§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir John Simon)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I rise to move the Second Reading of this Bill, which is in the hands of Members, and to make a few observations in connection with which the Members of the House will have in their hands a White Paper which was prepared at the request of some Members of the House. The House will observe that the Bill is a Measure for the single purpose of conferring powers upon the Government and that it does not include within its ambit any execution of those powers. Provided that, the House is prepared to give to the Government the powers for which they ask, I do not think that it will be disputed that the Bill is drawn in suitable terms. Those powers could not in any event be exercised before the 18th April, but we are asking the House to give us those powers now as a matter of urgency, among other things because Easter is approaching and, in the view of the Government, it is desirable that those powers should exist before the House adjourns.
I would desire to make a statement in the simplest terms, and as far as may be in the order of date, in order that hon. Members may have the material upon which they can judge whether the 1768 Government are justified in asking for this Bill. The House will recollect that the Anglo-Soviet Trade Agreement made some two years ago contained a Clause by which it was liable to be terminated by six months' notice on either side, and, after the Ottawa arrangements had been entered into, a communication was made by the Government to the Soviet Government announcing that we desired to give that six months' notice, and, at the same time, it made clear our willingness and, indeed, our desire to discuss and negotiate a new trade agreement. The notice was given, I think, on 17th October last, and it would therefore expire on 17th April next. So that notice having been given, and having been accompanied, as I have just reminded the House, by a plain statement that His Majesty's Government desired to discuss and to negotiate a new trade agreement, the matter was taken up between the representatives of the Soviet Government and the British Government, and my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and my hon. and gallant Friend the Secretary of the Overseas Trade Department have been more particularly concerned in carrying on the negotiations. Before the end of the Debate I have no doubt that the President of the Board of Trade will take part and will be able to give the House, with special authority, an account of how those negotiations were proceeding. My understanding has been throughout that they were proceeding with good purpose. The genuineness of the desire of the Government to enter into appropriate arrangements with Soviet Russia on the subject of trade is not really open to any doubt or dispute, and it would be a matter of sincere regret to us if some external event interfered with what might be a mutually reasonable arrangement.
But while those matters were proceeding, as far as I know in a perfectly satisfactory manner, a very disturbing event occurred which is the subject matter of the White Paper. I think that the House will desire me shortly to describe the course of events as far as I know them, and, of course, hon. Members will be able to check me by reference to the documents in the White Paper. One of the great British companies which in the past has been carrying on an important trade with Russia 1769 and in Russia is the Metropolitan-Vickers Co. Limited. Anybody who knows anything about that company knows its high standing in this country. It is material to remember and to know what have in the past been their relations with the Soviet Government, because, of course, we are dealing with a country where the trade is carried on entirely by the Government. Russia has bought power plant from Metropolitan-Vickers Limited extensively for the last 10 years. It is bound to be a difficult matter to operate very complicated plant in a country which is striving to change very rapidly from an almost purely agricultural to, at any rate, a partially industrial condition, but I am strictly within the truth when I say that the plant which has been supplied by Messrs. Metropolitan-Vickers to the Russian Government has received the highest praise from those Soviet engineers who have a knowledge of power generating problems. Probably one or two Members of the House know this subject very well, and if in the course of the Debate they can catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, I know that they will receive the attention which the House always gives to a man who knows what he is talking about.
In addition, the Soviet Government entered into what are called technical assistance arrangements with Metropolitan-Vickers Limited. As the House will understand, this plant being of a very complicated character and the Russians to a large extent being new to these processes, contracts were made to run for a series of years by which Metropolitan-Vickers supplied some of their best and most skilful men for the purpose of not only installing, but starting the running of the plant. The first of those technical assistance arrangements ran for a period of five years. It was carried through from beginning to end successfully, and the best proof that the Soviet authorities realised that they were getting fair treatment and proper services is that a second agreement was entered into only two years ago, and has at present, I believe, another five years to run. I ask the House to observe, when they are judging the probabilities and common sense of this matter, that they are therefore dealing with a company, and with the expert servants of a 1770 company now resident in Russia, who might be expected to be there for another five years. I think that that has some bearing upon the matter.
No complaint has been lodged as to the operation of this second agreement, and the record of the plant which Metropolitan-Vickers have supplied may be judged, therefore, from these two facts. The first is the fact, as I have just stated, that the second technical agreement was entered into only two years ago after long experience of the work of the company and its staff. The second, the House may be interested to know, is that as recently as six months ago the Soviet Government placed an order for a turbogenerator equipment—and placed it with Metropolitan-Vickers, Limited—to work at the highest combined temperature and pressure yet attempted anywhere in the world. I think the Soviet Government is always ready to go in for the newest experiments and the latest improvements, and to that extent they are a very efficient Government. The placing of that order, in competition and after prolonged deliberation, is surely evidence of the fact that the highest Russian technical authorities advised their Government that they could entrust this most difficult undertaking to the Metropolitan-Vickers Company. I think we are all agreed as to that.
Then certain events occurred, some of which are included in the White Paper. On the night of the 11th March the Ogpu, that is, the Ogpu police, the political police which works in secret and has enormous powers, visited the house where some of the engineers were living and, without any communication as to the charge which was proposed to be laid, they first searched the house and then arrested Mr. Monkhouse and Mr. Thornton, who were removed at 2 o'clock in the morning to the great prison in Moscow, the name of which I will not try to pronounce. Next morning two other engineers, Mr. Cushny and Mr. Macdonald, were raided early in the morning in the flat where they lived and were similarly taken off to gaol.
Nobody for a moment disputes, certainly I do not, the sovereign authority of any foreign Government to make proper investigations, to lay proper charges and to conduct proper trials. 1771 The world could not go on if we simply regarded ourselves as the only people in the world who were capable of administering justice. But I am entitled to direct the attention of the House to circumstances which immediately accompanied these arrests. Just at the same time, as the House will see by telegram No. 3 in the White Paper, the same Ogpu police in, I believe, the same prison, after what was supposed to be an inquiry by what is called the Collegium of Ogpu, on the previous day not merely sentenced 35 people, Russians, to death, but carried out that sentence there and then, without any public trial, without, as far as I know, any trial at all, and certainly without putting into motion any of the ordinary judicial proceedings of Russia. I hope that I may be forgiven for saying that when at the Foreign Office I receive a telegram which tells me that a certain number of British engineers were in the hands of the Ogpu, and at the same time I receive information saying that the Ogpu had shot 35 people without trial, I am entitled to be a little concerned.
Let me give another instance with reference to the shooting of these 35 Russians. No newspaper appears in Russia, except what the Russian Government allows to appear, but three or four days before the shooting of these 35 Russians there appeared in the Soviet Press a statement that some 40 Russians had been arrested for a crime which the House will see goes by the rather curious description of "agricultural sabotage." In the newspaper which reported the arrest of these men details were given of the charges, and the House may be interested to know that one of the charges was "deliberate propagation of weeds in the fields and lowering of crop yields." [Laughter.] I do not desire at any stage to raise a laugh. I quote this not to raise a laugh, but to show how one was entitled to be concerned as to the credibility of some of the charges on which these engineers had been detained.
Thereupon, the British Ambassador did what was entirely right and proper. He immediately sent to make inquiries, which I think the whole House will approve. He sent, as he was bound to send, to the Foreign Office at Moscow. That is the way in which a foreign country acts 1772 when it has a communication to make. He sent Mr. Strang, the Counsellor of the Embassy, who is at present acting as Chargé d'Affaires, and for whose services we are greatly indebted. The three questions which Mr. Strange addressed to the Foreign Office at Moscow appear at the top of page 4 of the White Paper. He asked:
Those were three perfectly proper questions to put, and to put without delay, and, let the House observe, they were put to the responsible Foreign Office at Moscow. The answer was that that day was a day of rest, and that consequently the matter could not be attended to on that day, but none the less a report would be drawn up and inquiry would be made on the following day. Mr. Strang pointed out the high standing of the company and the manifest improbability of their trusted officials engaged in doing this work being involved in malpractices, but he had to leave the matter as it was. The Ambassador sent a telegram to me on the same day in which he pointed out that this case was more serious than the raid which took place some time back on the Lena offices, because this was a case in which these English engineers had been arrested and carried off and, as the House realises, without anybody knowing what they were charged with and without the responsible Government of the country being able to give any information about it. His Majesty's Ambassador, as the House will see at the bottom of page 4, made this observation:
- "1. On what charge the arrests had been made.
- 2. Where the arrested persons now were.
- 3. Whether it was permissible for the arrested persons to communicate with or he visited by a member of Embassy or Consulate or by one of their own colleagues."On the assumption that the Soviet Government do not at once liberate prisoners I am inclined to suggest, at the risk of His Majesty's Government incurring an accusation of participation in prejudging an issue of which legal remedies have not been exhausted, that Soviet Ambassador, London, should be frankly warned that if his Government wish to continue to entertain friendly relations with His Majesty's Government they must refrain from being drawn by an excessive zeal on the part of police into permitting the trumping up of frivolous and fantastic accusations against a friendly and reputable British company. Otherwise, it will obviously become impossible for any British subject to conduct business in Russia, and conclusion of a trade agreement will be pointless.1773 I, at any rate, stand here to defend His Majesty's Ambassador, armed with His Majesty's authority, in a very difficult situation, and, while I am not in the least qualifying the view, which we all entertain, that proper inquiry based upon a proper accusation may be properly carried out in any country in the world, I would point out that this observation is made at a time when it appears that the responsible Government of the country professes to know nothing about it, and when these proceedings have been taken by the Ogpu, whose relations with the Russian Foreign Office are obviously of a very indirect description. There was then the arrest, I think, of two more Englishmen, and—a matter which does not directly concern me here, but as I am responsible for British subjects in other parts of the world, but a matter which concerns in its wider aspect—some nine or 10 of the Russian staff employed by Metropolitan-Vickers were arrested, including two or three women. If hon. Members will kindly turn to page 6 they will find that on the next day, after Mr. Monkhouse and these other gentlemen had been in custody for a day and a night, the British Ambassador again addressed the Foreign Office at Moscow. The day previous was a rest day, but this, however, was not a rest day. He requested an interview with M. Litvinoff. I do not seek to impute anything to M. Litvinoff, but M. Litvinoff was not able to sec the Ambassador that day, he was too busy, but he was good enough to say that he would see him the next day. Therefore His Majesty's Ambassador did what was quite proper, and what is usually done by foreign Ambassadors in this country when they cannot see the Foreign Secretary; they see somebody else, and our Ambassador therefore saw a gentleman called M. Krestinski. This gentleman, it must be remembered, is speaking as the representative of the Foreign Office in Moscow two days after these Englishmen have been taken away without any charge made. He said:although inquiries had been made of prosecuting authorities no information was, as yet, forthcoming.He promised, however, that he would telephone. Our Ambassador observed, as did Mr. Strang on the previous occasion:that when prosecuting authorities had digested the papers seized they would discover that a mistake had been made. I pointed out that Soviet laws were different 1774 from English laws. Thirty-five Russians had just been executed for offences not involving death penalty in England.And he added with perfect justice, that theEnglish man-in-the-street would be totally unable to comprehend the arrest, by the same authorities, of well-known honourable British subjects on what could only be a criminal charge, the nature of which was still undisclosed thirty-six hours later.[Interruption.] Some hon. Members question that. May I tell them that in the middle of the eighteenth century in this House there was a big constitutional controversy in which the whole House was concerned with regard to general warrants, and that the right to go and take a man away, without stating the charge, was a gross breach of the liberty of the subject? I desire to lose no time in stating when and how it was possible for the Russian Foreign Office to inform our Ambassador of what had happened. It is recorded at the bottom of page 7 of the White Paper. The British Ambassador was rung up after midnight, and an agent of the Commissariat of Foreign Affairs made an oral communication, the effect of which is to be found in the communiquê at the bottom of page 8. This is the statement, the first issued by the Russian authorities as to what was in the wind; and I propose to read it to the House:An investigation made by internal authorities in regard to a series of successive and unexpected break-downs which have recently taken place in large electrical stations at Moscow, Cheliabinsk, Zuevo Zlatoust has established that these breakdowns are the results of wrecking activities of a group of criminal elements among employees of Commissariat of Heavy Industry, who had as their object to destroy the electrical stations of the U.S.S.R. and to put out of operation factories dependent upon them. Investigation has shown that there was active participation in activities of wrecking group by certain employes of Metro-Vickers working in U.S.S.R. under technical aid contracts concluded with this firm in regard to electrical enterprises in U.S.S.R. More than 20 Soviet citizens have been arrested, and also British subjects Monkhouse, Thornton, Cushny, Macdonald, Gregory and Nordwall. Investigating authorities have found it possible to change preventive measures"—That means that they were let out on a written parole—in regard to Monkhouse and Nordwall, who have already been set at liberty, but 1775 under written undertaking not to leave Moscow. Arrested persons are in Moscow. Visit of member of Embassy to accused persons will be permitted in presence of representatives of investigating authorities, under condition, however, that no reference is made to substance of affair, in regard to which investigation is not yet complete.I do not expect everybody's laws to be the same, but the House should know what our own custom is. Our own prison regulations are, and have been for years, that when a man has been Arrested and charged on suspicion with crime, and is in custody, he is entitled to be visited by his barrister or solicitor, or any other reasonable person, and, as a matter of fact, not only is there no rule that he may make no reference to the "substance of the Affair," but we think it fair and we practise the rule that when he sees his adviser, though it is true be sees him within sight of a police officer, the officer is not within hearing. This was the first time we had any means of knowing why these people should have been arrested, and we learn thatinvestigation has shown that they are in active participation in activities of wrecking group.The House will have read the telegram which appears on page 9. Before I read it I must point out that there is later on confirmation from M. Litvinoff himself of the character of the examination of Mr. Monkhouse. Let me summarise the account. Mr. Monkhouse, having had no charge made against him and having been carried off to prison in the early hours of the morning, was subjected to a first examination which began at eight o'clock in the morning. It went on for 19 consecutive hours, without break. I have inquired from our Ambassador about the examiners. On the side of the examiners there were three teams of examiners which took one another's place, but on the side of the person examined he was, of course, the same person all the time. Mr. Monkhouse was given his food, but during the time he had his food the examination did not cease. Let us look at the nature of the examination. If you take a man and say: "I have here a serious piece of evidence which I put before you, can you explain it," I can understand that inquiries might take some time. But if the House will examine this account they will see that what in 1776 this country we would call a fishing inquiry was conducted. There was nothing whatever to go upon. It was merely an effort, hour after hour, to try to get this man to commit himself to something.He was not informed on what charge he was arrested but was called upon to make a complete confession. The first questions addressed to him were with regard to political and economic espionage. He admitted that he had made a practice of visiting London two or three times a year to keep his company informed as to the state of their business with Russia, of the general situation in the Union and of the prospects of obtaining further business.The House will be surprised to learn that in Russia this is looked upon as espionage.These reports were naturally based on information that was obtained from the company's and other engineers in various parts of the country. He was informed that this was espionage, as it was a criminal offence to acquire political and economic information except from persons officially authorised to communicate it. He was forced to sign a statement that he was engaged in what the examiners contended was espionage, but added a note to the effect that his action was taken only in the interests of his firm.That was an examination which was spread over 19 hours. ThenA list was produced of 25 turbines supplied by the company which had given trouble. This he admitted was true. Fault lay partly with Russians themselves, but it was also true technical mistakes had been made by the company. Machines supplied were not of standard type, but generally represented some new technical development insisted upon by the Russians themselves. It was natural that there should occasionally be mishaps. The company had, however, in every case taken rapid action to repair them.At the end of 19 hours of continuous examination, Mr. Monkhouse was taken back to his cell about 3 o'clock in the morning. Then there is a period of four or five hours, and the next examination began. I desire to be entirely fair. Though it is true he was disturbed during that very short period of rest in the early hours of the morning, I understand it was in the ordinary prison routine which sometimes involves interruptions of rest, without that being done with any malicious intent. But at 7.30 in the morning a second examination started, and this examination continued for about 17 hours, with one hour interval, that is, from 7.30 in the morning until 1.30 in the following morning with an interval between 11 p.m. and midnight. 1777This examination first turned on the question of certain electrical motors supplied by the company which had not been found satisfactory. The same observations apply to those as to the machines mentioned above. He was then questioned regarding the company's accounts, in regard to which questions had already been put to him during the first examination.The House will observe this strange conclusion:About 11 p.m. his examiners left him hurriedly but returned again at 12. He was asked if there was anything more he could think of to say. He had, they said, confessed nothing so far. If he continued to refuse to confess he would be treated as a criminal. At this point the examiners suddenly changed their attitude and Monk-house was informed that they had come to the conclusion that he had given his evidence like an honest man and that Menzhinski had given orders for him to be released. He would, however, be required to give an undertaking that he would not leave Moscow, which he did. He was treated throughout with great politeness amounting almost to effusion on his departure. The senior examining officer and commander of the prison finally escorted him to a closed car in which he was taken to his house in Perlovka.Well, in the course of my professional life I have had occasion to study, as well as I could, many systems of law, and to realise and appreciate that many other systems stand very well to be considered as proper systems as well as our own. But I do not think that there is a man or woman in this House who will dispute that any admission obtained by this means is worthless. I think the House will appreciate how gravely concerned His Majesty's Ambassador was. He has, as I have, and we all have, to consider how we can secure fair treatment for our British fellow-subjects. Our Ambassador sent a telegram which he reminds the Foreign Office that, unhappily, there are precedents in this matter. He refers to what is called the Donbas case.Investigations proceeded in similar manner, although they were not actually known in Moscow for some days after. German Government insisted on presence of German lawyer to attend them. This was refused, but a German lawyer was present at the trial, sitting mostly in a box with reporters. Trial was at the Supreme Court of Justice in Moscow, and only defence was that officially provided by Russian Government. Statements extracted from German accused were not brought up in court against them, but evidence wrung from other persons was quoted against them.1778 May I give the House two short examples of previous trials extracted from the despatches of our own Ambassador? The first is the Donbass case of 1928, when a large number of persons, including some German engineers, were accused of sabotage on a colossal scale in the South of Russia, indeed, it was alleged that they formed part of a counterrevolutionary organisation making it its object to disorganise and ruin the coal industry in the Shakhta region in the Donetz Basin. The result was that 11 persons were condemned to death and 34 persons were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment ranging from one to ten years. Anyone who has read the reports of that trial will appreciate at once how widely Soviet Russia's conceptions of justice differ from our own. The second instance of which I will remind the House is the Ramzin trial of 1930, when again a number of Russians were accused of conducting a vast system of sabotage at foreign instigation. Accusations were made at this trial against both the British and French Governments for which we know, as far as we are concerned, there was not a shadow of foundation. A number of so-called confessions—one realises how they were got—were produced at this trial. The House can best judge of the value of these confessions from the fact that one of the accused confessed that he had been plotting with a man named Rzabushinski, who was afterwards proved to have been dead at the time the conspiracy was alleged to have taken place, and this was the same trial as that to which Sir Robert Vansittart refers in page 17 of the White Paper, when he recalled a trial some years ago at which certain Russians had confessed that they had come over and plotted with Colonel Lawrence in England, when, as a matter of fact Colonel Lawrence, in his character as Air-Craftsman Shaw, was in India all the time.
The House, I think, will see that there was at least reason for the acutest anxiety as to what might be the next stage that might be taken in this matter. Right down to this time no answers had been received to the very proper questions which had been put on behalf of the British Government. No talk was allowed with these people of anything which had to do with the reason why they had been confined. At the bottom of page 11 it will be seen that another gentleman, a very 1779 distinguished gentleman, at the Foreign Office at Moscow, M. Rubinin, was asked about this, and here is the answer:As regards the question as to whether there was going to be a trial, Rubinin professed complete inability to reply. I (Sir E. Ovey) spoke to him very strongly on the aggravation of situation which would result from non-reply to this question, with the result that he telephoned later to state that 'there will be a trial,' and said that I could give this assurance on behalf of Commissariat for Foreign Affairs. With regard to question 'Would it be public?' even in his second conversation he refused to commit himself beyond saying that this depended on result of inquiries. It was a matter for juridical authorities. I said: 'Who? Did he really mean that G.P.U. would themselves decide whether trial would be open or not?'Hon. Members who have read the White Paper will know it is established that that is so, but this gentleman of the Russian Foreign Officereplied evasively about various juridical tribunals, alleging his ignorance of law.Very properly the Ambassador pressed for an answer. As regards the third question:he informed me prisoners can under law have no legal assistance whatever pending completion of the present inquisition.That is to say confession first, legal assistance after. Under any reasonable system of justice in any country that cannot be the way to find out the truth. At the bottom of page 12 it will be seen that when the interview took place, it had to be done all the way through in the presence of four officials. There was no opportunity of private communication whatever, and these men, whatever you think of them, are British subjects, and, so far as we know, so far as we can judge, were doing their ordinary work in the ordinary way. Yet they were limited, after these days of anxiety, to this—that the best that they could do—and I honour them for it—was to say, "Telegraph to my wife," and one of them telegraphed to his wife to tell her that he was happy and away in the country, because he was so afraid of the horrible anxiety that might be aroused. At the same time, they admitted that they were well looked after. But in these matters seeing is believing, and I venture to think that the House will attach great importance to the telegram in the White Paper which gives Sir Esmond Ovey's own views when at last he saw these men face to face. 1780 No question was allowed as to the Charges or as to the investigation, and no communication passed except innocent questions such as those concerning their families. I would ask the House to ponder what it meant to a British Government when they got this telegram from their Ambassador in Moscow:While the prisoners seemed generally in good health, the drawn expressions of Messrs. Thornton and Cushny gave me definite impression of their having been 'put through it.' They were all obviously terrified of speaking.Englishmen terrified of speaking. And then this:My own position was difficult, as I was not allowed to refer in any way to the fact of the liberty or otherwise of any of their colleagues. I was warned in reply to inquiry that this prohibition included a reference even to knowledge in England of arrests. Gregory knew he was not the only person arrested, but was actually under the impression that arrests were unknown in England and expressed desire to write a letter to his wife explaining that he was on his way to Moscow so that she would not worry at not hearing from him.While I was of course received with utmost courtesy and military display, the obsequiousness of the unfortunate prisoners and utterly artificial atmosphere of restraint created an uncanny impression.I am well content to leave it to the judgment of the House and the country. The question as to whether the trial should be open or secret was still unsettled, and the telegram at the bottom of page 14 gives the Ambassador's view of the situation. No one need accept it unless he likes, but our Ambassador has lived in Russia for three years, and there is no reason to believe he is other than a prudent, an honourable and a careful public servant. He has served the late Government as well as this Government, and, as far as I know, with equal satisfaction to both. He says:Principal danger of situation would seem to be that these people are completely unable to see themselves in any other light than that of an aggrieved Power struggling for their noble ideals against a world of political, financial and comicercial conspirators. This feeling has reached a stage of morbid hysteria. Any conception that His Majesty's Government can possibly look upon the affair in the light of a spectacular treason trial, staged for reasons of internal politics on evidence to which the man-in-the-street in England will not give any possible credence, is, in spite of my repeated efforts, apparently incomprehensible to them. Nor can they understand that the method of summary arrest followed by the inquisition of solitary confined British subjects by 1781 a force which has been instructed by decree issued yesterday to use what it is already difficult to distinguish from dictatorial power in a still more ruthless manner are liable in any way to disturb the friendly relations which it has been the constant endeavour of His Majesty's Government during the last three and a half years to cultivate.Now, Mr. Speaker, His Majesty's Government have not the slightest desire to disturb the friendly relations between this country and Russia, but let there be no mistake, there is no proper basis for real friendly relations if the story which we read here represents the kind of way in which, in spite of much patience and much care on the part of our Ambassador, British subjects have been treated. What is the Decree which at this significant moment is to increase the power of the Ogpu, which already has the power of life and death, and only a few days before shot 35 Russians in prison without any public trial? They will find it on page 15. The Central Executive Committee of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which is the central Government of Russia, issued on 14th March, a few days after the arrests, this public document:There have recently been disclosed instances of the participation in counterrevolutionary wrecking activities of certain State employés"—I have been at some pains to inquire whether that reference should be understood to refer to these Englishmen, and I gather that their actual contract is such that in one sense they are in the service of the Soviet State—In this connection the Central Executive Committee of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics explains that the right accorded to the Ogpu by the Decree of the Central Executive Committee of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics of 15th November 1923, of dealing at judicial sessions of the collegium of the Ogpu"—That is to say a secret trial within the walls of the prison—with cases of sabotage, arson, explosion, damage to machine plant of State undertakings, and other forms of sabotage and of applying all measures of repression according to the nature of the offence, must be exercised with especial severity in regard to employés of State institutions and undertakings convicted, of such offences.I think I have sufficiently put before the House what was the origin of this affair. I do not wish to delay the House by reading other telegrams which probably nearly every Member has read for himself, but I would like to deal, before 1782 I cease dealing with the White Paper, with the passage which shows that Mr. Litvinoff himself is quite aware of the character of the treatment which was imposed upon Mr. Monkhouse. If hon. Members will turn to page 22 they will find a record of an interview between our Ambassador and Mr. Litvinoff in which Mr. Litvinoff was informed of what had been stated in the House of Commons by the Lord President of the Council. On page 22, Mr. Litvinoff says:G.P.U. were not fools and knew what they were doing. Mr. Monkhouse's release was really an act of kindness, and the intensiveness of interrogation of the prisoner showed the courtesy of Soviet Government in wishing to expedite the affair.I noticed in one of the newspapers to-day a comment on the White Paper, which I would remind the House was issued at the request of hon. Members opposite. The comment is made—I cannot imagine from what inspired source—that the reasons why we do not publish telegrams after these is that after this date the Soviet Government showed themselves "unexpectedy conciliatory." I have no idea where the "Daily Herald" gets that information from. I will tell the House what the reason is, and I think most hon. Members will see the good sense of it. I had considerable doubt, sitting beside the Prime Minister the other day, when a question was put by the Leader of the Opposition, quite reasonably from his point of view, whether it really was in the interests of these men's safety to lay a White Paper. If the Prime Minister seemed then to anybody to be hesitating in his replies, I take the responsibility, for I was not willing, with my knowledge of these documents, without looking at them closely, not even for the purpose of satisfying a Parliamentary demand, to do what I thought might be dangerous to these men. I am perfectly satisfied that the House will take it from me that if we were to publish some of these documents which follow—they will not be destroyed and will be available in course of time if necessary—it would perhaps not be in the interests of the men themselves. Therefore, I hope the House will accept it that they have enough material to enable them to judge why His Majesty's Government have thought it right to ask for some special authority from the House.
