HL Deb 25 October 1939 vol 114 cc1546-8WA

asked His Majesty's Government whether they are aware of, and have taken fully into consideration, the highly dangerous effect upon public opinion and morale in neutral countries as well as in this country likely to be produced by the announcement broadcast on the 11th October concerning the exchange of certain goods between England and the U.S.S.R. simultaneously with announcements to the effect that Finland and other Scandinavian countries are imminently threatened by Russian aggression, and when goods, such as rubber and tin, supplied by England might be of assistance to Russia in any such aggression, or might pass from Russia to Germany; and further to ask His Majesty's Government whether British requirements of timber could not equally and preferably be supplied by the Dominion of Canada or by Scandinavia?


His Majesty's Government are not aware that the agreement in question has aroused adverse comment in responsible Scandinavian circles. It must be well known that to conduct trade with a foreign Government does not necessarily imply approval of their political actions; and in the case of the Soviet Government I would point out that commercial exchanges are maintained with that Government not only by all the belligerent countries, but also by the neutral countries, including the Scandinavian States themselves.

This particular agreement, moreover, was a special ad hoc transaction for the purpose of obtaining supplies of timber from what was at the moment the most convenient source. The amount of tin and rubber that will be sent to the Soviet Union in return will depend on the amount of timber sent to this country; but in any case, it is not likely to exceed the quantity normally imported from here by the Soviet Union for its own use. There is thus little chance of these exports reaching Germany, and not much more chance of their being used to assist a Soviet attack on Finland.

As regards the most advantageous sources of supply of timber, this question is constantly before the Timber Controller; and the decision to have recourse to Soviet sources in this case was due to valid reasons, into which I need not now enter in detail, but which are well known to the timber trade.