§ THE EARL OF ELGIN
My Lords, on behalf of Lord Montagu of Beaulieu I rise to ask His Majesty's Government—
- 1. What steps are being taken to secure immediate exchange of British prisoners in Russia as against Russian prisoners here.
- 2. Whether any steps can be taken to alleviate the sufferings of British prisoners in Russia irrespective of
816 any subsequent arrangements which may be entered into between the two countries.
- 3. Is it a fact that the conditions under which the prisoners are now living are such as to cause serious danger to their lives and health, and that seven women are living with 200 male prisoners without any provision for privacy.
§ LORD STANMORE
As your Lordships are no doubt aware. Mr. O'Grady, who sits for South-East Leeds in another place, is at present at Copenhagen negotiating with M. Litvinoff, representing the Soviet Government of Russia, on this very subject. I regret to say that the negotiations in question have been far more protracted than had been anticipated, and, though His Majesty's Government are doing everything possible, M. Litvinoff has not yet agreed to the immediate exchange of the British prisoners in Russia. The conditions which he has put forward have hitherto been too comprehensive for His Majesty's Government to accept.
As regards the steps which can be taken irrespective of any subsequent arrangements for an exchange to alleviate the sufferings of British prisoners of war and civilians in Russia, the matter has already been referred to Mr. O'Grady, and it is hoped that M. Litvinoff will agree to allow the despatch of a special consignment of warm clothing to Mr. North, the British chaplain at Moscow. His Majesty's Government have reason to believe that Mr. North is still able to supply comforts, &c., to those members of the British Colony at Moscow whose want is greatest. It is, however, evident that the present conditions in Russia are such that the British subjects in Russia must be undergoing great hardships, and in view of the absence of all postal facilities with Soviet Russia, it is very difficult to make any satisfactory arrangements for their welfare. The Government understand that the condition of British civilians in Russia, to whom my noble friend has referred in his Question, is one of great difficulty, and a report has been received that the treatment meted out to some of the women is pitiable. M. Litvinoff has, however, telegraphed to his Government making such inquiries as are possible in the cases which have been brought to his notice.