1783 All I desire to say about it is this: I perfectly understand, and we all understand, that there is no direct, immediate relation between the powers which are contained in this Bill and this painful and anxious inquiry which is going on in Moscow. But I ask myself this question, and I ask it with great anxiety and put it to hon. Members in all parts of the House: What would you have the British Government do when they have this information about fellow subjects of their own who are in this peril? Would you have them do nothing? Would you have them conduct polite inquiries without taking any other steps? I know of no other way in which we can secure for these men a fair trial—none. I know of no way in which I can bring home to these deluded inhabitants of Soviet Russia what is going on; there is no means by which we can get that communication before their eyes.
§ Sir J. SIMON
But there is one thing that we can do which, I hope, is more peaceful than that. I am sure my hon. Friend would never deliberately accuse me in this matter of endeavouring to promote a war. There is one thing, I think, which we can do. We have to see whether there is any authority which the House will now give to the Government which will at least convey directly and beyond doubt to the Soviet authorities that the way in which these proceedings are going on, and the anxiety that we are under about these men, make it really impossible to go on discussing trade agreements with Russia in such an atmosphere. I am myself, just as much to-day as ever I was, very desirous of seeing a trade agreement on proper terms entered into. What is the real difficulty? We may just as well face it. It is that owing to the constitution of Soviet Russia, owing to the fact that the State, the Russian Government, is the sole purchaser and the sole buyer, the application in a trading agreement of what is called the "most-favourednation clause" is distorted and ridiculous. Russia has it in its power to stop any goods going from this country to Russia, and she can do that without any breach of the "most-favoured-nation clause," because the only importer is the Russian State.
1784 We ask the House, not in the interests of the Government, but in the interests, as we believe, of these men, and in the interests of bringing home to the Soviet State the real gravity of the situation—we ask the House to give the Government this power. Why, the Soviet Government have it at this moment! Hon. Gentlemen opposite, I am sure, will not object to that. The Russian Government at this moment have the power, and can exercise it exactly as they please, to stop any portion of British exports to Russia. We ask by this Bill to have that same power. The Government have not the slightest intention of making any statement to the House as to the use of that power, except that it could not possibly be used before 18th April. As a result of many inquiries we have learned that the trial of these men is likely to begin about 10th April, and if it goes on for three or four days it will extend into Easter week. We shall then be in Recess. I ask the House if there is nothing else that we can do to help British subjects who are in peril, to at least do this—to give the Government and the country to which they belong, and to which they look, this authority, and to trust us to use it in their interests and in the interests of the State.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Sir STAFFORD CRIPPS
I beg to move to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:Command Paper No. 4286 discloses no adequate grounds for the demand made by His Majesty's Government for the liberation of the employés of the Metropolitan-Vickers Company at Moscow without trial, or for the granting to His Majesty's Government, for the purpose of reprisals against the Government of Russia, of the exceptional powers for prohibition of imports proposed in the Bill.It is obvious that we are to-day discussing a matter of first-class gravity. The fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary has moved the Second Reading of this Bill shows how intimately this Bill is connected with the relation of this country to Russia. I suppose that everyone who speaks in this discussion must realise that gravity and his responsibility, and the necessity for avoiding, as far as possible, any language of exaggeration which may do anything to exacerbate feelings which 1785 already are running high. The right hon. Gentleman has given us a very lurid picture of the events in Russia, drawn from the White Paper, which takes us up to 16th March. Some time ago now those events no doubt have been superseded by further events which the right hon. Gentleman has told us it is wiser not to disclose. We, of course, accept his statement as to that. But the position is that the House is left to judge of what action it should take upon the White Paper itself. It may be that there are some persons who would welcome this opportunity for prohibiting imports of Russian goods, irrespective of the reason why the powers are asked. I ask those right hon. and hon. Gentlemen to consider this matter in the light of what our actions will be interpreted to mean after the speech which has just been made by the Foreign Secretary.
The House is being asked to grant powers to the Government as against a particular foreign nation, powers which, as far as I know, are unprecedented in any recent years in the history of this country. I want to examine the position shortly, and I hope calmly, in order to see whether it is really in the best interests not only of this country but of the accused persons themselves, that we should take the action now proposed. I am sure there is one proposition of international law upon which everybody in this House will be absolutely at one, and that is that this country has an absolute right to afford protection to its subjects, wherever they may be abroad, in any foreign country. That right, of course, carries with it the duty to see that that protection is given and also the duty, in any particular case where it may appear that its subjects are in jeopardy, to make the fullest possible inquiry in order to ascertain the whole of the facts with regard to those subjects. I think that is a right which every other country will admit, and that they would be prepared, as they have been in this case, to furnish information through the usual diplomatic channels in order to keep the Foreign Office in this country fully acquainted with what is going on.
It is unlikely from the experience of the past that any country will resent courteous suggestions which are made to it or even representations as to courses of action that should be followed in cases where difficulties of this sort arise. But 1786 there will be a limit to the forbearance of any country and it may appear to some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen that a country addressed in the terms set out in Document 27 in the White Paper, may well think that that limit has been passed. Beyond this right to make the fullest inquiry and obtain the fullest information, international law recognises no right of interference in the internal affairs of a foreign country, unless certain specified states of affairs can be shown to have arisen with regard to the nationals of another country. If these specified circumstances can be shown to have arisen, no one will dispute that there is a right to interfere by making the strongest representations and the strongest demands, and, if those representations and demands are not satisfied, that there is the right to engage in measures of reprisal such as the reprisal foreshadowed in the present Bill. Of course that does not necessarily say that those reprisals are to be undertaken. What I have said merely sets out the understood course of events, according to the comity of nations which has grown up in the civilised world.
Every country which is recognised by this country as an equal in status, internationally, is, by that very recognition, acknowledged to have the right to be treated fully in accordance with the comity of nations. At the present time, as has been the case for some years past, Russia is so treated by this country. The mutual exchange of ambassadors is the outward sign of that recognition. Therefore, apart from any special circumstances which may be urged—and the Foreign Secretary has urged none to-day—Russia is in the same international position vis-à-vis this country as Germany, the United States, or any other great nation in the world. If that be so, it behoves the House to inquire what are the necessary conditions precedent to the interference by one country in the internal affairs of another and to the taking of reprisals, if that interference is not successful.
This is a matter of such fundamental importance in the consideration of this subject—more important I venture to suggest than the Foreign Secretary's speech would have led one to believe—that I ask the House to allow me to read one or two extracts on this matter from persons of the most undoubted authority. I start in the 18th century, with the 1787 famous letter of the Duke of Newcastle to the Secretary to the Embassy of the King of Prussia, which was written after complaints by the King of Prussia that Prussian subjects had been unfairly dealt with by our courts here, and enclosed a considered statement made out by the Judge of the Prerogative Court, His Majesty's Advocate General in the Courts of Civil Law, His Majesty's Attorney-General, and His Majesty's Solicitor-General. I cite only a passage from this document forwarded to the King of Prussia.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
Certainly. This was not a case of the arrest of Prussian subjects. It dealt with a question of the seizure of the goods of Prussian subjects. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I think hon. and right hon. Gentlemen ought to show some consideration in a matter of this kind, which is of prime and fundamental importance, whether they happen to agree with this statement or not. The opinion states:The Law of Nations founded upon justice, equity, convenience and the reason of the thing, and confirmed by long usage, do not allow of reprizals except in case of violent injuries, directed or supported by the State, and justice absolutely denied … by all tribunals"—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen need not be afraid that I am not going to deal with the facts afterwards. I desire to get clearly before the House, if I may, the principles which ought to govern the determination of those facts. This document proceeds:and afterwards by the Prince. Where judges are left free and give sentence according to their conscience, though it should be erroneous, that would be no ground for reprizals. Upon doubtful questions different men think and judge differently; and all a friend can desire is that justice should be impartially administered to him as it is to the subjects of that Prince, in whose courts the matter is tried.1788 Hon. Members will see that the whole point of that very elaborate statement sent by the Duke of Newcastle was that there could be no complaint, provided the subjects visiting the foreign country were dealt with as justly as the subjects of that country itself. If hon. Gentlemen are patient enough to allow me to give a further citation I quote this time from Mr. Clay who was Secretary of State to the United States of America in 1828. Writing as regards certain troubles in a South American State, he says:It is not necessary to affirm that a Government is not responsible in any case to a foreign Government for an alleged erroneous judicial decision rendered to the prejudice of a subject of said foreign Government. But it may be safely asserted that this responsibility can only arise in a proceeding where the foreigner, being duly notified, shall have made a full and bona fide, though unavailing, defense, and, if necessary, shall have carried his case to the tribunal of last resort. If, after having made such defense and prosecuted such appeal, he shall have been unable to obtain justice, then and then only, can a demand be with propriety made upon the Government.Again we find emphasised there the fact which is in the Amendment I now bring before the House, that until a decision has been given by the local court, it is not in accordance with the comity of nations that any interference should be embarked upon by the foreign State.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I would remind hon. Gentlemen that this is a Debate and that there will be a full opportunity afterwards of answering this speech. They must not interrupt while the speech is being made.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I propose to give the House one final reference, this time to a great authority, Sir Robert Phillimore, who in his book "Commentaries on International Law," states the matter with great precision and clarity:The State to which the foreigner belongs may interfere for his protection when he has received positive maltreatment, or when he has been denied ordinary justice in the foreign country. The State of the foreigner may insist upon reparation immediately in the former case. In the latter, the interference is of a more delicate 1789 character. The State must be satisfied that its citizen has exhausted the means of legal redress afforded by the tribunals of the country in which he has been injured. If those tribunals are unable or unwilling to entertain and adjudicate upon his grievance, the ground for interference is fairly laid, but it behoves the interfering State to take the utmost care, first that the commission of the wrong be clearly established, secondly that the denial of the local tribunals to decide the question at issue be no less clearly established. It is only after those propositions have been irrefragably proved that the State of a foreigner can demand reparation at the hands of the Government of his country, and it is not till after the Executive as well as the Judicial authorities have refused redress, that recourse can be had to reprisals much less to war.These extracts put forward with complete accuracy the position as regards the interference of this country in these proceedings in Russia, and they make clear that there are three conditions precedent to action such as the Government are proposing to take by this Bill. The first is that the citizens in question have exhausted all means of legal redress afforded by the local tribunals. Quite clearly that cannot happen until after the trial of the cause or prosecution against them. The second is that the commission of the wrong against these individuals must be clearly established, and the third is that the denial by the local tribunals of justice must be equally clearly established. The cause for that is perfectly clear. Every country has an absolute obligation to protect its own social order, whatever it may be, and it can only so do by passing legislation, which may be quite different in form from that of another country, and by insisting upon the observance of that legislation, not only by citizens of that country, but also by foreigners who care to visit that country.
There is perhaps some confusion with regard to countries which are looked upon as so undeveloped or so barbaric in their systems that another country refuses to recognise them at all as sovereign countries. In that case the position as regards interference is completely different, but once a country has said to another country, "We know your forms, we know your legislation, we know your system of justice; we acknowledge you as a sovereign country, and we give our inhabitants passports to go into your country, knowing what the state of the law is"—it is not possible then, 1790 within the comity of nations, for that country to turn round and say, "Your forms are so bad or so unlike our own that we have a right and a title to interfere with the due course of justice in your country, because we believe that it is not justice at all." That can only be done as regards countries which are unrecognised as equal in the comity of nations.
If that is a true statement of international law, the question arises for the consideration of the House: Is there in this ease anything disclosed so far—and I emphasise the words "so far"—to entitle this GOvernment to take the hostile action which it is taking by passing this Bill through the House of Commons? For this purpose, of course, it is necessary to examine the only material that there is before us, and that is the White Paper. The facts set out there, of course, are only the facts set out by one side, and there may be another side to them, but I propose to deal with them as they are set out here, as they are all the information that we have. It will be noticed that the proceedings started in a perfectly regular way, just as they might in this country, with a search warrant which was issued for the searching of these offices. Certain documents were taken, and receipts were given for the documents by the police who conducted the search, and as a result of the search, apparently, two or more of the members of the staff were put under arrest.
That was early on the morning of the 12th March, and I beg the House to bear in mind that the last document in this White Paper is dated the 16th March, that is, less than five complete days in the course of these 30 or 31 documents. Very often, indeed, when one reads a document and turns on several pages and sees the answer to it, perhaps it may give the impression that there was delay in giving an answer, and you find, if you look at the date, that it was perhaps the same day or the following day. The right hon. Gentleman, when he was making his very dramatic speech to the 'House, made great play about a rest-day, as if there was something that was unusual about these Government Departments having rest-days, but if he had read the passage on page 4 to the House fully, it would have been seen that what M. Guelfand said was: 1791that as this was rest-day we could not take any action for the moment, but he would draw up his report at once and make inquiries as early as possible to-morrow morning.That was an interview which did not take place, I think, until the afternoon of the 12th March. The telegram says:Counsellor saw M. Guelfand this afternoon.So that the delay which was suggested so artfully in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was a delay of a gentleman who was seen in the afternoon and who said he would at once draw up his report and would make inquiries first thing next morning. I very much doubt whether, even with the highly efficient Government offices in this country, we should exceed that in speed of replying to a request by an Ambassador. I only mention that because I think that, if one is going to look at this thing calmly and in an unexcited way, one has to remember the sequence of events. The first five telegrams contained in this White Paper are all of them dated the same day, the 12th March, and with complete propriety and exactly in accordance with what one would expect, the Ambassador in Moscow put to the Government certain questions, three in number, to be found at the top of page 4 of the White Paper, and asked that he might have as speedy a reply as possible. I am sure that everybody in the House agrees that it was a wise and a proper step for the Government to take to make those inquiries. Then telegram No. 5, the last of the telegrams, which, it must be remembered, was sent on the actual day upon which the arrests had been made, does, I think, show a tendency to jump at a pre-judgment, not only of the issue, but of the action that was taking place. The Ambassador says:While obviously His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom cannot deny the right of any sovereign Government to arrest suspected criminals, a right which they reserve to themselves"—which, of course, is perfectly true—conditions under the present reign of terror in this country are without parallel in Great Britain. It is inconceivable that Soviet Government can produce credible evidence of any criminal malpractice on the part of the company.Well, there may have been people at some time in this country who would have said precisely the same thing about 1792 people who, unfortunately, have done penal servitude since. I am sure that everybody in this House has a profound belief in the traditional honesty of Britishers, and I am sure that everybody in this House hopes as profoundly as I do that these men are absolutely innocent. But I think it is impossible for anybody to say, as regards any individual, that under no circumstances could he possibly be guilty, because that, after all, is what the Ambassador is reporting on the day of the arrest of these men, before he knows the charge. Before he knows anything at all about it, he is reporting that it is not credible, although he does say:There may conceivably be, of course, some minor question of insignificant douceurs, tipping or presents which might consequently be distorted into 'bribery.'It may be that other people regard that sort of thing as more serious than does the Ambassador. Be that as it may, I suggest to the House that this was a somewhat hasty judgment to take in this matter and when he proceeds to talk aboutpermitting the trumping up of frivolous and fantastic accusations against a friendly and reputable British company.surely that was hardly a wise way in which to report what he at that time knew as regards the events that had occurred. That was replied to by the Foreign Secretary on the 13th March in telegram No. 6, where the right hon. Gentleman says:You should inform the Soviet Government that the British subjects arrested are all men of high standing"—That is a perfectly proper thing to inform the Soviet Government—and we are assured that they have done nothing whatever of an illegal nature.How could the Foreign Office here, on the 13th March, be assured by anybody that certain people in Moscow had done nothing illegal? It is quite obvious that the statement is one which can have no possible information behind it, and it is no doubt a way in which it was sought to put some pressure, quite legitimate pressure, at that stage upon the Soviet Government. The correspondence proceeds upon the same day with a number of telegrams passing from the Ambassador to the Foreign Secretary, and in telegram No. 8 an interview is recorded between M. Krestinski and the Ambassador. M. Krestinski there states that up to that 1793 time he had not obtained the information for which he had been asked, on that morning, presumably, or the previous afternoon. Eventually, on the same day, the 13th March, in telegram No. 12, the information which had been asked for on the previous day, the day when the offices had been closed, is sent, not only to the Ambassador, but by telegram to the Foreign Office here. It can hardly be said that that is an undue delay—one day of 24 hours in which to communicate the answers to the questions which had been asked by the Ambassador. On the same morning, the 13th, the Ambassador had put further questions, again quite proper questions, and the Soviet Government shortly afterwards answered those questions.
It was on that day that Mr. Monkhouse was released, and also Mr. Nordwall, and the Foreign Secretary has quite rightly drawn attention to document No. 13, in which the account is given by Mr. Monk-house, or by the Ambassador from Mr. Monkhouse, of what had taken place. I do not think that anybody in this House would say that it was a good way of acquiring information. We have had trouble in this country about prolonged examinations by the police, and there was a committee or a commission set up as a result of the trouble, but M. Litvinoff, whether he is right, or wrong, or wise, says that this system was carried out in this manner in order that Mr. Monkhouse might be released as quickly as possible. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Hon. Members may say "Oh," but they know quite well that the procedure in Russia is different from the criminal procedure here. It is much more allied to the procedure in certain other countries, where investigations are made by examining officials before the charges are actually drawn up.
Whether hon. Members think it good, bad, or indifferent, it is in fact the procedure in Russia. The investigation is made with the examination of the accused person before the charges are actually drawn up, and during that period the accused person is not allowed to communicate with a lawyer or any other person. That may be a thoroughly bad method. I am not suggesting whether it is good or bad, but it is the known method of Russia, and people who go to Russia know that if they are accused that 1794 is the way in which proceedings will be conducted. The remedy, of course, if you do not like it, is to stay out of Russia. But if that is the known judicial procedure of Russia, it is no ground for any interference because in a particular case the known judicial procedure is carried out as it has been done in this case. There is no suggestion of any sort throughout the White Paper that anything has been done as regards any of these persons other than, would be done to any other accused person in Russia. That, after all, is the absolutely fundamental basis of any interference, namely, that we must before interfering establish the position that something unusual, unfair and improper has been done to our nationals which would not be done to the ordinary person who has submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the Russian courts.
There follow a number of telegrams on the 14th March, none of which I think take the matter very much further, except the report of the Ambassador, No. 19, after he had seen those who were still in prison. It was on the 15th, the House will remember, that the Lord President of the Council made his statement to this effect:Moreover, as His Majesty's Government are convinced that there can be no justification for the charge on which the arrests were made, Sir Esmond Ovey has been instructed to represent in strong terms the grave view which they take of these proceedings against British subjects of high standing engaged in normal commercial pursuits to the benefit of both countries, and the unfortunate consequences to Anglo-Soviet relations which may follow."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th March, 1933; col. 1945, Vol. 275.]There does not seem to me to be anything in the White Paper which could entitle a Minister of the Crown to get up in this House and say that His Majesty's Government were convinced that there could be no justification for the charges. In fact, at that time one of the Ambassador's complaints was that the charges had not been fully formulated. I may remind the House that the full formulation of charges in this country often takes many weeks. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate, if he were here, would, I am sure, bear me out in what I say with regard to the Scottish Silks case. It was months after the arrest and release on bail of the Scottish Silks defendants before the charges were fully formulated. In this 1795 case, on the third day after the arrest, with no information of the charges precisely formulated, except that a general statement had been communicated, His Majesty's Government made a public statement in this House to the effect that there would be unfortunate consequences, which implied that these people must be released. If anything were more liable to make difficulties at that time, it is hard to imagine what it might be.
On the 16th March, the following day, we come to what I venture to suggest is the most extraordinary State document that has ever been published—the statement of what was said to the Soviet Ambassador. It is document No. 27. The House will have read the document, and I do not propose to read it all.Indignation in this country at the arbitrary arrest and harsh treatment of British subjects in Russia was growing, would grow, and would grow rightly.The House will remember that the Ambassador had stated that they had all been treated extremely well.Feeling was widespread that the allegations against these men were grotesque and hysterical; and that these arrests were a stage performance, and a very bad one at that"—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members cheer that, but I should have thought that it was hardly the statement for a high official in the Foreign Office to make—mounted simply to disguise, by serving up scapegoats, the ill-success of certain industrial undertakings in Russia.Again a dignified protest might well have been made; it seemed hardly tactful at this stage to put it exactly in those words. Perhaps I need not read the rest, except the last paragraph. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about Colonel Lawrence?"] I thought that hon. Members had read it, but I will certainly read it:The Soviet Government might say what they liked; but public opinion here would never look upon this performance in any other light. People recalled a trial some years ago, when. certain Russians had confessed that they had come over and plotted with Colonel Lawrence in England at a time when Colonel Lawrence—long since Aircraftman Shaw—was in India.I have heard witnesses in this country make even more ridiculous statements.Such absurdities were food for derision here.1796 I will pass on to the last paragraph. [HON. MEMBERS: "Read the next!"]Public opinion was rightly determined that, whatever else was done, British subjects should not be cast for the role of victims in these heresy-hunts.I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I think that nobody would want or would allow any British subject to be cast for the role of victim in a heresy hunt, but unfortunately there is no evidence in this White Paper that any British subject is being cast for that role. To make such a statement when at this stage the actual accusation had not been elaborated, when preliminary inquiries were still proceeding, and it had not been finally settled whether they were going to be brought to trial or not, is hardly the way in which to get accommodation in a matter of considerable difficulty. If I have read everything that everybody wants me to read, let me now read the passage which I desire to read myself. The telegram says towards the end:What I was concerned with was to make it perfectly plain to his Excellency and to his Government how public opinion here viewed the matter, and to give him a warning of consequences that, in my judgment, could only be avoided by the early liberation of these unfortunate people.Again, that is a demand, whether it be wise or not, for the liberation without trial of persons who, in the ordinary course of justice, had been arrested and might or might not be put on their trial at that date in a foreign country. I venture to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that, if that demand had been made by the Ambassador of the United States as regards a national of the United States in this country, he would have been the first person to resent it. There is no way out of that argument except by saying that we ought not to acknowledge Russia as an equal in the comity of nations. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] That is a view which I quite understand that hon. Members may take, but unfortunately it is too late. We have done it. We have acknowledged them. We have accepted their Ambassador and they have accepted ours, and so long as that position rules we have no right to demand that a. British subject, arrested in the due course of justice in Russia, should be liberated before the trial.
It may be that if injustices occur in the trial, if something occurs to show that they cannot get justice, then we shall be 1797 perfectly entitled to take reprisals. But the question before the House is: Are we entitled in the light of what is in the White Paper to interfere now by means of reprisals? It is idle to say that this Bill only gives power to the Government to interfere. So far as this House is concerned, it is authorising reprisals. The statement in document No. 27 is, I venture to suggest, as offensive a statement as could be made by an officer of a foreign office to an ambassador, and one which would be well calculated to arouse irritation in its most acute form, the very thing one would have thought that, when people were in jeopardy in Russia where, just as in this country, public opinion is an important factor in the safety of individuals—[Laughter.] If hon. Gentlemen think that it is not an important factor, this is an even more stupid statement to make. If it solely depends on the Government itself, clearly a statement of this sort is one that is likely to do more harm than good. Not a single condition of those which I have already stated is shown to have existed in this White Paper.
