HC Deb 24 July 1933 vol 280 cc2213-6
15. Mr. HALES

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, since the arrival in this country of Mr. Thornton and Mr. Macdonald, any information has been obtained by his Department, further to the White Papers already issued, regarding the statement, alleged at the trial to have been signed by these two men, to the effect that spying operations in Russia had been carried on by a managing director of the Metropolitan-Vickers Company; and whether he can make any further statement to the House?


Both gentlemen have furnished reports of their experiences; and, while, as has been explained in previous answers, His Majesty's Government now regard this case as closed and consequently do not propose to make public the information contained in these documents, it can be stated generally that they confirm and amplify the knowledge of His Majesty's Government as to the genesis of the alleged confessions. This of course is in accordance with my right hon. Friend's explicit statement on the kith April that: None of these men has ever been employed directly or indirectly in connection with any branch of our Intelligence Service. None of them has ever supplied any information to any such branch. None of them has ever been paid or promised any reward for such information, or has been supplied with any money to obtain it. None of them has ever made any report to or on behalf of our Intelligence Service. All the above statements are equally true of the Metropolitan-Vickers Company itself. That is to say, the company has not and never has had any connection with our Intelligence Service whatever.


Can the Under-Secretary tell us how the Foreign Secretary can be so positive in this matter when the personnel of the Secret Service is completely unknown to Ministers of the Crown?


So far from being uncertain, my right hon. Friend is completely convinced of the accuracy of the statement he made.


I merely asked how it happens that he can be so positive.

18. Sir A. KNOX

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many of the Russian employés of the firm of Metropolitan Vickers are still in prison in Russia 7


According to my latest information I understand that two Russian employés from the company's Moscow office are now serving terms of imprisonment, and one employé from the Leningrad office is believed to be in prison.


Can the Under-Secretary say whether there is any possible way of helping these people, who are no doubt as innocent as our own people?


My hon. and gallant Friend will understand that our locus standi is only in respect of British subjects.


Surely Metro-Vickers could interfere and not take on any others in their place?


May I ask whether the man employed at Leningrad is a Russian or a British subject?


He is a Russian subject.

23. Mr. COVE

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for what purpose and at whose expense, in the course of the recent trial in Moscow of the Metropolitan-Vickers engineers, extracts from the reports by Mr. A. J. Cummings, appearing in the "News Chronicle," to the effect that the accused Englishmen were well and cheerful, were telegraphed by the Foreign Office to the British Embassy in Moscow; whether the representations concerning these reports made to Mr. Cummings in Moscow by the British Embassy were made on the instructions of the Foreign Office or on the initiative of the Embassy itself; and what purpose such representations were intended to serve?


The facts of this matter are as follow: On the 12th April a representative of the "News Chronicle "enquired at the Foreign Office whether it could be ascertained that Mr. Cummings was in fact the author of the following passage in his message received on the previous night: Accused Englishmen are in good health and spirits and indications are that trial will be conducted fairly in true sense of word in accordance with Soviet law. In conformity with this request a telegram was accordingly sent on the same day to His Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires at Moscow repeating the passage and asking him to ascertain and reply urgently whether Mr. Cummings had in fact used these words. It also seemed to us doubtful whether Mr. Cummings would have made such positive statements after only two days residence in Russia, and with no previous knowledge —so far as was known—of the country or the language. Mr. Strang replied on the 13th April by a telegram stating that Mr. Cummings had confirmed to a member of his staff that the passage quoted was as he had sent it.

I have now obtained from the official concerned an account of the interview with Mr. Cummings from which it is clear that Mr. Vyvyan's action was confined to carrying out instructions sent to His Majesty's Embassy as the outcome of a request from the newspaper which Mr. Cummings represented.


Is Mr. Cummings the gentleman who has given publicity to the alleged confession, referred to in the previous question'?


Is it net a fact that Mr. Vyvyan asked Mr. Cummings whether he considered he was playing the game in sending a report of that kind to England?


I have told the House what passed, from the account which I have had, and I think the House may judge all other matters relative to it in the light of that account.


Can the Under-Secretary state what Mr. Cummings said to Mr. Vyvyan?


I am not responsible for Mr. Cummings.


Had Mr. Cummings time to study Soviet law in the two days?

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