papers relating to the conditions of labour in Russia? That would settle the controversy between the two noble Lords. Would the noble Lord, Lord Parmoor, entertain any suggestion of that character?
§ LORD PARMOOR
It is very difficult to give an answer across the floor of the House as the noble Lord, Lord Newton, knows. He is fair in all these 130 matters. The suggestion will be considered with a view to seeing if it can be adopted. I cannot go beyond that. I think if we left it in that way that would be best. We are constantly meeting, and I will do all I can to bring the view that has been expressed to the notice of the Foreign Office, but I cannot go further than that, because I do not know what the nature of those Papers may be.
§ VISCOUNT BRENTFORD
I do not want to press the Government unduly. Naturally I would not ask for Papers relating to Despatches from our Government to our own Ambassadors, but if there are any communications between the Foreign Office and the Russian Government I think we ought to have them. I cannot think that would be against public policy. That is the kind of Paper I had in my mind. Then in regard to the question of dumping, I think there must be considerable information at the Board of Trade as to what has been dumped in the course of the last twelve months, and there must be somewhere in our Government Departments a great deal more authentic information than perhaps the public has in regard to the conditions of the working people of Russia. A statement has been made at the Trades Union Congress by some of the noble Lord's supporters, and I think it would be fair to him and them and all of us that we should have all the information which the Government has it in its power to give. I say this in order that the noble Lord may realise what I want. I will gladly talk the matter over with him, relying, as I know always can, on any undertaking he gives. I will not press my Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past seven o'clock.