When the final interview which took place between the Ambassador and M. Litvinoff every one of the questions had been fully answered by the 16th March, two days after they had been asked. There was going to be a trial before the supreme court, it was going to be a public trial, there would be no right to have an English lawyer, as anyone might have guessed, to defend the accused, but that an English lawyer could attend like any other person. All the other questions were answered, and, indeed, it was stated on the 16th that the accusation was made under Article 58 of the Criminal Code. It had been defined up to that stage. Then threats of reprisals are made again in the interview. The next matter, so far as we know it, after the White Paper is the coming into the picture of that great internationalist the Dominions Secretary. He made a speech at Swansea on the 17th March, presumably with a full knowledge of the telegrams before him. Being a Cabinet Minister, he would not have spoken without that knowledge. He says:Public opinion in this country is satisfied that the men who have been arrested are respectable and harmless British subjects engaged in their normal commercial vocations. It seems absurd to suggest that the men should lend themselves to any measure calculated to destroy their own livelihood.1798 That can be said of every person who commits a criminal offence.It is not understood here what motive underlies these arbitrary proceedings, but on one thing I think the whole country will agree—that the British subjects must not be made the objects of any shortcomings in official projects.The accusation was perfectly well known to the right hon. Gentleman at that date, if he had taken the trouble to study the telegrams that had been sent. He ends up by saying:We have already given abundant evidence of our anxiety not to interfere with Russia, however much we may disagree with her political aims"—I think everybody realised the right hon. Gentleman did that—but clearly it would be a profound mistake to assume that the relationship of a commercial and diplomatic character which is essential between two nations could be continued if our people were subjected to the petty tyranny and punishment, and, indeed, agonising mental strain, that these men are now undergoing.We may not believe in the system of justice in another country, we may think it falls far short of what it ought to be, but surely we are not entitled, when that other country is a great, equal country, to stigmatise its actions as petty tyranny. That is as far as the story goes so far as we know it, except that the statement has been published, either this morning or yesterday, that the whole of these men are now out on bail.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I merely interrupt in order to give information to the House. My information is that of the six Englishmen, five are out on bail, but the sixth, whose name, I think, is Mr. Macdonald, is still in custody. The Russians, who are also employés of the firm, are still in custody.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I saw something in the paper, and I thought it said all had been released. A number of them are out and one remains in custody. Of course, one does not know what has happened as regards bail. Those being the circumstances of the case, I venture to suggest that no possible case has been made out here for action by reprisals, and indeed it is clear that if this were a case of action by any other country than Russia reprisals would not be taken or asked for. The right hon. Gentleman has told us frankly, indeed, that this Bill, 1799 although connected with the present circumstances, is not exclusively connected with them. That is a very sinister aspect. This Bill was apparently on the stocks, and has not been specifically produced because of what has happened in the last two or three weeks in Russia.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me to intervene. I know he would not wish to misrepresent me, but I think he has misunderstood, and therefore has misstated, what I said. I never said there was any other purpose behind this Bill than the one which we are discussing, but what I did say was that of course I recognised that the taking of powers which would have to do with imports and exports was not in its nature directly related to the subject of people being imprisoned in Russia, and I proceeded to justify that by inviting the House to tell me what more direct steps they would recommend us to take.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
Naturally, I accept absolutely the right hon. Gentleman's correction, but I think my impression will be confirmed by the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow. No doubt it was a slip of the tongue on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, but whether the right hon. Gentleman said it or not, it does seem to us that these particular measures are something more than merely the inspiration of the moment. For a long time there has been a body of opinion in this country which has been trying to force the Government into taking exceptional measures against Russia on dumping and other matters. The hon. baronet opposite is constantly at it, spends all his time doing it.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
This Bill has given a very great opportunity to those who have been so long advocating such Measures to get them hurriedly and quickly adopted, but I do hope that the Members of the House will look at this matter apart from that general consideration, and concentrate their minds upon this particular and grave issue. There is no doubt, as I have said already, that everybody desires to protect these men to the utmost of their ability having regard to the propriety of the circum- 1800 stances, but surely the House will realise that even for the men themselves it may be more dangerous to take hurried steps, to pass urgent Bills, than it would be to leave His Majesty's Government with the very ample powers which they already have. After all, if things came to such a pass that it was necessary to interfere or take reprisals, His Majesty's Government could always withdraw our Ambassador and send back the Russian Ambassador, and could take various other steps besides those of trade reprisals.
I venture to ask the Foreign Secretary whether, in view of the danger to the men and the possibility of this matter being dealt with on a friendly basis with the British Government, he does not consider that even yet it might be possible to avoid the passage of this Bill, anyway to avoid any possibility of anything happening under it? If only the longer and more sensible view can be taken, perhaps by both parties, who at the moment have got both nations into a state of excitement and hysteria which is just the sort of state which so often has led to war in the past, surely we as a House of Commons can treat this matter not as a lot of people who are excited but as a matter for calm deliberation. We ought to try to do what is, in the circumstances, the best thing to be done from the point of view of our relationships with Russia and the protection of these men, because I feel convinced that if we continue to pile up ill-feeling in Russia by the sort of statements that there are in the White Paper and by this sort of emergency action which is being taken to treat Russia in a way in which no country has ever been treated before, and by this House of Commons, we are seriously jeopardising not only all future relations with Russia but we are seriously jeopardising the fate of men who are still in their hands, and who it is for them to deal with and not for us. If by being more reasonable, and even by making a gesture at the last moment, anything can be done in that direction I hope the right hon. Gentleman will do it.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Major HILLS
Until the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) came to the last words of his speech he never mentioned 1801 the fact that the lives of British subjects were at stake. Anybody listening to him would have imagined that his speech was simply a disquisition on international law which had resolved itself into an elaborate defence of the Soviet Government, who according to him had acted with perfect regularity not only in accordance with their own judicial system but in accordance with the comity of nations, an expression which the hon. and learned Gentleman often uses. His only criticisms were reserved for the British Ambassador, who tried to save the lives of these men, the Foreign Office, who quite rightly informed the Russian Ambassador of the feeling in this country, and for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. I will deal, first of all, with the question which the hon. and learned Gentleman put to me. He said that we had no right to intervene in this case. He did not read to the House dispatch No. 20, where our responsible officials at the Embassy in Moscow state that the prisoners gave the impression of having been "put through it" and were "obviously terrified of speaking and confined themselves to minimum of replies." Is there, then, not a case for some intervention? The Ambassador wrote:While I was of course received with utmost courtesy … the obsequiousness of the unfortunate prisoners and utterly artificial atmosphere of restraint created an uncanny impression.Is the hon. and learned Gentleman content to leave things exactly where they are as shown by that dispatch and to go on arguing his points of international law? But I will meet him even on international law. He says that there is no right in the British Government to intervene. Does he want to wait until those unfortunate men are shot? Does he know of no case which would demand intervention unless there had been some act of that sort? But I will not ask him that question, I will just meet him on pure law. He is a much greater lawyer than I am, but here he is "special pleading," and he knows it, defending the indefensible. If he had been attacking the Soviet Government he would have found very good reasons for blaming it and would have put them in far stronger language than I can. I will quote, first of all, an extract from Oppenheim on International Law: 1802It is quite impossible to lay down hard and fast rules as regards the question in which way and how far in each case the right of protection ought to be exercised. Everything depends upon the merits of the individual case and must be left to the discretion of the State concerned. … An alien must in particular not be wronged in person or property by the officials and courts of a State. Thus, the police must not arrest him without just cause.I understand that the hon. and learned Gentleman would never intervene as long as our nationals were treated more or less as Russian nationals.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman allow me to interrupt him? He has just read the words "without just cause." That means just cause in Russia. If he reads the passage right through in Oppenheim he will see that that is so.
§ Major HILLS
I will proceed with the quotation. We differ as to our conception of justice. The passage proceeds:Corrupt administration of the law against natives is no excuse for the same against aliens, and no Government can cloak itself with the judgment of corrupt judges.Corruption is one form of injustice and there are other forms, and if you can intervene in the case of a corrupt judgment, a fortiori you can intervene in the case of a procedure which breaks all the laws of natural justice. Surely the hon. and learned Gentleman must admit that. The matter does not rest there. The hon. and learned Gentleman read an extract from what was written by Sir Robert Phillimore, a very great name. The hon. and learned Gentleman stopped rather shorter than I am going to do. I am going to quote the passage which immediately follows the extract read by the hon. and learned Gentleman:As a general rule no objection to the form of procedure or the mode of administering justice in the courts of the country can found any such demand [i.e., a demand for reparation]. The foreigner should have considered these things before he entered into transactions in the country. Nevertheless, a plain violation of the substance of natural justice, e.g., refusing to bear the party or to allow him to call witnesses, would amount to the same thing as an absolute denial of justice.What else have we here? Men were arrested and carried off. One of them was examined from eight o'clock in one morning until three o'clock the next morning and the men were kept in prison without trial, and all that the hon. and 1803 learned Gentleman can say is: "What would you say if the United States intervened because you had acted improperly towards a prisoner?" It is a very common dialectical trick to compare the bad with the good. Justice in this country, and the procedure in any civilised country, either in America or in any civilised part of Europe, is not comparable with the procedure in Russia, and the two cases are not in pari materia. The hon. and learned Gentleman has far too acute a mind not to know that. He knows very well that his argument does not carry any weight whatever.
He went on to say that the Soviet Government have not done to those persons what they would not have done to a Russian. Does he think that that is sufficient answer? He could not have heard the Foreign Secretary say that 35 Russians had been shot. If they would shoot Russians, they would shoot Englishmen. It means that if it means anything. We have no right to intervene because they have not done to any of these persons what they would not have done to Russians, but we know what they did to Russians. They shot them without trial. The hon. and learned Gentleman went on to say that until we have exhausted all means of legal redress, and until a denial of justice is established, we again have no right to intervene. So we come back to this: The hon. and learned Gentleman accepts the Russian system as a system of justice, and until that system does something which even he says is a denial of justice, he does not want this country to intervene. Suppose that these men are put on trial for what is humorously called sabotage—I am sure there is no offence at all—suppose that for some charge which, in the opinion of the hon. and learned Gentleman, would be a matter of small moment, the penalty is death, and suppose that these men are tried in a court which can condemn them to death for what he would regard as a trifling charge, at what point would the hon. and learned Gentleman intervene? At any point, or not at all?
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
It depends what the right hon. Gentleman means by "intervene." As I have already stated, I consider that all the action taken by the Ambassador is perfectly proper, but, when there is a threat to have reprisals 1804 if these men are not liberated before trial, then comes in the objection that that is not, in my view, action in accordance with the comity of nations.
§ Major HILLS
Then the hon. and learned Gentleman would not intervene until these men have been shot? No case exists for intervention until these men have been shot? The hon. and learned Gentleman talks a lot about the comity of nations. I suppose that he would go on talking until the men were shot and that he would then talk to the Russians afterwards about the comity of nations. I do not want to use—but I will not say what I was going to say. Does the hon. and learned Gentleman think that it is any good talking to people who shoot 35 Russians?
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
If the right hon. Gentleman wants to know my view, it is that if I thought that a State was incapable of justice, or of running its internal affairs, I should cease to have any relations or communication with that State.
§ Major HILLS
In view of what has happened would the hon. and learned Gentleman break off all relations with Russia?
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
Not in view of what has happened. I do not take the view that Russia is so wholly devoid of civilisation. I say that if I did take that view I would have nothing to do with that State, and that I would withdraw ambassadors.
§ Major HILLS
This is a matter which may end in the death of English subjects. When would the hon. and learned Gentleman regard Russia as so barbaric that there was a right to intervene? I have had no satisfactory answer to my question.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
If the right hon. Gentleman wants me to keep on getting up I will try to satisfy him. If the Russian system is a system of justice, as I accept, and if they have a crime the penalty of which is death, then the 1805 person who is guilty of that crime must be put to death, just as a Russian in this country, if he has done a murder, will be hanged. The course of justice will be carried out, unless the prerogative of mercy is exercised.
§ Major HILLS
When the hon. and learned Gentleman is in a difficulty he always slips back to comparing Russian justice with justice in this country. He knows perfectly well that they are incomparable.
§ Major HILLS
He always assumes, and puts up, as a dialectical smoke screen, that there is a system of justice in Russia. He knows very well that there is none. He knows very well that behind all this parade of talk about the comity of nations, all these quotations from a legal writer, lies the peril of these men. We have had to take action to save them. He does not direct his acute intelligence to that point. At the end of his speech, in a mere aside, he said that it might be that the plan that he and his friends advocated was a better plan in the interests of the men than the plan of the Government. His speech was throughout directed to one object, and that was to save the face of Russia. He did not say one word which showed any appreciation of the human factor underlying all this verbiage. Great Ministers in the past have said that a British subject has special claims upon protection from a British Government. Our great statesmen have made speeches that are still quoted on that subject. I remember reading when I was a boy a speech by Lord Palmerston, which I am told lasted from dusk to dawn while the House of Commons sat entranced all through. All that means nothing to the hon. and learned Gentleman. He is not concerned with the safety of a British subject; all he is concerned with is to show that something which is put up in Russia, and which really is a branch of the executive government in Russia, is comparable to the system of justice as understood by the European Powers.
I must apologise to the hon. and learned Gentleman if I have spoken with considerable heat. It happens that the wife of one of the men is a constituent of mine. I saw the lady last Saturday, and anything more pitiable can hardly be 1806 imagined than the fate of a wife in that condition. I promised to do all I could with the small power that a back bencher has in this House, to see that the Government took strong action, but I should have felt the same if I had not seen that lady. Being brought right up against the human factor reinforced the feeling which I have tried to express to-night. I do not think that the hon. and learned Gentleman will congratulate himself when, in a calmer moment, he reads the measured words with which he praises the Soviet Government, and the vindictive way in which he attacks the Foreign Office, and attacks our Ambassador in Russia. I believe that he has defended a case which he himself, in his better mind, knows to be indefensible, and I think that, when he comes to consider it, he will agree with me.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I believe this to be the most momentous Debate in which I have taken part since I entered the House of Commons over 10 years ago. I am taking part in it in order to do what I possibly can to get peace. I would like the present Prime Minister to face this situation in the same manner in which he faced it in 1924, when he was Prime Minister of the first Labour Government. He then said to Russia, "Let us shake hands and be friends, and we will discuss trade agreements and so on afterwards." That is the spirit in which I am entering upon this Debate. I find nothing in the White Paper which would justify the taking of extreme measures by anyone, as far as I am able to judge.
I would like to say a word to the Russians. I have never been in Russia. Although time and again they have gone out of their way to try to get me to go to Russia, I, with my colleague and comrade, the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), have systematically refrained from going to Russia, so that it could never be said to us that we had got any concession from Russia, or were in any way in the pay of Russia. But, although I have never been to Russia, I have been in close contact with men who have carried out very big operations in Russia for the last 30 years. The firm with which I worked, Beardmore and Company, put down the first plate mill to roll sheet plates for shipbuilding and so on, 30 years ago, and it is still the best tool that is working in Russia. The last 1807 Russian Ambassador in London told me himself that that was one of the reasons why Russia was so anxious to trade with this country—because, so far as engineering was concerned, no country supplied them with such good material as we did. We sent men out there at that time. My own manager in Beardmore's at that time was out there for six months putting down that plant. Since then I have been in contact with a great many people of that kind, and only last week I had an interview as a result of which I went and saw the Foreign Secretary on the question of negotiating a huge contract for heavy machinery—the very thing that I am moving Heaven and earth to get, because I am speaking here on behalf of 250,000 engineers in this country, of whom 30 per cent. are unemployed. It means a great deal to us to continue the trade agreement with Russia.
I want, with your permission, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to speak to the Russians for a minute. We do not know what has gone wrong here; we do not know what these technicians and leading hands who have been supervising jobs out there are really charged with; but I do know, from men who have been out there, that the great difficulty they have is with the ignorance of the Russians. It abounds. That is the great difficulty that our men have to face, and they face it well; and, moreover, every one of them pays compliments to the Russians for the way in which they stand by them when they are up against difficulties owing to the ignorance of the labour that they have to employ.
I understand it is said that something went wrong with some turbines. Here is my own experience in one of the world-famous engineering shops in the Clyde—there is none more famous. It occurred with one of the first turbines that we built. It was built with every care, by workmen than whom there were none finer in the land, men accustomed to that class of work, and every one of them a loyal servant of the firm. The turbine was started. What happened? B-r-r-r-r. The blades stripped; every blade in the turbine went. It was not ignorant Russians who did that job; it was Scottish engineers, the best engineers in the world. They stripped the casing, and took out the shaft. All the blades were lying in the bottom of the casing, and, 1808 when they took them out, they discovered that a ⅞-inch spanner had been left in the casing by mistake. That meant £5,000 gone. But that is not all. We built it up again—the same turbine—and, when the job was finished and the turbine started up, the blades stripped again. I hope the Russians are listening. it was again taken adrift, and what did we find? We found a ⅞-inch bolt and nut, four inches long, which had been left in the casing.
My reason for saying this is that, while I have every sympathy with the Russians, and am a friend of the Russians, I am not an enemy of my own country. I will tell the House of another experience that I had, when the "Glen Sannox," the first paddle steamer that sailed from Glasgow round our watering-places on the Clyde, was built about 30 years ago. We did not build it; the ship was built in Cammell Laird's yard; but the Beardmore firm got the crank-shaft, and it was desperately needed. It was behind time. Those who were in charge might be able to explain why that was; I had nothing to do with that; but it was behind time, and the result was that it was rushed through the shops. At the end of the crank-shaft, a large piece had to be cut off in a slotting machine. The manager in Beardmore's Parkhead Works at that time thought that, in order to get over the difficulty, he would cut in just so far, and then take the crank-shaft to the breaking ball—a ball that drops from a height of 30 feet for breaking scrap—and just break it off, after which only a finishing cut would be necessary. It was taken up on a Saturday afternoon, when everything was clear, and put under the ball. It broke the piece off—there was no doubt about that; but it also broke the crank-shaft and the crank-pin. The crank-shaft was, of course, destroyed. Again the job was done by highly skilled men, born and bred to the work.
In the case of another crank-shaft—it happened to be for the Russians—the man in charge had been engaged for 30 years in finishing crank-shafts at the Parkhead Works. It was a most particular job. We had no micrometer then, but he was a genius at taking the size with callipers; and he discovered that, through a mistake, in the last cut on the crank-pin, which is the most particular part of the crank-shaft, he had undercut it by a sixty-fourth part of an inch. When 1809 he discovered it he nearly went out of his mind. He went to his foreman and asked for his time—asked to be paid off. It nearly broke his heart, and the fact of the matter is that he was never the same man again. They had to bring Mr. William Beardmore—he was not even Sir William then; he is now Lord Invernairn—into the shop, and everyone thought it was the end of all things. When Mr. Beardmore saw it, he said, "Can we make another?" "Oh, yes," was the reply. "Well," said he, "get another made."
These are all things that I have seen. As I have said, in each case the job was in the hands of the best possible men, who had every idea of doing their very best; but this is what happened. Another side of the question that I want our own Government to remember is this: At the Parkhead Works they did a great deal of work for the Russians, and they are still doing it. Messrs. Duncan Stewart's shop, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton, has been kept at work for two years practically entirely on Russian orders. I do not know what we are going to do if Russian work is stopped. Thirty years ago we made numbers of crank-shafts for Russia, and we had work at that time for Peru, Chile, and other countries in South America—all heavy engineering. All those other countries gave the inspection of the work over to English or Scottish firms, who appointed inspectors to do the job; but the Russians sent their own inspectors, and the most difficult man we had to get round was the Russian inspector. He would let nothing go unless it was exactly to the specification. One day I asked him why he was so hide-bound and tied up, and he said, "Well, if anything happens with anything that I pass here, if anything goes wrong when it gets to Russia, it would be no use my going home, because I should be shot." That is a phase that we have to face when we are dealing with this matter. They treat things quite differently from us. But they have their rights, just as you claimed your rights during the War. Russia believes that she is at war with a worldwide capitalism, and it is the war mind that is operating at the moment, just as it operated in this country.
The Foreign Secretary told the House that it was 36 hours after the arrests 1810 before the men were told what they had been arrested for, and the House was aghast. The Foreign Secretary said it had been laid down some centuries ago that anyone who was arrested had to be told what he was arrested for, and he would not be thrown into gaol without a trial, and the whole House applauded. In 1913 the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. Kirkwood) was arrested at 1.30 a.m., thrown into a cell and deported without a trial. He was kept from his wife and family for 16 months. It was the war spirit that was abroad. It is all right now, and I forgive all that they did to me. It has been proved up to the hilt that they were wrong, and that I did nothing to merit what they did to me. When they allowed me to go to the Manchester conference in 1916 to state my case, the chief of the Scottish Command told me to come back for deportation. I said, I will do nothing of the kind. I told that conference that I would go to my home in Glasgow or I would go to prison. I went home, and they arrested me again and threw me into Edinburgh Castle without trial. I was in a vault, and above me were 40 or 50 Austrian and German officers. I could hear them rollicking and singing. I, the great David Kirkwood, the Scotsman—that is what Colonel La Victia, Chief of the Scottish Command called me—was down in solitary confinement. That is what this country did because the war spirit was abroad.
The war spirit is now abroad in Russia and we are led to believe, by everything that stands for honesty in public life, that this Government, headed by the Prime Minister, is out for peace. He has done things that he said he never would do, just as I have done things which I said I would never do in order to get the Cunarder started. He has done things in order to get peace. Let us be big enough now to approach this very serious question. It would be a terrible tragedy to stop the Trade Agreement with Russia at this juncture. What would war mean? We can raise our country against any idea of going to war. Make no mistake about that. The Government will never get the country to follow them to the length of war. The country will rightly maintain that British subjects, wherever they are, no matter whether they are rich or poor, shall have 1811 justice done to them. We ask for justice here to-day, but we Socialists believe that it is quite unnecessary to threaten Russia in any way. My employer time and again said, "Do not threaten, because if you threaten you will get nothing." I have found that to be the case in my negotiations not only with individuals but with communities. When you threaten them you simply put their backs up. The Russians, because of this war spirit, because they are the victims of circumstances, rightly or wrongly believe that the world is against them. They have their backs to the wall. The most powerful papers in this country time and time again have told us, "Stalin is dead. The Russian Government is tottering to its fall. Famine is rampant." That is the spirit that they have tried to create in this country. It is all of no avail. The most solid, stable Government in the world to-day is the Russian Government. [Interruption.] You may laugh. Fools always laugh at their own folly. Russia presents a great field to us that our folk require in order to find work. I am in a position to state that in the immediate future Russia is prepared to place orders for millions of pounds of heavy machinery. Here is an authority that the House will respect. Lord Snowden, speaking in the Debate on trade policy in the House of Lords on 20th April, 1932, said:So far there has not been a penny of loss incurred upon any credits "—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Is this a speech made by a Noble Lord in another place? If so, the hon. Member cannot quote it here with a view to influencing the Debate.
§ Mr. KIRKWO0D
I will be guided by you, Sir. What I have here is Lord Snowden speaking in the House of Lords on 20th April last. Am I not allowed to quote it?
§ Mr. KIRKWO0D
It is very difficult for me to get round that. Perhaps I may be allowed to quote the Chairman of Mather and Platt, speaking last year:A word or two about Russia. I informed you last year that we had reestablished business relations in Russia and had made some considerable contracts for machinery with the Soviet authorities. Some of this machinery, has already been 1812 erected in Russia without any difficulties being experienced. The contracts have all been on a partial credit basis, and we have received all payments immediately due. We are quite prepared to take further contracts on similar terms but for the present the economic and political situation in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics makes further business difficult to obtain on satisfactory terms.I have ever so many quotations here from outstanding men in the engineering industry supplied to me by my trade union, which has gone to the expense of finding all that matters as far as that is concerned. There is no doubt that Russia has met her demands. There are several firms of outstanding note with whom it will go badly if the trade agreement is interfered with. Three firms alone within the last five years have obtained about £5,000,000 worth of orders. They employ between 3,000 and 4,000 engineers. They have been practically kept employed, particularly for the last two years, by orders that came from Russia.
