HL Deb 13 December 1939 vol 115 cc265-6

5.42 p.m.

LORD NEWTON asked His Majesty's Government whether they intended to publish a White Paper dealing with the recent Anglo-Soviet negotiations. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I understand that the request on the Paper is going to be complied with, therefore it is unnecessary for me to make a speech. I only desire to offer my congratulations to the Government on their decision to publish a record of the proceedings. It seems to me obviously necessary, for various reasons, and I cannot understand why there was any hesitation in doing so some time ago. One obvious reason why this White Paper should be produced is in order to destroy the silly illusion which prevails that the negotiations were unsuccessful on account of our representatives not being of sufficiently high rank. As a matter of fact the two delegations met with two entirely opposite objects. Our people went there with the object of promoting peace. The Russians, for their part, were determined to use every means to promote war, and there could have been no greater calamity in their view than if war between ourselves and Germany had been averted.

We all know it is the amiable practice of the Soviet Government to do their best to promote universal war in every European State, but the technique has lately varied, because Soviet leaders have now joined the aggressors and have even managed to outdo the aggressors in the iniquity of their conduct. I have no hesitation in saying that in the lifetime of anybody now living there has been no iniquity to compare with the aggression in regard to Finland. There is nothing anybody can think of within the last century that constitutes so great a crime. One of the main merits of the disclosures of the White Paper, when it comes out, will be that it will show that we at all events were sufficiently aware of rectitude and honour that we were not prepared to sacrifice the Baltic nations for the purpose of possibly assisting our military operations by attempting to conciliate the Soviet Government.

5.45 p.m.


My Lords, when this question was first raised some weeks ago, His Majesty's Government gave it careful consideration but decided that it would not be desirable at that stage to publish the documents relating to the Anglo-Soviet negotiations. Recent developments have, however, altered the position and a White Paper showing the course of the negotiations with the Soviet Government earlier in the year is now being prepared, and will be laid as soon as possible. As the negotiations covered a wide field, and were concerned with matters of some complexity, the preparation of the Paper will necessarily take some little time.