Now that the President of the Board of Trade has arrived, I wish to appeal to him. He knows the desperate straits we are in regarding the shipbuilding and engineering industry, and I hope that he will strain every nerve in order to see that we do not break any trade agreements. We should approach this subject with a view to peace and a settlement on both sides, because it means so very much to us. It is no use saying that we have nothing to lose; we have everything to lose. I hope that there will not be bias against Russia because they are Socialists and because Russia will improve. I believe that Russia will win through, and that most States all over the world will become Socialist States as a result. But the right hon. Gentleman should not let that fact weigh with him at the moment. It is the business of the President of the Board of Trade to look after the people of this country in his time. Let the future look after itself. The future will look after itself. It is our duty to look after our own people now, and the regimes in control at a future date will be all the better if we play an intelligent part now and stand by Russia and so keep work for our own folk.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Mr. PATRICK
The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) will forgive me if I do not follow him at any 1813 great length into what he has said. I agree with him very heartily when he says that Russia is affected at the moment by the war spirit. There he is correct. That is the outstanding feature of the Soviets to-day. But I differ from him when he suggests that, if we break off the Trade Agreement, or impose an embargo such as is contemplated in the Bill, it will be a disastrous loss to industry in this country. I do not think so. If anything, it would have precisely the contrary effect. But it is not that which I want to discuss. I am anxious to comment very shortly upon something which was said by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). If I heard him aright, he said, in answer to a question, that he accepted the Soviet system of justice, or that he accepted it as a system of justice. That is the crucial point. If one can accept the Soviet system as a system of justice in the sense in which we regard justice, not only is the Amendment which stands in the names of hon. Members opposite a reasonable one, but it would be demonstrable that the action of the Government at the moment has been misguided. I am convinced—and I wish to put it to the House with all earnestness—that we cannot accept the Soviet system as a system of justice at all in our sense of the word. It is not a question of degree; it is a question of kind.
Our conception of justice is absolutely contrary to the Soviet conception. It is generally true to say that the theory behind our ideas of law in this country, and, indeed, in Western Europe, is that it is based upon a general and universal standard and is, or should be, applicable to all men, at all times, alike. That is generally a correct definition. Go to Soviet Russia, and you will find precisely the opposite idea in force. The Marxian idea of justice and law is not that it applies to all men alike, but that it is a matter of class. Take the same crime committed by two different people. If a member of the bourgeoisie steals a watch, it may be a crime of the first order. For the same offence, precisely for stealing the same watch at the same place, it may be a, completely venal offence on the part of a proletarian. The whole idea of justice, in fact, is on the basis of class. That fact was brought 1814 home to me very vividly in the Supreme Court at Moscow a couple of years ago when I sat through one of these State trials, on a very hard bench, looking at an enormous red banner hung behind the judge's table, at which the judges were sitting smoking.
§ Mr. PATRICK
Upon this banner in large white letters was written, "This Court is the organ of the Proletariat." That is one of Lenin's classic remarks; typical of his sayings quoted as texts on all occasions. Those words mean precisely what they say. The Court is the organ of the proletariat, and by a simple chain of Communist doctrine which I will not go into on this occasion, the Court is the organ of the class war, and exists for that main purpose. So far so good. At least the position is perfectly logical, but what makes confusion worse confounded is that the Class War itself has long since ceased to be a reality. It was genuine enough, I have no doubt, in the early days of the Revolution and of the civil war. The Communists then had their backs to the wall and they were justified in defending themselves, thought not justified in the length to which they went and in the methods they employed. But they had to fight, and in those days they could maintain that the class war was a reality. A long time has passed since then, and the resistance of the bourgeoisie have now been utterly and completely crushed. Numerically speaking the great majority of them are either dead, in exile abroad in Europe or elsewhere, in exile in Siberia, or working in the timber forests in the north. The remainder have long since lost the will, and quite certainly the power to put up any resistance or opposition. Still, the original Class War goes on in an atmosphere of unreality. As that side of Soviet affairs bulks very largely in every-day life in Russia, the House can conceive the atmosphere of phantasy and unreality which hangs over all that side of Soviet life, and a very important one it is.
I think that practically everybody who has spent any length of time in Soviet Russia during the past few years will 1815 agree that the Communists have developed an entirely new technique of government. I think that they will agree also that their technique of government rests upon two main pillars. One of them is persuasion, and the other is force, or, to put it more frankly, one of them is Propaganda, and the other is Terror. Again, everybody who knows will agree that the Soviet Government have brought those departments of theirs to a pitch which no other Government has ever attempted before. The scope and the persistence of Soviet internal propaganda (I am not talking of external propaganda, which is a different matter) is almost incredible. As to the Ogpu I will say no more at the moment, except that it carries the role of a political police to a point which has certainly never been dreamed of in any state before. Those are the two pillars of Government, and the Soviets for the last seven years or so have been using those weapons alternately according to the particular circumstances at the moment. In 1928, for example, in the early days of the Five-Year Plan, there was a good deal of genuine enthusiasm, with hope for the future, and in those days, I have no doubt, propaganda was very much to the forefront, and terror was kept more or less in the background, as a general rule. There were exceptions, of course.
Lately, however, after two or three years of comparative peace internally, a new outbreak of terror has occurred. Things are critical in Moscow now. The Five-Year Plan has ended in pretty general disillusionment. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] Yes, let me finish the sentence. The actual programme of construction, from what I can hear, has been largely carried out. The new factories have been erected and mines have been sunk, but the whole industrial and commercial machine works so slowly, and, above all, so expensively that it is evidently a matter of some doubt whether it can continue at all on its present basis. In regard to agriculture, the situation is admittedly very much worse. I have no first-hand evidence, but it is evident that a state of chaos exists in a great many places and that it is so bad in certain districts that disaster may be only just round the corner. Though I cannot 1816 speak definitely about it, certainly the situation is critical. The Kremlin very naturally feels that a diversion of some kind is necessary and they have raised the old cry "The Fatherland is in Danger" from foreign machinations, and this trial, so called, which we are about to witness, in my opinion is nothing more or less than the modern Communist version of that ancient cry. In reply to the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol, I say that if that is the Class basis, and the circumstances in which the trial is to be carried out, justice is impossible. Hon. Members opposite may think that all I have said is mere assertion on my part, and that it is disproved by the evidence forthcoming in the long series of State trials over the last five years, and most certainly these State trials have not suffered from lack of evidence.
The explanation of that is very simple. The matter has been in each case in the hands of the Ogpu, and the procedure has been much the same in every case. It has been decided in advance what type of evidence is required, and the usual course has been to arrest the appropriate number of people and put them into prison. What was exceptional treatment in the case of the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs is almost the rule under the Ogpu. The arrests are usually made in the early hours of the morning. The arrested man disappears, and very often his family hears nothing of his whereabouts for weeks or months. At the end of that time, possibly, his family may receive a curt message that he has been shot a fortnight or so before. In other cases they may hear nothing. Their relative is lost to them, without any news at any time. Having obtained the necessary number of prisoners, and determined on the plan of action, the next step is to get the evidence, and it is done by selecting one or two, who must be called the lucky ones. They are subjected to long cross-examination, and when the prisoner is in the right frame of mind they say to him: "In exchange for your signature to this confession, we will promise you a light sentence. In default of that signature, your sentence will be death." The prisoner knows that that is not an idle threat. Therefore, he has no alternative, and he signs a confession implicating himself, very often in 1817 most fantastic charges, and, what is more painful, from our point of view, he almost inevitably implicates a great number of his comrades.
I have made a number of very definite statements, and hon. Members opposite probably do not believe me. Possibly hon. Members on this side too think that I have gone too far. I can only say that I have a warrant for everything that I have said. If people find it difficult to believe that these things exist, and certainly they are fantastic enough to be put in a third-class detective story or a shilling shocker, let me cite to them what happened at an important trial, the Lena Goldfields trial. That trial seemed to be rather different in character from the present one, because it certainly looked as if it had a definitely utilitarian character. The Soviet Government were very anxious to get rid of the Company. It may be said that the country is their own and that if they wished to take over the Company and run the working of it themselves they were justified in doing so. I will not contest that view, but I do contest the way they set about doing it. They arrested all the employés of the company, and completely paralysed its working. Subsequently they rejected arbitration and refused to pay compensation on the ground that the company had broken its contract in not carrying out its work. It was not in a, position to carry out its work when all its men, certainly the key men, were in gaol.
Let me give the House an illustration of the form that these trials take. I might explain that the central charge in the Lena Goldfields case was levelled against a geological expert, a British subject, who, fortunately, was not in Russia at the time. I do not doubt that he was selected for the honour of being the chief villain precisely because he was not in the country at the time. The Soviet authorities did not want trouble. Anyhow the charge made against him was that he had conspired with employés of the company to burn down a neighbouring Soviet zinc works. It is difficult to convey in the course of a short speech how, for a dozen different reasons, such a charge was absolutely fantastic. It was an extremely dangerous and difficult thing to do, and there was no motive for doing it. It is inconceivable that the absent Englishman could have 1818 done such a thing. Nevertheless, the requisite number of confessions implicating him were duly forthcoming. I remember well that a leading Soviet newspaper, to lend colour to the charges, described this geological expert as being hand-in-glove both, with the Lord President of the Council and the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). One could hardly go further in unreality than that. But even that extremity was surpassed later in the trial to which the Foreign Secretary referred. He mentioned that a central figure connected with the charges in the Ramzin trial was a man who had been dead for months, but what he did not mention was that, in spite of that trifling set-back, the prosecution went on with the case and brought it to their usual successful conclusion. [Laughter.] But it is a mistake to be led into levity, because the matter is much too serious.
It is difficult to convey how fantastic and absurd these long series of trials and convictions have been. The same motive runs through all of them. The charge has practically always been one of sabotage or, in the more modern form of the word in Russia, "wrecking." In most cases the accused have been selected from among the remnants of the pre-War bourgeoisie. Without being cynical or attempting to be humorous on the subject, I might add that the supply of the bourgeoisie seems to be running short and that the Proletariat is becoming increasingly involved. The charge is almost always one of wrecking or sabotage. One has to be on the spot to realise how utterly unreal that charge may be. To begin with, it would be patently useless to commit these isolated acts. When hundreds of millions of pounds are being poured out by the Soviet every year in rapid industrialisation, to burn a factory here, or wreck a dynamo there quite manifestly cannot produce the very slightest effect on the general stream of industrialisation.
Even if the thing were done uselessly, the danger of making any attempt of the sort would be so great as to amount practically to suicide. Over the whole of Russia the net of the Ogpu extends. Nobody knows when he is within sight and hearing of the Ogpu, and nobody knows when his conversation will be reported to Moscow. To conceive the 1819 idea that these elaborate wrecking plans can be carried out without the Ogpu knowing, is fantastic in the extreme to anyone who knows Moscow. But this charge continues to be brought. If there were any foundation for it one would have to assume that the pitiful remnants of the bourgeoisie were composed of the most complete and the most reckless fanatics, but those who know anything of them would agree that this is a most unreal description of them. In all these numerous trials I am convinced that there has very seldom been a single conviction that has really been based on reality. To suggest that an Englishman against, his own commercial and professional interests, should attempt this same sort of rash, folly is utterly inconceivable. I have kept the House much longer than I intended. I only want to say this, in conclusion, that if hon. Members opposite and hon. Members on this side could really appreciate what lies behind this so-called trial, they would be filled with as much horror of the system as I am. That system is not justice but the most repulsive compound of which I can think—it is a compound of blood and slime.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. MAXTON
The hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Patrick) has given a very clear indication of how his prejudices guide him in looking at Soviet Russia. I stand in perhaps a more favourable position to state my views, because I am conscious of my prejudices. I rather fancied from the hon. Member's speech that he was not completely conscious of the amount of prejudice that was displaying itself in his utterances.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am glad to have that information, but so far as the impression was left on the ears of those who heard the hon. Member, he will have to make a little more allowance. I stand here as one who has been very anxious, and is anxious now, that the great experiment of the Russian people should work out to a complete success, but I cannot but feel that the spirit of the House, as displayed in recent weeks, has been very largely actuated by the fact that in the House there is a large number of people 1820 who are very anxious that the Russian experiment should fail. That feeling has gone so far that we are in danger to-day of doing things which, in other circumstances, in calm mind and without prepudice, we should regard as complete folly. I think this is the first occasion that the House has ever gone to the present length. If British subjects are arrested in any part of the world and we believe them to be innocent, then our Ambassador in that country must bring every possible pressure to bear to see that the men in prison get reasonable treatment and a fair trial. That is right and proper, but we are trying to lay down the rule that Englishmen shall never be arrested at all and that the imprisonment of an Englishman in any other place than England is always wrong.
I agree that shouting for your side is quite a legitimate thing in sport but, obviously, if one is going to carry that principle into national relationships the whole of international law will have to be scrapped. We are making a declaration of complete belief in the innocence of Britishers who have gone out of this country, although we maintain a very expensive judicial and prison system in this country because we know from practical experience that Britishers in this country are capable of criminal acts. Is it believed by anyone that when an Englishman passes the English Channel or the North Sea or the Atlantic the sea breezes wash away all his sins and that he becomes a paragon of all the virtues? That doctrine cannot be maintained for a minute, and would not be maintained by any responsible Minister of the Crown, certainly not in his professional capacity by the right hon. Gentleman who introduced this Measure. But we are going much further than that. We say that if Britishers get into trouble in any part of the world not merely are we going to bring pressure to insist on their liberation without trial, but that if they are not released the whole of our trading relations will be broken, the whole trade of the nation will be flung behind any British citizens who get into trouble in any part of the world. That is what the House is being asked to assent to to-day.
§ Mr. DAVID MASON
The House is not being asked to do that. It is being asked to give the Government power; that is quite a different thing.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I always like to have the intervention of the hon. Member. All we are asked to do to-day, therefore, is not to take the responsibility for the operation of this Bill but only to lay down the principle, and that once we have passed this Bill we have no further responsibility.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Yes, but we are taking the responsibility for laying down the principle that when a British citizen is arrested, before he is tried, before the charges are formulated, the Government will always have the right, any Government at any time, to stop trade relations. Really, if this is a bluff it will be very awkward if it is called, because I hope that His Majesty's Government are not going to put the whole nation in a foolish position in the eyes of the world. Mark you, the world does not see these things in precisely the way that we see them. Other countries do not all believe that we are always right. America, Germany, France, and Italy, however stupid it may be on their part, believe that it is possible for England to be wrong, and they also believe that it is possible for Englishmen to break the law. How they have got that idea I will not attempt to explain, but it is the fact that they believe it, and I am afraid that the mere presentation of this Bill is to make us ridiculous. There are elements in the House which have agitated for this Bill for a long time, quite apart from the arrest of these engineers. I am quite sure that the Noble Lady the Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl) regards this not as a great effort on the part of the Government to protect British citizens in Russia but as the culmination of a successful and persistent agitation on her part. Why should not the Patronage Secretary give a back bencher that amount of pleasure, and for once let her imagine that her effort has not been entirely in vain. I am certain that there is a substantial section in this House who welcome the Bill—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—the applause I am getting is an evidence—
§ Mr. MAXTON
With the exception of the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division (Viscountess Astor), I am certain that there is a large element which wants this Bill quite apart from the question of doing the best we can for British subjects in difficulties abroad. I am not against the Government doing its best to protect British subjects in foreign countries. I should have been glad on one or two occasions, which the Prime Minister will probably remember and which the Lord President of the Council will probably remember, if I could have had the same enthusiastic support for myself when in difficulties in a foreign country. I can remember when as a Member of this House I was roughly insulted by the Belgian Government. I communicated with the Prime Minister of the day and raised the matter subsequently in this House. I was told that it was not a matter on which the Government of this country could rightly intervene. There is a very general view among established capitalist Governments that while law and justice, and all these things, are good principles as applied to ordinary citizens, when a Socialist happens to be involved then it is quite right to employ entirely different sets of judicial and legal principles. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) has told us the story, which he has told before, of how he was arrested, taken away from his home in the middle of the night, deported from his wife and children, under legislation drafted by the present Foreign Secretary; and I went on to a public place in Glasgow the next day to protest against this grievous breach of the constitutional rights of a British citizen and was put in prison for 12 months for daring to protest, and to defend the British Constitution. I have made the same mistake very often since.
Undoubtedly, there is a double standard operating in the affairs of the world. I think—I do not quite know the word to use—the 19 hours cross-examination was not fair. To subject any human being to that sort of thing is not right. But I know that it is done in the United States, I know that it is the recognised criminal procedure in 1823 France, though perhaps not to that extent, and time and again my friends and hon. Members of the Labour party have raised in this House the treatment of what are called the Meerut prisoners, who were under trial for four years on charges that were just as much trumped up charges as it is alleged are the charges against these people. But never in this House, not even now, has any non-Labour or non-Socialist voice been raised in protest. Do you wonder if we doubt the genuineness of the professions which are made about being shocked when, men are put on the rack. If it is shocking to put 'a Britisher on the rack for 19 hours, then it is a dreadful thing to put men, Britishers and Indians, on the rack for four years, with the uncertainty of mind during all that time as to what their fate will be. You talk about the wives of these Britishers who are in this country. There is a mother of one of these Meerut boys who has approached the Leader of the Opposition with a breaking heart time and again, and when the matter has been raised in this House where was the great cry for justice? Where was the spirit that we in Britain never treat a prisoner in an unfair way, that here there is always equality before the law? I am reminded of how that veteran trade union leader, Tom Mann, was arrested, and that the Home Secretary, in replying to questions in this House as to where he got his powers, said that wherever the powers are derived we had the right to imprison this man, 75 years of age, without a charge being made against him.
Before you can stand on this high pedestal of virtue in the eyes of the world you have to have a clean record yourselves. I put it to the Prime Minister, in particular, that the Russian Govern-men, when it has released every one of these prisoners except one on the representations of His Majesty's Government and His Majesty's Ambassador, have gone as far as they can reasonably expect any sovereign State in the world to go; and you have the assurance that they will be subjected to a fair and square trial. You have also to recognise that since the days that settled government came to Russia, since the days after the revolution and the civil war—the hon. Member for Tavistock must not forget that there has been a revolution in Russia which has 1824 made changes, that is the nature of a revolution—not since the days of the revolution and the subsequent civil war has any British citizen in Russia been treated unfairly or unjustly. He him-self showed in his speech that he had been received with all the courtesies that could be given to a foreigner. He passed his time in the middle of the activities of the Russian nation and left the country in perfect safety, having received nothing but kindness from them. There is no record of any British citizen having been harmed in any way since Russia became a settled State, and if His Majesty's Government would concern themselves a little more about the people who are in Germany, where there is no settled State and where there is civil turmoil, they would render much greater service to civilisation than they are by their action to-day.
I am very interested in the instrument that is being created by this Bill. If the Bill had not discriminated against one nation but had been the device adopted by His Majesty's Government for regulating the whole of our foreign trade, I would have voted for it. For years in this House I have said that the way to regulate our foreign trade is not by tariff duties, but by prohibition, and the admission, under licence, of what you want, no more and no less.
I wish we had had an opportunity of discussing this Measure on its merits. We have not got that. I am compelled to regard this Bill as being merely an evidence of class hatred against a workers' Government endeavouring, in the midst of grave difficulties, to create an entirely new social order. Since this Bill represents not a desire for British justice, not a desire for fair-play for Britishers, but the fear that a new type of society may be created in which men may live free and equal, and because that fear is the only reason for introducing this Measure, and because that is the reason which actuates it, I give my vote against it.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Mr. PYBUS
The engineers now under arrest in Russia have been engaged in manufacturing the same type of product as that produced in the business in which I spent a good many years of my life. The charge against them, as I see it, is that engineers engaged in the erection of turbines and high- 1825 grade electrical machinery have conspired to destroy their own work. I find it very difficult to believe that. I have no interest in the Metropolitan-Vickers Company. In truth I have spent a great deal of my life fighting them for contracts in all parts of the world. I do know, however, that they produce as the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) has said, the very fine work, which is traditional of British engineering. To one who knows the difficulties of the transportation and erection of this very delicate and finely finished machinery in foreign countries, it is fantastic suddenly to throw engineers into prison because newly installed turbines have failed to operate with perfect satisfaction.
A formidable list of 25 turbines was laid before Mr. Monkhouse at some stage of his 17 hours continuous and torturous examination, and he was told there had been trouble with them. You do not need to go to Russia to find 25 turbines on which there has been trouble. The modern turbine, or the turbine generator, is an extraordinarily delicate piece of machinery. The more highly scientific and efficient it is, the more delicate it becomes. Great weights of 20 to 30 tons, consisting of elaborate and delicate windings, are handed over for transportation under wretched conditions, and the life of the erecting engineer and staff, with the rough and untutored labour available, is one long misery and anxiety from beginning to end. It seems to me incredible that these engineers, struggling under conditions of such a character, could ever have put this type of apparatus, which is more advanced in its design than you will find in many highly civilised countries, into great new stations in the wilds of Russia. The House should understand the extraordinarily difficult task facing these engineers before they believe, what they are asked to believe, that British engineers took the trouble to go to Russia to conspire to destroy their own handiwork and that of those who work with them at home. However we may differ in our political views, I am sure the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs has no difference of opinion with me as to the entire loyalty of all concerned to their own craft and to their employers.
The contracts taken by the Metropolitan-Vickers Company were of two kinds. The first contracts were for 1826 finished plant. That plant was delivered, erected, and gave great satisfaction. After a time the Soviet Government were anxious to manufacture in their own country this electrical machinery and, owing to the success of the British machinery which was delivered in a finished state, they gave the Metropolitan-Vickers Company a contract to provide them with engineers, with technical advice, and with all the assistance which these great British factories could give in order that manufacture in Russia could be started successfully. The contract was for five years, and during that time Mr. Monkhouse and his colleagues laboured to train Russian engineers and Russian workmen in making plant in their own country. One may doubt the wisdom of this step, but the fact remains that, after one contract for five years had been carried out, a further contract for five years was sealed two years ago. Two years of that contract have already run.
We are entitled to inquire whether it is not fantastic to suggest that these engineers should wish not only to ruin Russian machinery but their own reputations as technical experts. I will quote one example of difficulties in Great Britain with regard to turbines. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs gave an instance of damage occurring to a machine, and here is another instance which occurred in a company with which I was connected. It did not occur in Moscow; it occurred in Glasgow. There was a very great fight for a contract for turbines. It was a fight between two firms, one operating one technical system and one another, just as Russia and Great Britain are operating different political systems. The turbines were erected in the same station. A turbine has literally thousands of blades of most highly finished steel, each beautifully made and true to less than one-thousandth part of an inch. It is essential that the casing of a turbine should be perfectly clean before starting up. This turbine was carefully searched, the cover was put on to it, but alas in a few hours this beautiful machine, costing £60,000, was a wreck, with the blades spitting out of the exhaust pipes. When the cover was lifted a chisel was found inside the casing. Obviously, it was the cause of the damage. On that chisel had been stamped the initials of the firm to 1827 which it belonged. The initials had been ground off to some extent, but not sufficiently to prevent the name of the firm being discovered. It was owned by the firm which had lost the contract.
What a marvellous case for a charge of sabotage! Here was a disappointed competitor, or somebody else, who had thrown this chisel into the machine! We were indignant. An inquiry, however, proved that we were suffering from a conspiracy mania, for a particular workman confessed that having worked for the competing company, he had carried away with him this favourite chisel. He explained that he thought he would grind off the name so that his acquisition could not be detected. If that could happen in Glasgow, what could happen in Moscow, with its atmosphere of suspicion of the foreigner? I do plead with this House—
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Does the hon. Member suggest that this individual, who had changed from one firm to another, had really deliberately put in the chisel?
§ Sir J. SIMON
I hope the hon. Member will excuse me if I ask him to make the matter quite clear. It would be unfortunate if in another country it was supposed that anything which my hon. Friend has given us as an example, in a semi-humorous way, were really an example of sabotage, instead of being an example pointing out how ridiculous it is to entertain such views.
§ Mr. PYBUS
Far from it being sabotage, I was really showing that the competitors were entirely innocent. The wreck was a pure accident. May I not urge that to these engineers, working under these conditions, this country owes something? It is not easy to get engineers to go to countries like Russia for, however highly organised they may be, they are very difficult countries for Englishmen to live in. These people have given of their best to aid the reputation of British engineering, and they have done their best to maintain trade between Great Britain and Russia. I beg the House to show they are behind these unfortunate engineers now under arrest.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
The hon. Member who has just spoken has voiced the deep concern which is felt in this House as to the fate of the British engineers who lie under suspicion, and under grave charges, in Moscow. In the view which he has expressed, and in his concern, he has voiced, I am sure, what is felt in all quarters of the House. Whatever difference of opinion there may be as to methods there is, I feel sure, a unanimity in that concern for their safety. My hon. Friends about me and I feel that any British Government would have been doing far less than their duty if they had not made most energetic representations when charges like these were made. I do not concur in the view of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). His argument was that, Russia having been admitted into the comity of nations on equal terms, we were no longer concerned with anything that might be done to British subjects under the ordinary course of Russian criminal or judicial procedure. I made a note of one of his expressions which was, that whatever course might be taken with regard to Russians, we should be prepared to accept, if it were done in a similar way with respect to British subjects. The quotations that he made from old authorities were, I understood, designed to support that argument. The hon. and learned Gentleman shakes his head, and if he wishes to intervene I shall gladly give way.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
What I stated was that those were the conditions precedent to interfering or putting on reprisals, not that we should have no concern with them. I stated that the Government had properly made representations and made full inquiries, but the question was whether we were entitled either to interfere or act by reprisals.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
But in the circumstances of the time it might well have been too late if we had waited for matters to take their course. As the Foreign Secretary has said, immediately preceding this event there was that most shocking incident of the summary shooting of no fewer than 35 Russian subjects without trial. If those 35 had been British subjects, obviously the letter of the Duke of Newcastle in the Eighteenth century would have gone by the board. This 1829 country would never for a moment have tolerated it. If no representations had been made, and if some steps had been taken which led to an explosion of public feeling here, that would have led indeed to an irreparable breach in what one would wish to be the good relations between Britain and Russia, and the Russian Government itself might have had cause to complain that they had not been warned of the depth of feeling entertained in this country on the matter. We all agree, even the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol is agreed, that this is a matter in which it was proper for the British Government to intervene and to make strong representations in order to secure a large measure of justice.
As to the course which should be taken to achieve that end, the responsibility must rest with the Government of the day. It is a matter for the Executive. The Executive come to the House and they say that, in order to achieve the end which we all have in view, in their opinion it is necessary that they should possess the powers of this Bill. It is our duty now to say "yes" or "no" to that request. A question arises whether these powers will conduce to the result required. There may be different opinions as to that, but here again the matter is one for the responsibility of the Government. There may be different opinions as to the wisdom of the way in which the matter has been handled hitherto. Some may deplore that language should have been used such as that which is published in Document No. 27 in the White Paper in the communications between the Permanent Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs and the Russian Ambassador. There may be some doubt whether the matter could not have been much better and more easily settled without this Bill, without this Debate, without the White Paper, without the speech of the Foreign Secretary. There may be differences of opinion as to whether in the long run this Bill will achieve the purpose in view. But I repeat that the matter is the responsibility of the Executive. If the House of Commons were to say, "You ask for this means of negotiation. You say that this is the one method by which we can achieve the purpose that we all have in view. Then the responsibility for the success or failure of these methods must rest with the Executive, and they will be accountable afterwards to the 1830 House of Commons." I do not think that the House of Commons at this stage should refuse the Government the powers for which they ask.
Now there comes this further question: Is it quite clear that these powers are to be used for this purpose and for this purpose alone? The Foreign Secretary devoted his whole speech to the case of the British subjects who have been arrested. He based his Motion on that, and on that alone. He said nothing with regard to the use of this weapon for any purpose of trade negotiation. Therefore, since he was the Minister responsible for introducing the Bill, the House must assume that the reasons which he gave for passing the Bill are the whole of the reasons for passing it. If he had any other object in view, he would not have withheld it from the House. Therefore, the House is entitled to assume that, if this case of the arrested engineers is settled, and settled satisfactorily, the embargo will not be imposed. But, on behalf of hon. Members on the Liberal benches, I would here ask for a definite assurance to that effect when the President of the Board of Trade speaks, for if that assurance cannot be given the whole matter stands on an entirely different footing. It is not only a question of arming the Government with powers for the assistance of our fellow-subjects in peril, but it raises the whole question of the Russian trade position, and on that we should, of course, have a great deal to say.
I press this point because there are some people in the country, and several Members in this House, who are continually bringing pressure on the Government to stop trade communications with Russia altogether. They want to cut the Russians off completely on account of moral antipathy to the methods of the Russian Government, their horror at the methods of terrorism employed there, their intense dislike of the official attitude of the Russian Government to matters of religion, and their resentment at the propaganda which is conducted, on behalf of Communism, in the British Empire. They wish to have no contact, diplomatic or commercial, with Russia. We do not hold that view here. Whatever may be our feelings or our dislike of various features of the life of the Russia of to-day, we hold that the world cannot be governed on those 1831 lines, and that each nation must bear the moral responsibility for its own system. Because you disapprove, that is no reason why you should not engage in any commercial transaction. No shopkeeper is required to inquire into the moral character of his customers, and nations cannot express their feelings of general disapprobation of certain features in the civilisation of neighbouring countries, by refusing to carry on any business transactions with them.
Britain traded with the Russia of the Tsars, and had diplomatic relations with the Russia of the Tsars, although under Tsardom there were many things done and many acts of oppression of which the people in this country most profoundly disapproved. Still this pressure does exist from a minority on those grounds, urging that we should sever ourselves wholly from relations with Russia. There are others who, for pecuniary trade interests, would wish us to stop Russian trade in various particulars. It is well known that the recent trade negotiations with Russia were made necessary by the denunciation of the trade agreement which was in force, and that was in consequence of pressure brought to bear at Ottawa by the Canadian Government. That was stated at the time from Ottawa and has never been denied. Although we here hold that there was room for negotiations in order to secure a better balance of trade, and the Russians were willing to engage in such negotiations, we thought it wrong that there should be that denunciation of the trade agreement, which can only create further difficulties and must inevitably involve very hard and troublesome negotiations before it can be replaced by any other trade agreement.
So we want it to be made quite clear that this Measure is not related to these trade questions but is, as the Foreign Secretary said, a Measure dealing with the particular emergency in relation to British subjects in Russia. We view with the greatest concern any embargo imposed on Russian importations for the reasons to which I have referred. We regard it as of extreme importance, for the sake of the employment of our people in many great industries, that we should cultivate to the utmost the vast potential market for our commodities in 1832 Russia, and that market cannot be exploited if we refuse to accept in exchange any Russian goods that we require here. Yet there are some who, whether for moral reasons or for trade reasons, would seize this opportunity or any opportunity to impose restrictions as widely as possible to cut off trade with Russia.
There is some uncertainty in our minds as to the attitude of the Government on account of an observation made by the Prime Minister when he first announced the introduction of this Bill. He said that in any case some action would have to be taken because the present trade agreement would expire on 17th April, and he apparently indicated that this Bill was introduced in that connection. Why should any action be necessary after 17th April when the six months' notice expires and the trade agreement ceases to operate? Why should it be necessary to have any form of legislation if the trade agreement were to terminate on 17th April? If any action is to be taken is this the action? We fail to perceive a connection between this Bill and the termination of the present trade agreement on 17th April. The Foreign Secretary has said that the negotiations for a new trade agreement were proceeding to good purpose and in a perfectly satisfactory way, so that I gather that if this instance of the engineers had not come to cause an interruption there would never have been any question of a Bill of this kind being introduced? The Bill has been made necessary solely by that incident. We should like that assurance. We feel sure that if this Bill had any trade significance or connection the Foreign Secretary would not have withheld that fact from the House.
I trust that this Debate will have served its purpose in bringing home to the Soviet Government the widespread and intense feeling which prevails on this particular issue in this House, as it prevails throughout the country, among people of all classes and opinions. We sincerely hope that it will not be necessary to use any of these powers. At a, time when it is desirable that there should be facilities for world commerce and the exchange of goods between all countries; when every expert adviser tells us that what the world needs, above all, as a way of relief from the terrible economic depression which afflicts all nations, is the throwing open of the 1833 channels of trade—this surely is the last moment to adopt lightly a measure of complete embargo on the trade of one country with another. When the Bill has been passed with, as I hope, assurances on the specific points which I have raised, I hope the Government will proceed with dignity and calm to seek that assurance of justice for our fellow-subjects which one great nation is entitled to expect from another.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Captain LODER
I am sure that the House is in general agreement with a large proportion of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel). I am rather glad that he has raised the point which he emphasised although I am not quite sure that I agree with that point for the same reasons as those which he has put forward. I think it is quite clear from the speech of the Foreign Secretary that this Bill has been brought forward mainly because of what has been happening in Moscow to these British engineers. It is, perhaps, rather a tall order, however, to ask the House to give powers of this nature without fixing any definite time and there ought not to be any objection to some form of time limit. The right hon. Gentleman also criticised the Government for the use of certain language in the earlier stages of the dispute, but I think that there can be no doubt that such statements as were made were based upon a very sincere conviction that these Englishmen had done nothing which ought to be the subject of a charge of this nature.
I cannot believe that the Government had any idea of challenging the sovereign right of the Soviet Union to arrest anybody on their own territory. His Majesty's Government could not possibly give any expression of opinion as to whether these people were innocent or guilty of any infringement of any Soviet law, because no specific charge of any offence against any particular Soviet law has ever been made against them. But, surely the Government were entitled to say that from what they knew of the circumstances they were morally convinced that these people had played no guilty part in any conspiracy to bring ruin to any Soviet undertakings. And I may say that that expression of opinion received a very large measure of response 1834 in the country. What possible motive would these people have had for committing acts of sabotage such as those of which they are accused? They have been working in Russia for a number of years for a great British company, which has done good business in Russia and whose interest it is that good trade relations should continue between this country and Russia. It is straining our credulity to an undue extent to ask us to believe that these people risked their positions and their reputations to forward a plot, the only object of which would be to defeat the very ends which they are in Russia to serve.
If, on the other hand, we endeavour to examine what motives the Soviet Government might have had for making these arrests, a very different range of possibilities comes before us. The present internal condition of Russia is notorious. It is three years since I was there, but I understand that things have deteriorated a great deal in that time, and I am told that present conditions are as bad as, if not worse than those which existed in 1921, before the introduction of the new economic policy. The new industries set up under the Five-Year Plan, grandiose though they may be in scale, and skilfully planned though they may be, well-erected though they may be—largely through the agency of such foreign experts as these very gentlemen with whose case we are concerned—those new industries are not working as they ought to work. The reason of that is not far to seek. Anyone who has been in Russia must realise that the greatest difficulty which the Russians have to face in the industrial life of that country, is the difficulty of getting a sufficient staff of technical experts. They have not been able to train their own people sufficiently well or in sufficient numbers to run these very extensive new industries which have been planted about the country.
When one adds to the difficulties of the internal situation the fact that the Soviet Government owe Metropolitan-Vickers over £1,500,000, one finds that there is a very obvious temptation, on the one hand, to put the blame for things being wrong on the foreigner, and on the other hand, to take the chance of finding a way of avoiding the payment of that very large debt. I cannot help thinking that such considerations are at 1835 the bottom of the trouble. I would not crake a suggestion of that kind were it not that previous experience leads us to believe that this is not the first time that a move like this has been undertaken. My hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock (Mr. Patrick), in a most interesting speech, told us from his own experience of the way in which these trials are managed. Everybody knows that they are nothing else but political dramas staged in a judicial setting. I cannot understand how, in circumstances such as these, anybody can gainsay the right of the Government to insist that these arrested men should have justice, not merely such justice as Russians have to put up with, but justice which will satisfy the public opinion of this country.
I submit that, in the circumstances, there is justification for asking that the two main points which we put forward should be conceded, first, that the charges against these gentlemen should be made specific and, second, that they should be given fair opportunities of defending themselves. The hon. Member for Tavistock gave a very impressive account of what justice in Russia is like to-day and, from my own much more limited experience, I support every word which he said in that respect. It is obvious that the arrest of these men upon the charge of an offence which is a capital offence under Soviet law, must create alarm and dismay and I do not think one can repeat it too often what the Foreign Secretary said that the fact that 35 Russians were shot, almost on the same day as that on which these men were arrested, is quite sufficient in itself to raise very grave doubts in anybody's mind as to the possible fate of these gentlemen. As to the question of specifying the charge we have been told that generally speaking the charge is one of sabotage. That might be anything from wrecking the hydro-electric plant at Dnieprostroi to being late at the office in the morning, or doing anything at all to impede the working of the Five Years Plan.
Four days after these engineers were arrested the Charge was narrowed down to a charge under Article 58 of the Soviet Criminal Code but that, again, is much too vague a charge to be sustained in a court of law. What we want to know is exactly when and where and how the par- 1836 ticular acts of which these men are accused are alleged to have been committed. Unless a charge which is definite and specific in that sense is brought forward, the Government have every justification for continuing to press for satisfaction. On the question of their defence, what confidence can we have in a system which puts prisoners through the sort of ordeal which Mr. Monkhouse and others have had to go through and upon which the Foreign Secretary dilated? They have had no private communications with any persons of their own country; they have not been allowed to see the Ambassador or any member of the staff in private. They have not been able to discuss with any legal representative any aspect of their case.
§ Mr. ANEURIN BEVAN
But I understand that these men are on bail. Yet we are now informed that they cannot speak to anybody.
§ Captain LODER
If they are now on bail, of course they have greater freedom, but what use is their freedom when they cannot arrange their defence, because they do not know the charges on which they are going to be arraigned? I do not hold the view which some hon. Members on my side hold that it is wrong to trade with Russia. On the contrary, I have always held that we ought to trade with Russia, and I have always been a supporter of the Trade Agreement. At the same time, I am convinced that in the present emergency there was no other course open to the Government than to ask for the powers for which they are asking to-day. Before the Easter Recess we must arm the Government with power to act while the House is not sitting.
What strikes me particularly in this matter is the extraordinary inability of the Soviet Government to see that their attitude is entirely against their own interests. When I first heard of the arrest of these men, I really could not believe it. It seemed almost incredible that any Government should be so foolish as to take action against the employés of a firm which was trading most successfully with them, at a time when this country was entering into a new trading agreement with Russia. It did not seem to me to be possible that any Government should do anything so crazy. Nevertheless, that action has been taken, and in taking it the Soviet Government have 1837 shown a complete lack of appreciation of the effect of their attitude on British public opinion, and they have compelled us very seriously to consider, as our Ambassador said to M. Litvinoff:whether the British public and His Majesty's Government could continue to consider Russia a country in which it was possible for an Englishman to live and trade with.I can only hope that the Soviet Government will see the necessity of giving satisfaction to our just requirements before it is too late.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
We were astonished to hear the speech of the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel). I have always confessed to a very great admiration for his personal gifts and Parliamentary talents, but I think the speech which he addressed to the House this evening did not do justice to his reputation. He left us in some doubt as to why he thought the Government should be entrusted with these powers. He disagreed with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) in his contention that once a nation is admitted within the comity of nations, we are in honour bound to respect the laws of that country, and that if any of our nationals visit it, they must themselves respect its laws. In accordance with what principles of justice does the right hon. Gentleman think that a national in a foreign country is to be treated? We are left in some doubt by his speech, and the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary did not favour the House with his interpretation of international law. He made a speech which, having regard to the gravity of the crisis, was the most frivolous and mischievous speech that any Foreign Secretary could deliver, and yet he did not tell the House what he wants the Russian Government to do with these men.
Will the right hon. Member for Darwen inform us now what he thinks the Russian Government ought to do? Hon. Members must not treat these matters in such a frivolous manner, because I believe that what we are discussing is the beginning of a most serious chain of events in Europe. I do not believe that this Debate has done justice to the consequences which are likely to arise from what we are doing. I do not believe the Foreign Secretary, when he tells the 1838 House that the purpose of the Bill is to seek justice for these Englishmen. I believe its purpose is wider and more sinister, and even if it is not at this moment conceived for a more sinister purpose, I believe that a more sinister purpose will develop out of the consequences which this Bill will set in motion. Now that the Foreign Secretary is in his place, I would like to ask him about—
§ Mr. BEVAN
I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman, if he will permit me, this question: He said that the sole purpose of the Bill was to defend these men. I do not charge the right hon. Gentleman with insincerity in wanting these powers to defend these men, but there are wider implications involved, and I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman, now that he is here, what it is that he thinks the Russian Government should do with these men. Does he take the view that they should be declared innocent without a trial? Upon what part of this White Paper are we taking our stand? Our Ambassador to Russia, in an interview with M. Litvinoff on the 16th March, made a most important statement. He said:I pointed out the fact that His Majesty's Government (who were perfectly aware of every country's right to exercise its own sovereign rights) had in the statement in the House of Commons stated their absolute conviction that there could be no justification of the charges sufficiently explained our point of view.Before these charges had been made specifically, before the evidence had been produced, our Government expressed the view that there could be no justification of the charges. Does the right hon. Member for Darwen take the view that every Englishman in a foreign country must always be considered innocent of any charge against him, without trial?
§ Mr. BEVAN
I am quoting the statement of our Ambassador, and the right hon. Gentleman agrees that the Government should be armed with these powers. I would like to know from the right hon. Gentleman for what purpose these powers should be used, what limitation he places 1839 upon the right of our interference with Russia. Up to now he has not been good enough to tell the House. To quote again from our Ambassador's statement, he says:Question at issue was not one of sovereign rights but rather of whether the British public and His Majesty's Government could continue to consider Russia a country in which it was possible for an Englishman to live and trade with, or with which His Majesty's Government could maintain relations. The best that could possibly be made of a bad job "—I would call attention particularly to this extraordinary sentence—would be for investigating authorities immediately to discover that insufficient evidence had been produced and to release the prisoners.In other words, we say to the Russian Government, "These men are being charged with a certain crime. Unless you agree to forget the evidence upon which the charge is to be made, unless you connive at action to defeat the laws of your own country, Great Britain will break off relations with you." M. Litvinoff gave the only reply that any representative of a foreign country could give in the circumstances. Our Ambassador goes on to state:M. Litvinoff's general attitude was insistence on the sovereign rights in this country. He asserted that our representations amounted to an ultimatum that His Majesty's Government could only maintain relations with Russia on the condition that British subjects were exempt from Soviet law and not subject to arrest and trial—in fact, that Russia is to change her laws.I would like to know what is our conception of the treatment that should be meted out to a British subject in another country. Nobody yet has told us that. Are we to demand that English conceptions of justice, French conceptions, American conceptions, or contemporary German conceptions of justice are to be imposed? Are we to impose our own standards of justice upon the whole world? Are we to assume that British standards of justice are exempt from any limitations of time and space, and that they must be super-imposed upon every country? If not, where does our intervention stop? Do we say that if these men are given an open trial, we will not interfere? The Russians have said that they will have an open trial. They said that before the provocative speech of the Lord President of the 1840 Council in the House of Commons. We are not asking for an open trial, therefore; and obviously we are not taking this power because the men were kept in prison. They were kept in prison for three days, and no Englishman is brought to trial in three days in our courts, so that we are not asking for these powers, I gather, in order that we might expedite the trial. The men are on bail. Are we then going to use these powers to demand the release of these men without trial?
Many people have said that there is great feeling in the country over this question. Where is it? You could not get any decent Englishman in Great Britain to agree that an Englishman abroad should be released without trial. As a matter of fact, this whole business has been a very bad blank shot. The Press has tried to work up feeling in the country, and has failed. If hon. Members think that Englishmen are going to imperil their lives for a stupid principle of that kind—that any Englishman going abroad, if he is arrested, must be immediately released without trial—they are under a grave misunderstanding of the temperament of our people. Our people will not stand for it. We have not been furnished by the Law Officers of the Crown with their own interpretation of international justice, but I have a quotation here from a statement made by George Canning, the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in 1823. It is unfortunate to have to go back so far, but I cannot find a more recent quotation:It is one of the most important principles of the Law of Nations that a stranger visiting a foreign country virtually binds himself to a temporary and qualified allegiance to its law and submits to their observance, however unwise such laws may appear to be to him, however harsh and oppressive they really are, and however they may be at variance with his own notions of political liberty or with the impressions of a happier experience. Such an individual has no right to complain of the operation of the laws of a foreign State upon himself if they are executed impartially and in the same manner in which they would operate among native subjects. The fundamental principle is this: an Englishman going into a foreign country accepts the authority of its legislation, abdicates for a time the benefits of British jurisprudence, and subjects himself to all the consequent inconveniences.That is a statement of a British statesman as to the situation in which a British 1841 subject abroad discovers himself. If you say that the laws of Russia are unreasonable and brutal, that they are laws that no civilised country ought to implement, you have a cure. You can break off all relations, but you cannot continue relations and regard them as a sovereign people and at the same time ask them to abrogate any of their sovereign power in consideration of a British national. It seems to me to be an impossible position to take up, and the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Liberal party, or 'at any rate of that portion of it which still clings to the skirts of the National Government, while disagreeing with our interpretation of the position, has not furnished the House with his own interpretation, so that we do not know what is the situation of a British subject abroad from the point of view of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
When I stated that the argument of the hon. and learned Member for Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) led to the conclusion that we ought to dissociate ourselves from all concern with what happens to British subjects who expose themselves to the administration of Russian law by going to Russia, that was denied by the Front Opposition Bench, who declared that it would be legitimate for the British Government to make strong representations if real injustice were done to a British subject. That is a complete answer to the hon. Member.
§ Mr. BEVAN
The right hon. Gentleman has not really replied, because on what do we make those representations? And in making them, what do we seek to secure? The right hon. Gentleman has not carried his answer as far as that. Do we seek to make representations so far as to secure the withdrawal of British nationals from the jurisdiction of the Russian law and put them under English law, or do we seek, in the language of George Canning, to see that their trial is impartial? There this party agrees, and we have no quarrel at all with that. As a matter of fact, the Opposition have not disagreed at all with the inquiries made by our Ambassador. We think that he did perfectly correctly in proceeding immediately to find out what the charges were.
§ Mr. BEVAN
He says:The fundamental principle is this: an Englishman going into a foreign country accepts the authority of its legislation, abdicates for a time the benefits of British jurisprudence, and subjects himself to all the consequent inconveniences.It is for the representative of that national to see that that and no less than that is extended to him, and that he shall be tried in such a manner that we can assure ourselves that he will have an impartial tribunal.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
In Russia there is no separation between the Judiciary and the Executive which is usual in most countries of the world, and which, of course, Canning had in mind. If there is an impartial trial, it is true that a country must submit its own subjects living elsewhere to such jurisdiction, but I put this point: Suppose the Ogpu had arrested 35 British subjects and then executed them without trial, would the hon. Member agree that we ought not to make representations?
§ Mr. BEVAN
There is not the slightest difficulty in. answering that question. The answer is that we should not agree to it. We should immediately have to come to the conclusion that the protection that should be accorded to our nationals abroad had not been accorded and that it would be impossible to continue relations with a country in those circumstances That, however, is not the situation which exists here. We have agreed all along that the Ambassador was perfectly justified in making representations, but we have profoundly disagreed with the language in which those representations were made. As the right hon. Member for Darwen said, the Executive and the Judiciary are separate in this country, but the position taken up in this matter by hon. Members opposite is that an Englishman who goes abroad shall get the benefit of both our Judiciary and our Executive. If you say that an Englishman charged abroad must be released at once and that if he is not released we will put our Executive at his service, where are we going to stop? Is the Foreign Secretary trying to get these powers in order to prevent these men being brought to trial or to secure a decent trial for them? If we accept the language of the Ambassador, it is to secure their release. I say at once, then, that you are asking that a British national 1843 abroad shall have the protection which a national at home has not got. You are putting at the service of the national abroad the powers of the Executive as well as the powers of the Judiciary.
I want to leave the purely legal aspect of the matter, because there are other hon. Members much better qualified to speak about it. I want to ask what is going to happen when these powers are entrusted to the Government? Is this the best way in which to protect these men? What is the Russian court going to do? The right hon. Gentleman said that there is no separation between the Judiciary and the Executive in Russia, and that therefore the courts are political courts. What must a political court do in face of this threat? You are putting the prestige of the Russian people against these men. You are saying to the Russian people: "You must release these men, not because they are innocent, but because we have the big stick and will make you release them." How will the Russian people re-act to that? If we had foreign nationals on trial in this country and a foreign nation said, "Either you release these people or we cut off our trade with you," what would we say? Immediately our own courts would become biased. We would not be able to prevent partiality creeping into the trial. What will happen in Russia? The suggestion is made that these powers are being sought to protect these men. They are not sought for any such purpose at all. They are being sought to sacrifice these men in Russia in the service of a conspiracy which will emerge in the course of the next few months. No reasonable man can believe that the Russian courts are going to be bullied. or that these men will be released with this threat hanging over the court. The court will be inclined to take a much more serious view of any offence the men may have committed. I say with all solemnity that if the House wants to protect these men it is going the worst way about it.
There is another aspect of this matter to which attention has not been directed. If Russia sentences these men because the prestige of Great Britain and Russia is now involved in this matter, the people of this country will say that innocent men have been sentenced. You have already said that these men are innocent; they 1844 have been declared innocent in the House of Commons. Speech after speech has been devoted to extraordinary attempts to say that these men are innocent although nobody knows anything about the specific nature of the charge. Everyone knows, particularly those who have been to Russia, that the happiest relations have existed between Russia and the staff of this company. Are we to believe that at once the Russian Government goes mad and becomes so frivolous and so unconcerned about the future of its own relations with other nations that it arrests British subjects on flimsy charges merely for the sake of stirring up trouble between England and Russia? That is nonsense.
§ Mr. BEVAN
I have spoken to Germans in different parts of Russia and there has been no difficulty in the past. There have been incidents, and there must be incidents. You cannot send thousands of technicians to another country and expect them to be angels. They are not angels, and some of them break the laws as other nationals in our country break our laws.
§ Mr. BEVAN
There is a different social system in Russia. There are different laws. Men who go there know what the laws are, and they accept all the risks. There is no obligation upon Great Britain to do other than to see that these men, when they are brought to trial, get a fair and impartial trial in accordance with the law of that country. There is no more obligation than that. You may say that the sabotage laws are foolish, but if you talk to an intelligent young Russian he will tell you that they are infinitely more sensible than our laws which put a premium on destruction in this country. We are so insular as to imagine that England 1845 has the best laws, the best system, the best social order, and the best of everything in the world, and that in no circumstances will British justice ever be called to account. I believe that there are hon. Members who think that in no circumstances will British courts of justice be used to punish political crime. If we are allowed at this moment a large measure of liberty in this country, it is simply that we are not frightening you enough. When we frighten you sufficiently you will put us in gaol with exactly the same brutality. You have done it before. We are not deceiving ourselves into imagining that British justice is independent of time and space.
I was one of a band of young men who in 1916 had to farm ourselves into a defence guard to protect the Prime Minister front the thugs in Cardiff. When we were leaving the building the thugs were beating us on the heads with the legs of chairs, and the police stood on one side and did not stir a step. Any impartial examination of the British courts will show that even now, when the capitalist class of Great Britain can afford the luxury of apparent impartiality, there is evidence of bias in the courts, and when we start to challenge your position and when your property is in peril your judicial impartiality will go as it has in the past, as it has in Germany, as it has all over the world. The reason why you are so kind and benevolent at the moment is that we do not threaten you. Political toleration is a by-product of the complacency of the ruling class. When that complacency is disturbed there never was a more bloody-minded set of thugs than the British ruling class.
§ Mr. BEVAN
There are hon. Members sitting upon this bench who were for two or three years in gaol without a charge proved, in 1922. To listen to the smug hypocrisy of some hon. Members one would imagine that we had been like Diogenes living in a tub and had never heard of these things. It is time there was more candour. "The Russian people are not at war," said an hon. Member who made a most interesting speech from the benches behind me; but nothing has shown that Russia is regarded as being at war more than the atmosphere of this 1846 House, the sheer incapacity of hon. Members to look at this thing judicially. Not a single reputable defence for these powers has yet been advanced. The Foreign Secretary deliberately avoided the international legal implications of this Bill. He seized upon every piece of evidence as a subject for as much special treatment as possible, in order to arouse the passions of the House, to cause as much mischief as possible in Europe.
You are daring to suggest that as the present Russia has now been established for 12 or 15 years there is no reason at all for class legislation in Russia. Our newspapers speak with an abandon, with a virulence, about Russian affairs such as they would not dare to use about any other country, and day by day there is anti-Russian propaganda in this House. We do not use such language of any other country. [An HON. MEMBER: "They do not deserve it!"] Exactly, that is your class prejudice. Believe me, if I had the power you would not have a good many of the things you think you deserve now; and I am perfectly satisfied, as I said just now, that when you are sufficiently frightened of us there are many things that you will not accord to me.
What is going to be the effect of this Bill? If the Government do not use the powers under the Bill, then England will be covered with ridicule throughout the world. [Interruption.] It is impossible for some hon. Members to distinguish jingoism from patriotism. I do not regard patriotism as consisting of throwing my people into every conflict as you would like to do. I believe the interests of British citizens are best served by bringing about international peace, but I must say that an extraordinary contribution has been made to it this evening by the Foreign Secretary, who will go down to history as the most sinister of persons who ever occupied that office. If the economic weapon is not used we shall be covered with ridicule. If it is used it will be impossible for any firms to make contracts with Russia, in view of the threat which will be hanging over trade relations. At any moment the Government could come down and stop trade. Forward buying will he made absolutely impossible.
There will be no necessity to use this Bill; the mere fact that its powers exist 1847 will introduce such an atmosphere of uncertainty into business that forward dealing of any importance will not be undertaken. If we stop the importation of Russian timber what will happen to the housing programme? Finland, Sweden and Norway will have the British timber industry in their own hands and will be able to exact their own price. They have been cut down in the course of the last few months, and there has been a quota, but immediately we stop the importation of Russian timber we hand over the timber market to Finland and Sweden. The colliery industry has obtained enormous advantages as a result of importing Russian timber for use as pit wood. Our export coal trade is one of the most important of our export trades. It is fighting a desperate battle against difficult world conditions. We shall make the colliery industry pay more for its pit wood. Then there is the case of oil. More than any other single agency Russian oil exports have been responsible for getting us reasonably cheap petrol, and at the same time that trade made a handsome contribution to the national funds. If we stop the importation of Russian oil what will be the effect? In the case of timber, Russia has no large alternative market, and we shall merely send up the price of timber; but in the case of oil, if we stop imports into Britain we throw that oil upon the markets of the world and we shall disorganise the whole of the world's trade in petroleum.
This is a most mischievous Measure. It has no legal justification, it does not satisfy the moral claims of Great Britain, and its economic effects will be absolutely disastrous. It is always difficult for hon. Members to convince others of the justice of their case, particularly when national passions are aroused. This unprecedented reprisal against Russia will, I am convinced, have consequences that we shall all deeply regret. So much information is withheld from us that I may as well indulge in fairy stories as my hon. Friends. I do not know how far this Russian situation was discussed at Rome, but we do know this, that the British Foreign Office is not so stupid as to have used this language over this case in Moscow merely because of the case alone. If the Ambassador and his assistant used this language only for the purpose of this case, the Ambassador is incompetent and 1848 ought not to be entrusted with office again. If, on the other hand, the language was not used merely for the purpose of this case, for what purpose was it used? Probably to raise Russia's feelings and British feelings as high as possible, in order to inflame the atmosphere and to put across a policy. What that policy is we do not know.
All we known is that revision of the Peace Treaty is absolutely essential if the peace of Europe is to be maintained. No country can agree to revise it at the moment, because its revision will be at the expense of nations whose territory was augmented or whose nationality was created by the Peace Treaty. Therefore, it is impossible to obtain agreement. What you can obtain agreement upon and in respect of which the propaganda has been going on for years, is to take the Ukraine from Russia. If you could get the Ukraine from Russia you might be able to induce some of the other nations to surrender territory to Germany and thus to settle disputes which have existed in the League of Nations. I do not say that a plan is matured or that it is developing, but I know that when legislative assemblies discuss matters of this moment in the spirit in which we have discussed this Bill to-day, when questions of national prestige become involved with ordinary matters of commercial dispute, when we start flinging charges at nations and nations fling them back, and when considerations of patriotism render even your most prosaic principles sacrosanct, we are getting into a very dangerous position.
I believe that the main architect of the troubles which will come in the future will be the Foreign Secretary and his chauvinistic and jingoistic followers in the House of Commons who for years have sought an opportunity of declaring war against the one nation, which, despite all the difficulties, is still showing that it is possible to have a world order in which people can live with more security than we have here. The dictatorship which has existed would have been relaxed had it not been for opposition from without. When you have a classless society you can abolish distatorships, because it will not then be necessary to rest privilege upon the shoulders of an oppressed people.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ Mr. LIDDALL
regret that I was not in my place when this important Debate opened to-day. Unlike the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), I still believe this old country to be the finest in the world, to have the finest ships and railways, the finest police and diplomatic service, the finest social service, and the most genial and gentle leaders of Socialism. I have read the White Paper with considerable amazement and alarm. If, as this White Paper implies, British subjects are to be used for spectacular treason trials staged for reasons of internal politics, then I shall loyally support the Government in any steps they may see fit to take in order to protect the interests of this country, of British subjects in Soviet Russia and civilisation generally. I have never yet concealed my opinion at the murders and robberies that have been committed by or at the instigation of the Soviet rulers, or my utter contempt for the system which endeavours to prosper by means of forced and prison labour.
Like many hon. Members and any hon. Member worth his salt, I shall always endeavour to do what I can to help my own constituents. I am endeavouring to support the men who find the capital by which works are kept going and employment is found for workmen. Russia was one of Lincoln's chief markets for agricultural machinery. Since the War, there have been few countries placing any volume of orders to be compared with Russia. To-day in my own constituency of Lincoln City there are nearly 8,000 unemployed, the majority of whom are engaged in the engineering industry. Accordingly, for several months I have done all I could to bring pressure to bear upon the Government and upon Government Departments to hasten on the new trading agreement with Russia. I would now say to the Government: "By all means pass this Bill and secure the weapon which will give you the power with which to barter, but when you have it, use it, I beg you, with great discretion, bearing in mind that Russia owes our nationals very large sums of money spread over the next two years, debts which cannot be met unless Russia is able to sell some of her produce in this country." I wish it were possible to deal with Russia on a basis of goods for goods, 1850 and that she would agree to purchase from us the same total value as we buy from her, but Russia is not the only country in the world with which such an arrangement is difficult to accomplish. We all wish to be wise and to do the best that we can for our people. While I think that the power which this Bill will give is necessary, I urge the Government to be mindful of the great potentialities for trade in Russia and to be sane, cool and moderate.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Commander LOCKER-LAMPSON
I am very glad that the fate of Englishmen overseas is not left in the hands of some of the hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition benches who have spoken in this Debate. I noticed with attention the speech of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan), and was interested in what he stated about the future of importations from Russia. When we are told that we are acting against Russia as we are acting against no other country, we must remember that Russia has the power, as a trading State, to act differently towards us from any other country in the world. Therefore, if we ask for this power of differentiation, it is merely to possess a weapon identical with that which is at this moment in the hands of Russia. When the hon. Member pleads the cause of oil, my mind goes back to the days when those oil wells were sunk by British capital and labour, when they belonged to English people and English companies, and when they were stolen by the Soviet. When the hon. Member speaks of oil being placed cheaply upon English markets, I would say that it is quite easy to go on placing anything that is cheap on the English market if you steal all the processes of production first.
But the real question at the moment is not trade, is not commerce, is not our diplomatic position. It is the lives of these Englishmen that are sacred, and we must not do or say anything in this House or anywhere else that will jeopardise their lives or make their chances of escape more difficult. We are told that we do not know whethey they are innocent or not. Let us assume that they are not. Still, our object and our point of view is most clearly this: These men were arrested and not properly charged with any crime. I do not care 1851 whether that has ever happened in England. It never ought to happen in England or anywhere else in the world. A country is not a civilised country which arrests people and does not at the same time allow them to know the crime or the charge alleged against them. Secondly, the men so arrested have been admittedly badly treated. Even an hon. Member on the Labour benches has spoken about the treatment accorded to one of the prisoners. It was nothing less than "third degree" treatment. The statement on page 9 of the White Paper as to how he was questioned is worth noticing. He was not only examined from eight a.m. until three a.m.—19 hours—but he was examined again, for another 17 hours, six hours later. Is there anybody in this House or anywhere else who would call that fair play? I care not whether it were done to a foreigner or an Englishman; I hope that there is no Member in any part of the House who would not stand up for a foreigner's rights in England.
§ Commander LOCKER-LAMPSON
I am very sorry indeed if anything of the kind was done in this country; it ought never to have been done. What is more, a body of 35 Russians, for so-called crimes, were condemned to death in Russia and automatically executed. They were condemned to death for crimes for which no man in England would be executed. Why do not Members of the Labour party stand up for them? I remember a Trades Union Congress which unanimously carried a resolution of protest against the execution of a working man in Russia who had committed nothing but a political crime. I invite the Labour party to protest against this judicial murder in Russia, and to assist the Government in proving that it is justice and fair play that we want.
I was always one of those who protested against the advance of money to the Soviet. We have heard Soviet Russia spoken of as a land of freedom, a land flowing with milk and honey, but I notice that, according to recent statistics, only 130 Englishmen are living in that pleasant paradise. I was against any advance of money to people who refused to pay us in the first place. I protested at the 1852 time, and I protest still; but I would venture to bet—a thing that one must not do in these Parliamentary precincts—that perhaps at the back of the mind of the Soviet Government in arresting these individuals is its desire to repudiate any obligations that it owes us in respect of any money owed or advanced. I would beg His Majesty's Government never again to throw any money down that drain, but to spare it for some of the Dominions who stood by us in the War, and did not stab us in the back as the Soviet did. If our Dominions do not want it, our constituencies could do very well indeed with some of what has gone to Russia.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Eden)
I must point out to my hon. and gallant Friend that there has never been any actual loan.
§ Commander LOCKER-LAMPSON
I admit that, but a loan was promised by the Labour Government of 1924, and, if it had got in at the following election, the Soviet would have had a very large loan. Now we have guaranteed money, and advances were made in that way—
§ Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE (Secretary, Overseas Trade Department)
No advances have been made. In point of fact, what has been done is that bills have been guaranteed, but no actual advances have been made.
§ Commander LOCKER-LAMPSON
I quite agree; I do not mean to argue over that point; I merely wish to state that, having lost £1,000,000,000 which is owed to us in respect of public money advanced prior to and during the War, and another £250,000,000 more of private money having been stolen from poor English citizens, we should not in any circumstances allow that bankrupt autocracy one farthing more, but should keep our hard-earned cash for ourselves. Finally, I would say that I do not think Soviet Russia is the land of promise that it is described to be. It preaches the brotherhood of man with bombs and bayonets and, if it is not ready to toe the line and treat honourably and well English citizens who go there to trade, not only ought we at once to take action by passing this Measure, but we ought to withdraw recognition from this defaulting Republic.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Mr. PETHERICK
I cannot say that I entirely agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hands-worth (Commander Locker-Lampson). Personally, I have always taken up a rather different attitude. I do not look upon Russia as a land of hope and glory; in fact, I am profoundly opposed to the whole system of government which is in existence in Russia at the present time; but I have always held out strongly against our being involved in any form of anti-Russian propaganda, because I believe that our object should be, by trading with Russia, to endeavour to let a little light into that unfortunate country, and I believe that, so long as we have trade relations with Russia, there will be, slowly but surely, a modest movement towards the Right. But what is the position at the present time? We have been engaged in trade relations with Russia for some years now, with varying success and in the face of considerable difficulty. Then, suddenly, the Russian Government proceed to arrest several British subjects and, without being told what the accusations against them are, they have been held pending trial. The guilt or innocence of these men has, of course, not been proved by the White Paper, but I observed on the Opposition Benches an extraordinary anxiety to believe that, if they were not guilty, there were, at any rate, grounds on the part of the Russian Government for suspecting that they might be guilty. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) devoted an enormous amount of energy and ability and eloquence to defending the cause of the Russian Government in this unfortunate case.
I believe that what the hon. Member for Lewes (Captain Loder) said was in the main entirely correct. He said that there were no motives for these British citizens to indulge in sabotage or any anti-social activity in Russia. On the contrary, all their interests are, obviously, to do the best they possibly can—commercial interests and the interest of the preservation of their own personal safety. Is it likely that, when they go to Russia and engage in service, indirectly of course, under the Russian Government, they are going to indulge in sabotage of the work which they have been endeavouring to build up and out of which they hope ultimately to make a 1854 profit for themselves, for their company, and for their country? There is absolutely no motive whatever, as far as I can see, which would induce them to engage in acts of sabotage. But there are several motives which would induce the Russian Government to take disciplinary action against them. My hon. and gallant Friend mentioned two particularly, but there is another and an important motive of a psychological kind which would induce the Russians to take the action that they have taken, and that is that we have been negotiating a new trade agreement, and I imagine, from what we have heard, that it is not very easy to reach an agreement. It takes a very long time to come to an agreement about anything with Russia, and it is at least possible that Russia had come to the conclusion that she could frighten us by arresting our nationals and cause us to come to terms much more quickly than we should have done otherwise. So that, whereas on the one side the British citizens had no motives whatever for being guilty of the crimes of which they are accused, on the other side the Russian Government had three very important motives, and other subsidiary ones, for endeavouring to make an example of these men.
It is obvious that the treatment to which the men have been subject is not the treatment that we should have meted out to persons accused of crime in this country. They have been subjected to 19 hours' continuous examination, and then, after a few hours' interval, another 17 hours of examination. At the end of all that a man is in the position that he hardly knows where he is. He may make admissions which have no foundation in fact, and which he knows are entirely incorrect, but they would all be taken down whether they had any justification in fact or not. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), with whom I found myself, most unusually, in almost complete agreement, rather indicated that Sir Robert Vansittart had gone considerably too far in his remarks to the Russian Ambassador, but surely it is the duty of the permanent Under-Secretary or the Secretary of State in similar circumstances to explain to the Ambassador of the Power interested not only the exact position legally as he sees 1855 it, but also the effect that he considers it will have on the British public. What he pointed out in Document No. 27 of the White Paper is clearly his view of the feeling on the part of the British public that will be engendered by the action of the Russian Government. I do not think it is possible to come to any other conclusion after carefully reading it.
We have been accused by the Opposition of having sinister motives in this matter. The House has been led to believe that the object is not what it professes to be, that it is not to try to induce the Russian Government, by pointing out how strong the feeling is in this country, to release these men, but that it is really due to anti-Russian sentiment. In the country as a whole, and indeed in the House, there is a certain anti-Russian feeling, but I believe it is very small. I am convinced that the general wish on this side of the House is to do everything we possibly can to make our relations with Russia a success, and I believe that that view is, in the main, held throughout the country. I think it is clear that, if the Government had really wanted to break off relations and to refuse to trade with Russia in any circumstances, or to penalise Russian imports, the Bill would not have envisaged total prohibition but total prohibition or duty. The fact that only total prohibition is included in the Bill is a clear indication that the object is only to enforce prohibition if we do not get satisfaction from the Russian Government.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, in the course of his long and carefully reasoned speech, said something about an impartial trial. He seemed to think that the main object of the Government and of His Majesty's Ambassador should have been not to endeavour to get the men released but to get an impartial trial. Anyone who knows anything about the Russian Constitution knows that it is absolutely impossible to get an impartial trial from the nature of the Russian Constitution itself. The whole system of affairs in Russia is that the State transcends the law. A very eminent American wrote in a most remarkable book on the Russian system the following words:In all of them"—1856 that is the codes—the communists have erected elaborate safeguards against the exploitation of man by man, but, as in the constitution, there is no safeguard against the exploitation of man by the State.I understand that there is one judge in the Supreme Court, and that there are two assistants, and that the duty of the judge in the Supreme Court is not only to adjudicate on the law as it stands but also to interpret the law, and, if necessary, to invent a law according to his own revolutionary conscience. I will read two short paragraphs out of the Criminal Code of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic. The first one (No. 9) says:Punishment is to be determined by the judicial bodies in accordance with their socialistic conception of law, and in conformity with the Articles and fundamental principles of the present Code.No. 10 says:In cases where the Criminal Code makes no direct reference to particular forms of crime, punishment or other measures of social protection are applied in accordance with those Articles of the Criminal Code which deal with crimes most closely approximating, in gravity and in kind, to the crimes actually committed.That clearly shows that it is the duty of a Soviet judge, not only to adjudicate upon a case and to give his judgment in accordance with the law as it stands in the Penal Code, but also with what he thinks the Penal Code ought to be. We know that a Russian judge from the nature of the case and of the Russian system is bound to be absolutely hand in glove with the Russian Government of the day. I think that I have read enough of the Penal Code to show that it is absolutely impossible to expect and to hope to obtain a fair trial for the citizens who are under arrest. I have endeavoured to show also that those citizens have no motives whatever for any crime of sabotage or anti-Russian movement. Surely His Majesty's Ambassador in Moscow was right, on the general assumptions which I have just given, in moving for the release of these men, because it was obvious that if they were brought to trial they would never receive a fair trial at all.
We have heard a good deal about sovereign rights to-night. We are not saying to Russia: "You have no sovereign rights," or that: "You may not exercise the sovereign rights which you possess." 1857 But we are saying that: "You have a special responsibility, in view of your constitution, to foreign citizens. We are interested in the protection of our nationals, and, if you exercise your tyrannous Penal Code against British nationals, we also shall exercise our sovereign rights and will refuse to trade with you." That, surely, is what the Government are doing in the present instance. As to the effect the Bill may have if it is passed into law on the industries of this country, it will undoubtedly have an unfortunate effect on the exporting industry, and it will affect to a considerable extent some of the great importing industries. I merely mention the timber trade of which I have some peciliar personal knowledge. Suppose Russian imports of timber were entirely prohibited, I think you would immediately get, as a Member of the Opposition has said, a rise in prices. That would be very unfortunate. Undoubtedly Finland, Sweden, Canada and the United States of America would gain temporarily, but I believe that what would inevitably happen when we resumed relations with Russia again, after there had been a boom in timber, as there surely would be, would be that we should find a slump. So that I do not think it would be to the advantage of the timber trade of the country that this Measure should be imposed, and we certainly hope that there will be no reason to impose it. At the same time, I am sufficiently acquainted with the timber trade in this country to believe that, where the rights and liberties of British citizens are involved, they would prefer that due and proper weight should be laid on the absolute necessity of doing everything possible to make secure those lives and liberties rather than, for the sake of £ s. d. and possibly averting a great deal of inconvenience, oppose on any grounds the particular Measure which the Government are hoping to pass into law during the next few days.
When was money considered of more importance than the lives and liberties of British citizens? Our predecessors in this House for generations have always stood out for the principle that British citizens were entitled to the protection of the British Government in whatever quarter of the globe they happened to be. When you have a case such as this in which a foreign and friendly Govern- 1858 ment, without any cause which can be seen, arrests British citizens and proposes to bring them, to suit their own particular motives, to trial, we should take the same action in supporting the Govern-merit in this matter as our predecessors in this House have taken in the past. I sincerely hope that it will not be necessary, after the passage of the Bill, actually to enforce it. I hope also that the Russian Government, even at this late stage, may see that it is advisable from every point of view to keep in with this country and that, if there is any sense of justice, it will be accorded to the British citizens who are now awaiting trial. I hope that the Government will pass this Measure into law at the earliest possible moment, and at the same time that it will not be necessary to enforce the law after it has been passed.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I am afraid that what I shall say to-night will not be accepted as orthodox by many of my hon. Friends sitting on these benches. Nevertheless, I am compelled to speak exactly as I view the situation. I look upon the British House of Commons as a forum wherein to give expression to honest thought in regard to things at a critical moment, and I think that the discussion that has gone on to-day will be beneficial not only to the House of Commons but to the nation and the Russian people. I am not in agreement with the White Paper. I want to say that straight away, in case I may be misunderstood. I think the White Paper has come at a time when the issue is being confused. It would have been much better for the Government to have avoided confusion. We are told that a, new business arrangement must come into operation by the 18th, or other steps must be taken. At the same time the Government are dealing with those affairs that we are told are happening in Russia in regard to the question of the trial of British nationals.
Ever since I have been in this House I have felt that my constituency was my world. I have always considered that my world should start at home and then extend throughout the length and breadth of the land and to other nations. That is my duty, but when we are confronted, as we are, with expressions of opinion that come from all and sundry, and when one is either to be marked as a coward 1859 for not giving expression to what one feels or to be considered to be acquiescing in what is being done by being silent, I prefer to be neither one nor the other. I prefer that the party to which I belong should give me the right, just the same as every other individual has the right, of expressing my opinion on what is happening.
The Russian people are supposed to be in the comity of nations. They are, as I understand matters, being governed by a minority. They are only now coming out of the thraldom of an autocracy and are only creeping in the world to-day. They are young; they are novices in the world of government. Where our nation travelled 700 years ago, through all the travail of evolution, the Russian people are going through the same thing to-day. If we are to be told that we have no right to deal with the question of how other nations treat nationals, I think we are getting on very dangerous ground. It is no use for friends of mine to point out our conduct in regard to India. Meerut is no answer to me for the attitude of Russia to-day. If I denounce Russia I denounce Meerut. Am I to proclaim about India and not about Russia? [An HON. MEMBER: "Ireland."] I have a quotation about Ireland which is ringing in my ears. There was trial by jury going on by daylight while martial law was hanging people in the lanes at night. Those were hard times for the honest gossoon. We know what we have had to go through as an Irish nation. We are living in a new world to-day and nations have to be taught that if there is to be universality they must come in and be one of the family in the comity of nations.
It is because of that that I feel that a pretext has been brought before the House. I am at a loss to understand what the White Paper has to do with the Bill. We are told that the Bill in regard to prohibition is necessary, because the new trade agreement has to be entered into by the 18th April, but I am at a loss and I am unable to understand by any method of reasoning how the White Paper dealing with the treatment of British prisoners has any bearing on the matter of the trading agreement. The matter, however, has been discussed, and I hope that my hon. 1860 Friends on these benches realise that I have a perfect right to express my point of view in regard to the situation as I see it.
Public opinion in this country will have something to say in regard to the treatment of these prisoners, and we must be very careful in this House how we handle the situation. The Russian people, too, will have to be very careful how they handle the matter with regard to foreign nationals who go there to work. There are Members of this House whose sons are engineers. They may go to China, Japan or Russia to instal turbines as technicians, highly skilled men. They may go to foreign countries to put in machinery and to give instructions how the machines may be worked. Is it to be implied in such cases that there is to be a rule that they are employés of the State where they are working? I do not know of any nation under any system of contract where men of another nation have gone out to make installations of machinery, that when those highly skilled men have been sent out it is to be understood, as is the case under the Russian regime, that they are to become part and parcel of the State. I thought that to be a Roman was to be able to appeal to Rome. I do not know that in regard to any man who goes into another nation he has not the right to expect from his own nation the protection that he as a national has a right to expect of his nation. I complain of any injustice that my country may do to another, but I am not going to think that mine is the only nation that does an injustice.
I am not satisfied in regard to the treatment of these British prisoners. If the White Paper is to be regarded as a true document, and the responsibility rests with the British Government for the issue of it, then I must accept it as being credible evidence of the correspondence that has passed between the Russian Government and our own. In that case, the White Paper is the only substance with which I can deal, and no one in this House, whether he be lawyer or layman, has any other evidence before him except the White Paper. Let us analyse the position. I do not agree with the proposed prohibition; yet, as the other matter has been brought in to hide the issue, I hope the Russian people will understand that we have feelings in 1861 regard to the men who leave this country and go there to work.
No man whose son has gone to a foreign nation would be satisfied with this treatment. The first examination began at 8 a.m. and continued without interruption for 19 hours. There were three teams of examiners, and we are told that later on there was another examination which went on for 17 hours—36 hours; and we are asked to believe that these people are able to govern and that this is a model system. There is no Member of this House of any party who would desire to live under such a government. Although I am a Member of the Labour party and anxious and willing to do my bit, this is not my idea of democracy, nor is it even a move in the direction of government by the people. There is the question of espionage. We are told that these reports were based on information which was obtained from the companies and other engineers. This he was informed was espionage, sabotage; by a nation which speaks of freedom and which proclaims freedom. Surely if there is a meaning to words there must be a common understanding with regard to the meaning of the words "sabotage" and "espionage." He was giving information to his own firm in regard to the business he was doing there, and how the business was proceeding.
Is there any body of men who would send out a man to teach and supervise and train others to do this work, who would proclaim that when a responsible man returns to a responsible firm, who is engaged by a responsible Government to do responsible work, and is allowed to go home three times a year, that that man is to be deaf, dumb and silent when he talks to his firm. It is the most ridiculous proposition on the face of God's earth, and to my mind nothing only a foolish Government would ever put forward the proposition that some little group, some little body, which has only just sprung into existence, should be able to put you on your trial and should shoot you by moonlight, because they say that it is espionage and sabotage. This kind of thing is getting ridiculous, and the sooner we understand it the better. I am talking because I want to make it known, I do not believe in the Communist system. To me it is retrograde, it is diabolical, and this gives me an opportunity of stating my views. I 1862 am not afraid of stating my views. This system is most retrogressive for the future of mankind, and the sooner it is got rid of the better.
At the same time I think it is unwise on the part of the National Government to link these two things together and deal with them at one time. They have no bearing one on the other. But there is something deeper. Insinuations have been made to-day that perhaps there is this and perhaps there is that. I do not believe in insinuations, I only deal with the matter which is before me. By insinuation we get nowhere. I do not know the firm of Metropolitan-Vickers except by repute, but, if they send out trained mechanics to Russia, surely they have a right to the confidence of their men and should be able to discuss with them the problems and questions connected with the contracts and the business they are doing. That appears to be sabotage to the Russian mind. These confidential intercourses of trained mechanics with their employers are looked upon as sabotage. As we understand government and the law there is as much difference between the mentality of Russia and the mind of England as there is between chalk and cheese, and, therefore I think that the House is making a great mistake in dealing with these two matters in this way.
I must say what I think if it was my own son who had been sent out into the world as a highly skilled and trained mechanic to do regular work. Surely the day has not yet come when Britain has no right to ask for a proper trial, for proper legal advice, in such a case as this? There is not a man in the House who would not protest if injustice was being done elsewhere to any other citizen. I do not know any of these young men, but I believe they are all of good character, highly trained and skilful, and sent out to do this work. As they have already completed five years' service they must be recognised as first-class mechanics. It is, of course, an easy matter to throw a spanner into the machine in the engine-room, but when we consider Russia with all its intrigue, with all its competition, surely we are not going to think that five British mechanics, earning a livelihood, trained men from England, and knowing Russia as they must have known it, would not be aware that the least movement 1863 they might make would mean that a charge of sabotage and espionage would be made against them and that they would be liable to be shot. No Englishman going out in this way, no Irishman or Scotsman, would think of meddling about in political movements in Russia.
There is a lot of intrigue going on. I am not so simple as to believe that everybody who gets up as a revolutionary is going to face any fighting. Thirty-seven years in an Irish movement has taught me that the bricks are generally flung by a revolutionary, but as soon as he lets the brick go out of his hands he is a revolutionary no longer. I think it is indiscreet to have coupled these two things together. I do not believe in a vendetta against the great Russian nation; and when I say that I mean a Russian nation, not a nation of monopolists, not a nation of those who have come into power by force, which with all the rest of such forces must disappear if the nation is to come into its own again.
The day when Russia can enter the comity of nations has unfortunately not yet arrived. If the Russian people are wise, they will copy western ideas and try at least to live in peace with their neighbours. If, on the other hand, the Foreign Secretary were wise, he would not bring two such conflicting lines of thought before the House as he has done to-day. His Paper in regard to the prisoners is instructive, but it would have been better if the Bill, which deals with trade after 17th April, had been left over and a friendly agreement reached. Russia, I am convinced, has much to learn and, in view of the opinions expressed in this House, the sooner Russia begins to recognise the opinions that are held in England, the better it will be for Russia.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
The House is accustomed to expressions of robust individual opinion from the hon. Member who has just spoken, but he has seldom been listened to with greater approval than this evening. The Debate has ranged over a wide field, and there has been a certain amount of confused thought, especially from the benches opposite. We have been adjured from 1864 the benches opposite to avoid intemperate expressions, but some of the most intemperate statements ever heard in a Debate in this House were made from the benches opposite, and certainly cannot conduce to the safety of the men who are uppermost in our minds. May I say that I agree with the questions put by the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) to the Foreign Secretary? I assume, and most of us on this side of the House assume, that in the Bill before the House at the present moment we are not prejudging in any way the issue of trade relations with Russia. The Bill, as I take it, is an enabling Bill to put in the hands of the executive a weapon, which they have not got independently of an Act of Parliament, for the purpose, in a word, of bringing to their senses the Soviet Socialist Government in regard to the treatment that they have meted out to some of our subjects in Russia. If it went further than that, and if it were intended in this short discussion to introduce a Measure which would permanently affect our relations with Russia, then many of us on this side of the House would have something to say on the matter. I hope that, when my right hon. Friend replies, he will be able to give us some assurance on that point.
I rose in order to deal with one or two points around which the Debate has centred since the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) made a speech early in the afternoon. He called the attention of the House to some propositions, which he said were propositions of international law, but which upon examination will not hold water. What he seemed to say was that, when British subjects enter a foreign country, they ought to be satisfied if they receive the same jurisdiction at the hands of the same tribunal as the members of the foreign community of which they are members for the time being. That, as a proposition of international law, is certainly not sound. The hon. and learned Gentleman went so far a s to quote from a very Authoritative author on international law, Phillimore, but, as occurs in many cases in this House—I am sure by accident—he did not give the complete quotation. I shall complete it from the end of the paragraph with which he con- 1865 cluded. It is a paragraph on page 5 of the third volume of Phillimore:As a rule, no objection to the forms of procedure or the mode of administering justice in the courts of the country can found any such demand"—that is, a demand for reprisals.The foreigner should have considered these things before he entered into transactions in the country.That is perfectly true, and that is where the hon. and learned Member stopped, but I shall continue the quotation:Nevertheless, a plain violation of the substance of natural justice, e.g., refusing to hear the party or to allow him to call witnesses, would amount to the same thing as an absolute denial of justice.That seems to me a very important qualification.
In addition to that the hon. and learned Gentleman built up the whole of his case, as did many speakers from the Opposition, upon a complete misunderstanding of the word "reprisals." This Bill is spoken of by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol as if it were a reprisal, but what he did not point out to the House of Commons was that "reprisal," in the sense in which it is known in international law, is a term of art. It has been defined by authorities beyond dispute on international law as being tantamount to a declaration of war. It has been stated, for instance, that a general reprisal and open war are, by the practice of nations, synonomous. Reprisals, in the sense in which the hon. and learned Gentleman quoted the celebrated letter from the Duke of Newcastle to the King of Prussia, referred to reprisals which were of the nature of war, in other words the seizure of the enemy's ships, the seizure of bank balances, embargoes, or any other of the positive acts of semi-war which are really understood by the technical and artistic term "reprisals." That ought to htve been made perfectly plain, because the hon. and learned Gentleman built the whole of his argument on this thesis. He said that, in order that you should be entitled to embark upon reprisals, you should be satisfied that the subject who is being maltreated has received positive maltreatment or has been denied ordinary justice in a foreign country. If that were established, it would entitle a foreign State to enforce reprisals. But we are asking for nothing of the nature of re- 1866 prisals here, nothing of the nature of an act of semi-war.
Much has been said about the sovereignty of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, but surely something falls to be said about the sovereignty of this country. Is this country not entitled to say, when its subjects are treated in the way the White Paper makes plain, not as an act of war or reprisal or blockade, "If you are disposed to treat subjects of ours who are conducting peaceful relations with you in this way, we reserve the right to discontinue trading relations with you"? That is all the Bill says. Without resorting to passion or to exaggerated statements, let me put in the simplest language what the citizen of any country is entitled to expect for its citizens when they embark upon trade in another country. First of all, it is entitled to expect in the way of justice that if they are found, or thought to be, contravening the law, they will have access for advice to their own countrymen who are in responsible positions in that country. Can anyone who has read the White Paper imagine for one moment that our subjects in Russia have had such access to advice? You have only to read the telegram No. 19 to see the extremely limited extent to which our Ambassador, supreme representative of our power in Russia, was entitled even to speak to these men. He was not allowed to discuss the fate of their companions, the charges laid against them, or the extent to which news of those charges had even reached this country.
We are entitled, in the second place, to demand that charges made against subjects of ours in a foreign country should be clear and definite. There can be no trial which conforms to the most elementary principles of justice unless that trial is based on charges which are clear and decisive. It is open to any hon. Member to search the White Paper and see if he can find in any single document anything that could be said to be in the nature of clear or decisive charges. We are not asking for the technical exactness and efficiency with which our legal code is administered, but we are entitled to know with some precision with what these men are charged. As I understand it, up to date, with all the machinery at our disposal, we have been 1867 unable to elicit from the Soviet Government what in fact these men are charged with, although some reference is made to Article 58 of their Code.
§ Major MILNER
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman not recollect the Baillie Stewart case, in which for a long time no charges were formulated?
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I have not that case in mind, but I have not the smallest doubt that the charges were communicated at the earliest moment to the accused by the authorities.
§ Major MILNER
Questions were asked in this House, and the answer given by the Financial Secretary to the War Office was that the charges were merely under the Official Secrets Act, but no particulars were given, and none were published until the trial.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I should receive with the profoundest suspicion any suggestion that this officer was not himself informed of the charges. I have not the smallest doubt that they were communicated to him at the earliest possible moment after the charges were made—the exact nature of them.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I have not the smallest possible doubt about that, and I am sure that anyone who has any knowledge of the administration of criminal justice in this country could not doubt that at the earliest possible moment, whatever was communicated to the public, the accused was apprised of the exact nature of the charges.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
In that case it has been made public knowledge, so scrupulous were we, that the War Office provided and paid for counsel for the accused. Where in this White Paper can anyone ascertain what is the exast nature of the charges against the arrested British subjects in Russia. Therefore, the second of the fundamental features of natural justice is here lack- 1868 ing. What is the third matter that any Executive is entitled to see that its subjects receive when receiving so-called justice at the hands of another country? That they should have an open trial. It has been assumed to-day that there has been some acquiescence by the Soviet Government in the proposition that these men were entitled to an open trial. If that be so, right hon. and hon. Members have been much cleverer than I have been, because I can find nothing in the White Paper which makes clear, even now, the form of trial that these men are to receive. The latest information on the subject is a telegram of 16th March by Sir Esmond Ovey to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and that telegram, after all, amounts to no more than a surmise. It says:It appears that it is more and that it definitely indicates, that the G.P.U or their Procurator have finally decided that a trial will be held before some tribunal or other hitherto unspecified.That is the last word on the subject. Therefore I am entitled to say that, so far as I am aware, although apparently some decision has been arrived at by the G.P.U. as to the form of trial, there is even yet no information before the House to justify the belief that these men are to have anything in the nature of a proper trial. In these circumstances, I say that every essential ingredient of justice, as we understand it, has been violated in the case of these men. Not only have they had no access to their advisers and no definite charges made against them, but even at this late time we have not got any guarantee on their behalf that they are to have that free and open trial which is the very essential ingredient of justice. Can anyone doubt that up to date every principle of natural justice has been violated in this case—36 hours of intensified and almost continuous cross-examination of these unfortunate men in the way that has been described; visits by the representatives of their country at which they were permitted to discuss little more than tobacco and their general health; denial of communication with their fellows; absence of any knowledge of the exact charges.
In those circumstances, I feel that the British Government have done only the minimum that they could do. What do we say? We do not say that we are going to take any aggressive act of war or semi-war, any of those sanctions or 1869 reprisals that are justified by international law. We merely say that we owe a responsibility to our citizens in that country to take such steps as will not make it easier for other citizens to find themselves in similar perils and predicament. We are entitled to say that we will trade with whom we please. We would be entitled to say that we would not trade with the Russians because we did not like their institutions or the colour of their hair, and there would be no infringement of the comity of nations in that. That would be a mere exercise of our sovereign rights. In these circumstances we are not only entitled, but it is our positive duty, to say that we do not propose to carry on trade negotiations with a country that treats our accredited trade representatives in the way that is disclosed in this White Paper.
International law seems to be in the air to-day, and I will quote, if in bad French, a maxim which is very much older than that of the Duke of Newcastle:Quiconque maltraite on citoyen offense indirectement l'etat qui dolt proteger le citoyen.That was a maxim of Grotius. Translated it means: "Whoever ill-treats a citizen offends indirectly the State which has to protect that citizen," and that is as fundamental a maxim as anything that the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol has quoted. So is this extract from another statesman who was very vigilent to protect our dignity and our honour—Lord Palmerston:England, I trust, will always have the means of obtaining justice for any of its subjects from any country on the face of the earth. But this is a question of expediency and not a question of power; therefore, let no foreign country who has done wrong to British subjects deceive itself by a false impression, either that the British nation or the British Parliament will for ever remain patient acquiescents in the wrong, or that, if called upon in defence of the rights of the people of England, the Government of England will not have ample means at its command to obtain justice for them.This simple Bill is nothing more than the application of the Palmerstonian motto. It is not provocative, it is not a reprisal. It is simply a statement on our part that so long as our subjects carry out their lawful avocations this country will enforce their rights and their security with dignity and with good temper, but with certainty.
§ 9.46 p.m.
This Debate has had several curious characteristics and nut the least of these has been the speech of the hon. Gentleman who spoke from the benches opposite and who seemed to be in discord with his own Front Bench, and probably some of my remarks may not be entirely favoured by my own Front Bench. This Debate has had all the characteristics of a Russian Debate. We have had the charges and the counter-charges, and all the paraphernalia of the old arguments which most of us have heard for at least 10 years trotted out with unfailing regularity on these occasions. I must say that I was very much impressed by the case, specious though it may have been, put forward by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). I know that a statement of that kind requires justification from anybody who speaks from these benches. I would say that the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman was of the kind usually made in the Debates which take place at what are called "moots" in the Inns of Court, where an argument, such as that of the hon. and learned Gentleman, is set against another argument, such as that of the Foreign Secretary, and laymen like myself have to judge between them. But the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol spoke as if the argument was in vacuo. He spoke as if there were no question at stake of the safety and possibly the lives of British citizens in another country. That, to my mind, somewhat falsified his argument.
At the same time lie forgot one or two fundamental facts which the House might well bear in mind. It was the Labour Government which resumed diplomatic relations with the Soviet. Therefore, if there are any errors with regard to our point of view of the justice or the lack of justice, as the case may be, of the Soviet administration, it is those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who are responsible for not having taken steps at the right moment to make some reservations on behalf of British citizens. On the other hand, it is also to be remembered, when members of the Labour party inveigh against the Government for taking firm steps at last in a matter of this kind, that—as I am told and as I have every reason to believe— 1871 the whole of the party opposite, no longer ago than yesterday, signed a memorandum asking the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister to do something about the Jews in Germany. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] If it is not true, then I have been misinformed. If it is true, why should they be so anxious about Jews in Germany and refuse at least to shed some sympathy upon British subjects in Moscow?
All the time that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol was speaking, I was agreeing with most of his argument qua argument. I do not put myself on the same intellectual plane, but, if I may say so, I was intellectually agreeing with him. He seemed to forget, however, that these people were in danger, and that British subjects before now have been murdered in Russia, including our naval attache at the time of the original revolution. That is the sort of background which, in a Debate of this kind, we must have in mind. It is just that sort of fact which must actuate the Foreign Office and the Foreign Secretary when they come up against so difficult a situation as that with which they have had to deal in the last few weeks. The hon. and learned Gentleman went on to say that the statement of the Ambassador, on page 4 of the White Paper—It is inconceivable that Soviet Government can produce credible evidence of any criminal malpractice on the part of the company."—was preposterous. I agree that it is absurd. How can the Ambassador or anybody else make that statement about anybody? They could not make it about anybody in this House—at least I do not know anybody here of whom they could make it, and certainly they could not make it about anyone on any Opposition Front Bench.
I am certain that all the people who have listened to this Debate in the public galleries would be surprised to know that it is a Debate on the Second Reading of a Bill. That is a fact to which I which to attract the attention of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen. This is not a Wednesday Debate on a Private Member's Motion, where hon. Members may consider it a jolly thing to rag the Soviet—the sort of thing that often is discussed. This is the Second Reading of 1872 one of the most important Measures which this Government have brought before the House. I wish to say some-think about that aspect of the question because no one else seems to have said anything about it, at any rate in my hearing. In what I say I speak with a sense of serious responsibility, which may not have been present in the minds of every hon. Member who has spoken to-night. It is true that our words in this Debate may be used, for better or worse, by people who are not very kindly disposed in other countries, and possibly by some people speaking for the Labour Party in the constituencies. A rash word spoken here, either from these benches or from the benches opposite, may have a very deleterious effect upon the future of certain British men in Moscow to-day. That is a very serious consideration.
When the Government tell us that they have decided in their wisdom that something must be done to bring home to the Soviet as effectively as possible what we all feel, Labour and Conservative alike, about the maltreatment of any British subject anywhere—and I know I take hon. Gentlemen opposite with me in saying that—when the Government tell us that something must be done, the questions at once arise "what are you going to do?" and "is this the best way of doing it?" Is the object of this Bill to deal with trade with Russia at all? Listening to the Foreign Secretary, I took it that that was not the object—that it was just a flash in the pan, to deal with this particular emergency of the imprisonment of certain British subjects in Moscow, and that it did not raise the question of British trade with Russia at all. I may be foolish but that is what I understood. I understood that the Government thought that by coming to the House with this Bill, by having the sort of Debate that we have had, with all the responsibility attaching to it, they would give an indication to the Soviet Government that Great Britain, irrespective of party, was behind them in saying that British subjects must be given a fair trial. I use those words from the Labour party's Amendment.
If that is so, whether that is going to have a good or a bad effect is all really settled by the mere fact that the Foreign Secretary has made his speech and that we have had this Debate, whether we pass the Bill or not. Such merely instan- 1873 taneous effect, which is to cover the next few days, the period before and during the trial, has been achieved. By this action we have done something at any rate which our Ambassador in Moscow told us to be very careful not to do. The Government, quite properly, rely upon their representative there, a very able man, for whom I have the highest admiration, and he says, in one of his telegrams, that, of course, there must be no panicky fright. He also speaks of the difficulty of the Soviet withdrawing from their position if we drive them too hard. I might mention that our Government also might find it difficult to withdraw from a position which, after all, we want to solve by some kind of agreement, because if there is one common measure which has run through this Debate, it has been the tremendous desire to do nothing Which could possibly harm those unfortunate people in Moscow.
Therefore, we none of us want to get into any false position. There is a background. The first background, if it were a stage scene, is, of course, their arrest, but there is a background behind that. There has been all this talk about dumping from Russia and about how we ought to deal with the trade situation and how our trade agreements have been unfair to our own citizens. Like those of the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Liddall), my constituents have done in the past, and still do, a great trade with Russia, but I know that I would carry every one of my constituents with me in saying that if it were a question to be put in the balance, of their trade or their employment in trade with Russia and, on the other hand, the safety of their own British fellow countrymen in Moscow who may be in danger of their lives, they would plump for doing something which would save those people from danger rather than look at their own personal interests. I know I am on safe ground in saying that.
But we have to beware that a Bill of this kind will not raise a far larger issue than apparently the Foreign Secretary has any notion of raising. He said that the Government had no desire to make any statement at all about the use to which they want to put the powers with which they asking to be armed. I think that is a tall order to ask of the House of Commons, that we should pass a Bill but that the Government should decline 1874 to make any statement of the way in which they wish to use those powers. He said it was an enabling Bill. There have been other enabling Bills within the last six weeks. The President of the United States of America asked for an enabling Bill, Herr Hitler asked for an enabling Bill, and now we have the Foreign Secretary asking for an enabling Bill. He is not in the same category, and I am sure he would not wish to be classified either with Mr. Roosevelt or Herr Hitler, but it a precedent, and I think the House of Commons is entitled to ask the Government two very specific questions.
We are on common ground that we want, as a House, to do everything we can to protect these unfortunate people in Russia, but this Bill has no limit of time at all. Is the President of the Board of Trade, who, I understand, is going to reply, prepared to say that he will accept an Amendment to-morrow in Committee that there shall be a time limit, that the powers for which he is asking are to deal with this emergency of the imprisoned British subjects, and not to be dragged in as part of the propaganda in which a great many of my hon. Friends have been very interested, which has produced a great deal of information and done a great deal of public service? I do not want to decry anything that has been done in that line, but will the right hon. Gentleman guarantee that back of these powers to deal with this emergency he will not get powers to deal with the whole trade question between this country and Russia, which is a much bigger question and requires much longer debate than it has had, especially as no one to-day has discussed it at all so far? That is the first question to which I ask a definite reply.
The second question is this—and I must reiterate the control of the House of Commons in matters of this kind. Will the right hon. Gentleman accept an Amendment to the effect that the Proclamations or Orders shall come up in due course for confirmation here? In the precedent of the Economy Act of 1931, Parliament only gave the Executive one month in which to make such Orders in Council as they might consider requisite. This Bill gives no limit of time, and that is something which I think everyone of us ought to consider very seriously, irrespective of anything to do with Russia 1875 or anything else. It is a very dangerous power to give the Executive, and I am astonished that the Foreign Secretary should be the Member of the Government to come down here and ask for it.
The Amendment of the Opposition has a great deal in it, because it stresses the particular point which I am trying to bring before the notice of the House, but I would say to them, Why not wash out your Amendment to-night? Why not abstain from moving it and give the Government a unanimous Second Reading of the Bill, which, after all, in essence only means that the Executive should be given power to protect British subjects in danger in Russia? There is a Third Reading stage to come, and if the Government are not prepared to make very considerable modifications, both with regard to the time limit during which the powers under the Bill may be exercised and arrangements by which the control of the House of Commons may be made effective, if necessary, then I would say to many of my hon. Friends that the Third Reading may not have to go through so unchallenged in Conservative quarters as I trust the Second Reading will.
§ 10.4 p.m.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I would like to ask the President of the Board of Trade the question that has been put to him by the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) and other speakers, as to the scope of the operation of this Bill. I tried on Monday to get an answer from the Prime Minister, and then I gathered that the Bill had more to do with the fact that the trade agreement would lapse on the 17th April than with the arrest of our fellow-citizens in Moscow. Since then the whole trend of the discussion has turned on the arrest, and what we want to know to-night, quite definitely and categorically, from the right hon. Gentleman is, whether this is a permanent Bill, that is to say, permanent until another trade agreement or another treaty between ourselves and the Soviet Government has been arrived at. I agree, and my hon. Friends agree, with those who have spoken to-night, in saying that we consider a Bill of this kind, if it is to operate to regulate the trade between this country and Russia, ought to have a great deal more consideration 1876 than can be given to-day or to-morrow. The Press that has been asking for the prohibition of certain goods from Russia has taken it for granted that the object of this Bill is twofold: One, to bring pressure on the Soviet Government in relation to the prisoners; and, second, to give the Government the same kind of power in regard to Russia that the Tariff Advisory Committee has in regard to other countries. That ought to be cleared up to-night before the Division.
I would like the President of the Board of Trade when he replies to take into account that this White Paper—and I would like the hon. and learned Member for Central Nottingham (Mr. O'Connor) to remember it too—carries the story only up to the 17th March. There are only five clear days about which there was any discussion, so that if there was any delay it was not very long. The Foreign Secretary and many hon. Members have very much exaggerated it. I would like to ask if the Government have received any later information as to the kind of trial, and as to whether solicitors from this country will be allowed to go to Russia to be in communication with the prisoners; and whether they have received from Moscow or from the Ambassador any further information as to the actual charges beyond the mere statement that they are espionage and sabotage. We really cannot believe that the Government have not any information on these subjects later than the 17th March. The Russian Press on the 24th March published a statement which set out the charges at some length, and also statements with regard to counsel and legal advisers being present. It is a fact, according to our own newspapers, that the Metropolitan-Vickers Company have already sent out a solicitor to consult with the men. There cannot be any question now of a solicitor being permitted to consult with them because all the British prisoners except one are on bail. They will not therefore have to have consultations with people overawing them, and they will now be able to make their statements in freedom to their own solicitor. If the Foreign Secretary knew this, he ought to have stated it when he made his speech, because it is essential that the real facts in connection with this business should all be known.
I am not going to pose as a legal gentleman at all; I will leave that to hon. 1877 Members who follow the law, but I am going to say what I think an ordinary common or garden Member of Parliament thinks about this subject. We do not yield to anyone in the House in our willingness and our desire to use every legitimate means to uphold any of our countrymen or women in any part of the world who are in danger. The assumption that we only want to defend some people other than our own is sheer nonsense. Most of us were born in this country and have relations abroad in various parts of the world, and we should be untrue to our own kith and kin if we had not the same feeling and regard for their safety as any hon. Members opposite. While I in particular, and most of my hon. Friends have tried hard to get what we consider fair play for the Soviet Republic, we are in this House fighting for democracy, because we do not agree with the dictatorship methods of Mussolini, Hitler or Stalin. There is no secret about that. It is known throughout the world that the British Labour party is attacked by the Communist International and the Communists of our own country as bitter enemies of the working class. We do not mind that, and it does not prevent us saying and it will never prevent me saying, that we want fair play even for them. I occasionally say a genial word about the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), and I hope he will believe me when I say that if I thought he was being badly treated by either the Government or anyone else, I would be among the first of those who know him to stand up for justice.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I shall probably need it first. I feel it is necessary to say something else, and I say it because of something which the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) said. I felt very keenly for him while he was making his speech, because I knew that he was making it under the stress of great feeling. I want to assure him that I have received some letters from the relatives and friends of these men, and I assure him—and I hope the House will not get hysterical about this—that I understand from experience in an English prison what it means and the effect which the whole atmosphere has in crushing 1878 your spirits. I can sympathise very strongly with the relations and friends of all those who are imprisoned in Russia to-day. The difference between us on this side and the Government is simply one of method. We do not think the line they have taken is the right one, or that the Bill is the sort of next step that ought to be taken. As to the White Paper, we shall never attack a civil servant or an ambassador when he is carrying out what we think is the will of his Government. In the matter of the White Paper and the language of it, I hold the Government responsible, and not either the Foreign Office official or the Ambassador. What we maintain is that the language of that document is not the language which, as my hon. and learned Friend said, would have been used to the Government of France or of the United States or any other Government of that kind, and therefore we maintain that it ought not to have been used to the Government of the Russian Soviet Republic.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
That is the next point to which I am coming. I have already said something about the Governmental system in Russia, and we do not agree with it, and there is very much more with which we do not agree in Russia; but when I think of this House and the mixture of opinion there is here, not merely of political opinion but of opinion in social and religious matters, who are we, I should like to know, to find fault with the opinions of other people? The point is that we are dealing with a nation that has come out of one terrific tyranny, which everybody here understood while it lasted, and has not yet been able, really, to build its life solidly and well. We are dealing not merely with a handful of people who, as is often said here, are manipulating that country, but with 100,000,000 people.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
But we cannot injure Russia without injuring the people of Russia. I would like the House to realise, when talking about that nation, that we are dealing with a very young people, relatively speaking. We belong to a civilisation a thousand years or more old, and we have great traditions which 1879 govern us in our public life and govern us, largely, in our private life, but in Russia they are attempting something which has never been attempted before, and that is to create an entirely new system of living. Whether they succeed or not remains to be seen, but while that experiment is going on we have not any right, I say, to do other than stand by and help them in every possible way. That does not mean that we ought to allow or submit to any treatment of our nationals which is outside what is called international law. I think the hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last will agree that even in the case of Russia, if she is recognised as a sovereign State, we must not ask more of her than we should ask from France or America or any other country.
I hate the third degree. I hate most of the police procedure, certainly in regard to poor people. I hate any sort of political persecution or any sort of suppression of free speech. I would like to ask hon. and learned Gentlemen whether, if a British citizen were to be arrested in America and put through the ordinary American police and judicial procedure, the United States Government would be justified in allowing that to be done? If men were taken to prison by the police of one of the States in the United States and were subjected to the third degree, or to the ordinary police methods of the American State, should we say that that ought not to be done? Should we take our stand and say that that was against international law? If we would not, does not that same principle apply to Russia?
It is said that 35 Russians have been executed. I am against all forms of capital punishment. Most hon. Members are not. Therefore, I am against, and I protest against, the execution of those men. We are being told that we should make a protest about these things. Myself and others sent a telegram to the Soviet Government when the Bishops were dealt with some years ago. On the one hand, we are charged with not doing something, and when we say that we have done it, that is received with ridicule and laughter by hon. Members. We do not seek to justify ourselves, and I should never dream of doing so but for the statements that have been made here to-day. I want to challenge those statements, and to say that we have always 1880 taken the same line, as I do now. We are voting on our Amendment against the language and the statements which have been called in question, not only by us, but by the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank), who has just spoken. We think that the language used in the White Paper is quite unworthy of the Foreign Secretary and of those who spoke for him. We believe that that is not the best way to deal with this subject.
I know the Russians. I know M. Litvinoff as well as and probably better than anyone here, except some hon. Members who are sitting with me. I knew him when he was in this country. I think he did some work for the Foreign Office at one time. He was a citizen here in London, and I know perfectly well that if he had been approached in a different manner, in the manner in which I feel sure the French Ambassador or the Ambassador of the United States would have been approached, we might have been saved this discussion and the feeling that it has aroused. I believe that the Russian Government wants peace and trade, and an opportunity to build up its life. I do not believe that it wants unnecessarily to get embroiled with other people. I do not believe the statement made by one hon. Gentleman—he did not state it as a fact, but as his opinion—that this is all a trumped-up business in order that they may get out of their liabilities. All the evidence since the Soviet Government has been in existence goes to prove that they have met every obligation that they have entered into. I know I shall be told about the Lena Goldfields, and I will qualify what I have said by saying that they have met every business obligation which they have entered into and for which credits have been given. Nobody denies that.
Hon. Members have talked this evening about the interests of this and that country, but it is to the interest of the Russian Government to keep on good terms with this country especially. Hon. Members will be surprised to know that, even in 1920, Lenin said—I telegraphed it to this country from Moscow—that the one country with which he would rather be friendly than with any other was Great Britain; and I believe that that is true of the present Soviet Government. I believe that we are in the best position of 1881 any country in the world to help them, and I am sure that they do not want to be embroiled with us in any sort of way. I am sure that they want to have peaceful, harmonious business arrangements with us. This thing has happened, and the whole question is as to how we are to get it settled. I should like to see this business all washed out.
The hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough said that he wanted us to withdraw, but we cannot withdraw. Our view is that this is all wrong. Let the Government withdraw, and let them start all over again. The men are out on bail, they are guaranteed a trial, they are allowed to have a solicitor. We hope we are going to get a verbatim report of the trial day by day. If we get that report, the people of this country will be able to judge what the charges are and what the rebutting evidence is. If there is to be any withdrawal, I would like to see us withdraw the whole business, start all over again, and negotiate a new trade agreement. I know that it must be on some different lines from the last agreement, but let us negotiate a new one, and let us turn over a new leaf. It is the interest of the world that Russia should be at peace with the world, and I should like to see our country leading her along that path.
§ 10.29 p.m.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Runciman)
The right hon. Gentleman has ended his speech with an appeal for peace, and I think that in every quarter of the House there is a sincere desire to see a fair settlement of this very difficult and precarious business. But, in our desire to reach a settlement, let us take good care that we do not give away the rights of our own fellow countrymen. We have had a somewhat long experience now of the Russian courts, and I would only make one reference to the way in which their trials are conducted. The staging of trials such as this on charges of sabotage occurs frequently in Russia. Careful search has been made, and we have been unable to discover a single instance where one of these trials has not resulted in a condemnation. In these circumstances the House will readily understand that we have been extremely anxious. The whole setting of the case from the very beginning, the fact that the arrests took place 1882 on the morrow of the execution of 35 Russians and the way in which the subject has been dealt with in Russia from time to time all cause us the gravest disquiet, and, although at the present moment the prisoners are to have a chance of receiving advice from a solicitor sent out by the Metropolitan-Vickers Company, they are not to have the advantage of counsel who understand their own language. As far as we know, they will have to represent them members of the College of Defenders, I think it is called. I am not complaining of it. I am only pointing out the limitations that are placed upon them in obtaining a fair trial. They will be under grave difficulties. The right hon. Gentleman asked me how many of them have been let out on bail and what are the charges? I understand that one of the prisoners has not been let out on bail, but the others are now out on bail. The indictments have been shown to four of the prisoners. As far as we know, the other two have not yet seen the indictments. The charges that are made we have only learnt by telegram to-day. We are not quite sure exactly what some of them mean and, until we get the charges in writing, it will be improper to make public the telegraphic account which has. reached us.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
No, we have no news beyond what has already been communicated to the House. I have nothing to add at this hour of the night on that subject.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Is the Foreign Secretary unaware of the fact that one of the leaders of the authority that does the prosecution has made a statement in the public Press?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
About the trial and that it will be public. It was on 24th March and it was in an interview published in Russia. [HON. MEMBERS: "What paper?"] It says the Soviet Press.After stating that bail might be accepted for three of the accused Britishers in whose cases the judicial inquiry had been almost completed, M. Vyshinsky said that in accordance with Article 153 of the Criminal Procedure code the English accused, like the others, could engage any member of the Bar they chose or any per- 1883 son provided for by the law. The laws of the U.S.S.R., like those of other countries, including Great Britain, did not Permit foreign barristers to act for the defence. That, naturally, did not mean that foreign lawyers could not be present at the trial, since there could be no restrictions in this respect. The case would be tried by the Supreme Court, probably early in April, and the sittings would be public.I know this is correct. [HON. MEMBERS: "How?"] Simply because it is supplied to me by a friend who would not invent it. Has the right hon. Gentleman not heard of that during these last 10 days?
§ Sir J. SIMON
If the House will allow me, I will tell the right hon. Gentleman all I know of the matter. As I stated when I made my speech early in the afternoon, my information is that the trial will probably begin about the 9th or the 10th of April. I said it would be Easter week. It might run on to the Friday, but it will be in that week. I think the White Paper itself makes a reference to the information, which has certainly been given, that it is believed that the trial will be public.
§ Sir J. SIMON
The question was put to me, and I have given the information. The trial, I believe, is intended to take place on 9th or 10th April, and my understanding is that it will be public.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
All it says in document No. 30 is:It appears that it is more and that it definitely indicates that the G.P.U. or their procurator have finally decided that a trial will be held before some tribunal or other hitherto unspecified.Is that all the Government's information?
§ Sir J. SIMON
I am reluctant to interrupt the speech of my right hon. Friend but we want to get the matter clear. The last words in document No. 30, in page 21 of the White Paper, which is before every Member of the House, suggests that:Should there be a court trial it will necessarily be an open one.I confess that I have drawn the conclusion all the time that, as we are told that there will be a trial in court, it will be open, 1884 and in addition I do not understand the suggestions to take a shorthand note unless it is an open trial.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I do not in the least mind being interrupted if it clears up any facts because the facts are serious enough as they are, and we ought to be very careful about their accuracy. I have been asked this evening since dinner by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) whether we can do anything to assure him that the powers which will be conferred under this Bill will be exercised within a time limit, and his second question was whether we could not proceed by Order rather than by Proclamation. I should like to deal with those points at once. In the first place, there is no fundamenetal objection to there being a time limit upon the powers granted to the Executive. It may be that it cannot be worked eventually under that arrangement, but we shall be perfectly candid with the House, and I hope that when we start the Committee stage to-morrow we shall be able to give satisfactory reasons for the course to be recommended to the House. To-night I am sure that my hon. and gallant Friend will not press me to say more than that we shall give sympathetic consideration to that suggestion.
With regard to procedure by way of Order or by way of Proclamation, we are in this Bill following all precedents correctly. Much the largest number of prohibitions were those which occurred during the War. They were all done under Proclamations. We proceeded as under the Customs Consolidation Act which, I believe, provides for that procedure. I would point out that the temporary commercial agreement with Russia under which we have recently been operating was itself brought into force without being dependent upon any vote of the House. Whatever is done, there fore, will be done in the same way as we dealt with the Treaty and as we dealt with that agreement, which is the most recent example of those transactions. I do not come to this business to-night as a lawyer. I cannot argue the points of international law which were put by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite who has had the courtesy to tell me that he was bound to be elsewhere this evening, or by my hon. and learned Friend behind me, but I desire to put before the 1885 House the difficulties in the way of those who wish to administer British industry and commerce at home and abroad. Here we are from time to time doing everything in our power to encourage those who do business abroad. We encourage them to make contracts. We facilitate to some extent the financing of those contracts. We hold out every prospect of receiving counsel, assistance and protection from us. I need hardly say that it snakes it almost impossible for us to persuade any firms who want business to take any risks with their employés. How can we possibly go to anybody who is not on the list and say: "We strongly recommend you to undertake business with Russia. Tender for the supply of this machinery, whether it be machinery for agriculture, electricity, mining, or anything else. We believe you will be doing a good turn for your firm, your employés and the country"? They will immediately ask: "What is to be the state and position of our employés when they go to Russia? Are they going to run the same risks as the Metropolitan-Vickers management did?"
Apparently, it does not matter how high or low you may be in the scale of these great industrial concerns who take contracts abroad. Mr. Monkhouse is a man who ranks very high in his profession. He has a very great reputation and, as far as we know, up to the present he has been implicitly trusted by the Russian Government. What has been the ground for distrusting him, heaven only knows. It has never been disclosed, and it may never be disclosed. I doubt whether he has done or said anything at any time in his connection with Russia which did not come strictly within the laws of propriety, or has ever impinged on the sphere of Russian politics, or in any way interfered with the efficiency of Russian administration. I have not the least doubt about that, but he is going to be brought to trial, and we shall see what the proceedings are. Not only Mr. Monkhouse but his under-manager, and even some of his mechanics, are to be tried. I cannot say what will be the action of the Metropolitan-Vickers firm in the future, but, knowing its heads in this country, I believe they will not subject their employés to these risks unless there is certainly new assurances for life and liberty in Russia. If that be the general 1886 feeling of the great business firms that wish to do business abroad, what is the good of our going to them and pleading with them to be more enterprising in their overseas trade, and telling them that they shall have the support of His Majesty's Government?
In an effort to promote trade we gave notice six months ago to terminate the Trade Agreement with Russia. It may seem paradoxical, but that was the only way in which we could embark upon negotiations for making the balance more even. We wanted to proceed a little more on an even keel. The balance against us or, to put it another way, the balance in favour of Russia, was tremendously heavy, and there seemed to us very little reason why we should not be put in the position of buying no more from Russia than Russia bought us, or, if you like to put it another way, that we will sell no less to Russia than Russia sells to us. That is a perfectly reasonable proposition, and one which the representatives of the Russian Government were prepared to accept. They were prepared to work to that end. My hon. and gallant Friend the Secretary for the Overseas Trade Department, who has been most indefatigable in his efforts in that direction, was very hopeful that in the near future we should have achieved that arrangement. Then there suddenly burst upon us, out of the blue, with no warning whatever, these dreadful and dramatic events of the 12th March.
I notice that the hon. and learned Member opposite, when he was referring to a criticism of some of the telegrams which have appeared, drew attention to the emphasis laid by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the words "rest day." That was the day on which it was impossible to obtain information with regard to the British prisoners, because it was rest day. When I looked a little further through the White Paper I saw that during the 19 hours' examination of Mr. Monkhouse there was no rest day. Let me remind the House that that examination took place on that same day, the 12th March. I am afraid that the hon. and learned Gentleman was a little too anxious to tone down the faults which have been disclosed on the Russian side and too ready to explain—in fact he almost went to the extent of defending—what had been done. I will 1887 certainly not be unfair to the hon. and learned Member in his absence, but that is the impression which he made upon my mind. When he went on to tell us that when you go to a foreign country you must submit yourself to the laws and processes of that country, I think he was carrying his doctrine a little too far. There are certain rights which are inherent to British subjects all over the world, and those rights we are not likely to surrender.
But he went on to say that if we do not like the administration of justice of any foreign country we need not go there. I would only point out that these men in whose cause we have been pleading, and for whom we are now acting, went there not for pleasure, not for the fun of the thing; they were not even there as commercial agents; they were in a special position. They went out as the employés not only of the contractors but also to some extent of the Soviet Government; they were there under what is known as the maintenance agreement. When this machinery was bought from the Metropolitan-Vickers Company it was essential that it should not be left to unskilled, untrained mechanics and engineers. It was, moreover, necessary for its maintenance that it should remain in the hands of those who had seen it constructed on this side and seen it erected on the other. It was necessary for these men to remain in the country. Some of them were under a five years agreement, and some of them have not been home for quite a long time. They were in a special position. You cannot look upon them as something like the ordinary adventurer, who goes out to see what Russia looks like, or to those who go there for a short period in order to make their sales and purchases. They had to live in the country, and they ought to receive, and they do now receive, such assistance as we can give them.
Hon. Members opposite, when the case is put, are just as keenly interested in the life and freedom of our fellow citizens elsewhere as we are, but what would they do to protect them? That is the question. The suggestion was made that we should withdraw our Ambassador. I have the greatest respect for Sir Esmond Ovey, who has passed through a terrible time, an ordeal which 1888 seldom comes to any Ambassador. But would the withdrawal of Sir Esmond Ovey from Moscow have brought the Russian Government to their knees? At all events, the withdrawal of the British Ambassador to Moscow would not have touched the Russian Government on any sensitive spot. If you ask me whether this touches them on a sensitive spot I say that it does; and, what is more, it is the only spot we can reach. It is not enough for the engineering world and for the mechanical world, and it is for them that I am pleading, to be told that if they go to Russia they shall have exactly the same treatment as is given to Russian subjects. They know as well as we do of the 35 men whose backs were put against the wall and who were shot at dawn. It is no use comforting them by telling them that they shall receive the same treatment as Russians.
The view we have taken is that you cannot leave things to take their course, that was absolutely impossible. You cannot be satisfied with a protest, that would have been ineffective. It was no use arguing it out. Anyone who has argued with Russians, as I have from my childhood, knows that they are past masters at procrastination. I am not saying that as an insult to them. It is only a national characteristic. If we had had to argue it, we might have been arguing for weeks or months. What we are entitled to do, and what we are now attempting to do, is to take action, and take action that is understood.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, surely he will give some reply to the question which has been very specifically addressed to him, namely, whether this Bill is to deal only with the case of the engineers who are charged, or whether it is a Measure dealing with the trade relations of Russia and this country generally? That is a point to which we, who are prepared to vote for this Bill, attach very great importance. I put the point very specifically to him, and I am somewhat surprised that he has not even given a single word of reply to it. In other words, if this case of the prisoners is satisfactorily settled, may the House understand that the embargo will not be applied?
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I am afraid I cannot give an undertaking in advance of events 1889 about which we know nothing. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that there is no attempt to use this as any infringement of Free Trade principles, or anything of that kind. That does not enter into our calculations at all. The main object of this is connected with the way in which our fellow-countrymen have been treated in Russia.
§ powers in the widest form, and they will be mainly dealing with our fellow-countrymen who are at present under arrest in Russia.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 347; Noes, 48.1891
|Division No. 121.]||AYES.||[10.53 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Clarry, Reginald George||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Clayton, Dr. George C.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Grimston, R. V.|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Gritten, W. G. Howard|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M.||Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.|
|Albery, Irving James||Colman, N. C. D.||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Alexander, Sir William||Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Guy, J. C. Morrison|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (L'pool, W.)||Conant, R. J. E.||Hales, Harold K.|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Cook, Thomas A.||Hanbury, Cecil|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Cooke, Douglas||Hanley, Dennis A.|
|Apsley, Lord||Cooper, A. Duff||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Harbord, Arthur|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Cranborne, Viscount||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Craven-Ellis, William||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)|
|Balniel, Lord||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Davison, Sir William Henry||Hore-Belisha, Leslie|
|Bateman, A. L.||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hornby, Frank|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Denville, Alfred||Horobin, Ian M.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Dickie, John P.||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Beit, Sir Alfred L.||Donner, P. W.||Howard, Tom Forrest|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon, Sir Henry B.||Duckworth, George A. V.||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.|
|Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Doarman||Duggan, Hubert John||Hume, Sir George Hopwood|
|Bird, Ernest Hoy (Yorks., Skipton)||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)|
|Bird, Sir Robert B. (Wolverh'pton W.)||Dunglass, Lord||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.|
|Blaker, Sir Reginald||Eastwood, John Francis||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)|
|Boothby, Robert John Graham||Eden, Robert Anthony||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Jennings, Roland|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Elmley, Viscount||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Ker, J Campbell|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Kerr, Hamilton W.|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Kimball, Lawrence|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||Knebworth, Viscount|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Knight, Holford|
|Buchan, John||Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Forestler-Walker, Sir Leolin||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Fox, Sir Gifford||Law, Sir Alfred|
|Burnett, John George||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Leckie, J. A.|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Galbraith, James Francis Wallace||Lees-Jones, John|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Ganzoni, Sir John||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Caine, G. R. Hall-||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Levy, Thomas|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Gledhill, Gilbert||Liddall, Walter S.|
|Carver, Major William H.||Glossop, C. W. H.||Lindsay, Noel Ker|
|Castle Stewart, Earl||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Goff, Sir Park||Lloyd, Geoffrey|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. G'n)|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Gower, Sir Robert||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'ndsw'th)|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Loder, Captain J. de Vere|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Granville, Edgar||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander|
|Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Graves, Marjorie||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Greaves-Lord, Sir Waller||Lymington, Viscount|
|Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Peters, Dr. Sidney John||Smith-Caring ton, Neville W.|
|Mabane, William||Petherick, M.||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Somarville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Macdonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Soper, Richard|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Potter, John||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|McKie, John Hamilton||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Pybus, Percy John||Spens, William Patrick|
|McLean, Major Sir Alan||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Ramsay, T. B W. (Western Isles)||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Magnay, Thomas||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Stevenson, James|
|Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Ramsden, Sir Eugene||Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Rankin, Robert||Stones, James|
|Marsden, Commander Arthur||Ratcliffe, Arthur||Storey, Samuel|
|Martin, Thomas B.||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)||Ray, Sir William||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Remer, John R.||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Renwick, Major Gustav A.||Templeton, William P.|
|Milne, Charles||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Mitcheson, G. G.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Thompson, Luke|
|Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Robinson, John Roland||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Ropner, Colonel L.||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)||Rosbotham, Sir Samuel||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Ross, Ronald D.||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Moreing, Adrian C.||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Morgan, Robert H.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Morrison, William Shephard||Runge, Norah Cecil||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Moss, Captain H. J.||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Muirhead, Major A. J.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Munro, Patrick||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Nall, Sir Joseph||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Nall-Cain, Hon. Ronald||Salmon, Sir Isidore||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Newton, Sir Douglas George C.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|O'Connor, Terence James||Savery, Samuel Servington||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Scone, Lord||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Ormiston, Thomas||Selley, Harry R.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Palmer, Francis Noel||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Patrick, Colin M.||Shapperson, Sir Ernest W.||Womersley, Waiter James|
|Peaks, Captain Osbert||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Pearson, William G.||Skelton, Archibald Noel||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Peat, Charles U.||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Penny, Sir George||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Percy, Lord Eustace||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-In-F.)||Mr. Blindell and Commander|
|Perkins, Walter R. D.||Smith, R. W.(Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Southby.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Mainwaring, William Henry|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Maxton, James|
|Banfield, John William||Healy, Cahir||Milner, Major James|
|Batey, Joseph||Hicks, Ernest George||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hirst, George Henry||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Jenkins, Sir William||Price, Gabriel|
|Cape, Thomas||John, William||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Thorne, William James|
|Cove, William G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Daggar, George||Kirkwood, David||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lawson, John James||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Edwards, Charles||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Lunn, William||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||McGovern, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Mr. D. Graham and Mr. Groves.|
Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[Captain Margesson.]
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.