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Russia

Volume 236: debated on Monday 10 March 1930

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Propaganda

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the concluding proceedings of the Presidium at Moscow when a Report on Communist propaganda in Great Britain and the Dominions and Colonies was considered and the decision taken to instruct their agents in this country to organise strikes and riots amongst the unemployed; and whether he proposes to take any action in the matter?

27.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been drawn to the announcement made in the official newspaper, Pravda, of 28th February, by the praesidium of the Third International in Moscow, that instructions had been issued for the organisation on legal or illegal lines of mass risings and strikes in this country and the Colonies; and whether he will make representations to the Soviet Government against this breach of their undertaking to abstain from propaganda?

31.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that it is officially stated by the International Labour Office that the general council of the Communist International at its recent plenary meeting in Moscow issued instructions that special attention should be devoted to fomenting strikes in India and that all assistance possible should be given to the organisation of such strikes; and whether he proposes to make representations to the Soviet Government with regard to this breach of the undertaking to abstain from propaganda?

35.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the fact that last Thursday's unemployment demonstrations in this country were organised by the Communist party on representations from Moscow; and whether he is taking any action in the matter to avoid this interference in future with our domestic affairs?

I have seen the reports of the last meeting of the Comintern as they have appeared in the Soviet Press, the English Press, and other organs. I do not doubt that the Communist International were at pains to produce the manifestations of the 6th March. In view of the exceedingly feeble response to these efforts, I trust that no undue alarm will be felt in any quarter of this House. As I explained on the 3rd February, His Majesty's Government will not hesitate to take the House into their confidence should serious causes of complaint arise, but I would again repeat that they intend in the first instance to be the judges as to the gravity, or otherwise, of particular incidents, and the action which may be expedient and necessary to safeguard the interests of this country.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that it is not the result of this particular action that is complained of; it is the action taken by a Power with whom we were supposed to be in friendly relations, and does he not see that, in adopting an attitude of this kind, it is a direct infringement of the Protocol?

No. I do not see anything of the kind. I repeat that the question of whether it is necessary to take action should be left to the Government to decide.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that since these questions were put on the Order Paper there has been a further breach of the Protocol by the Soviet official Press?

Why in dealing with the Soviet Government do the Government persist in suffering from inferiority complex?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the House approved of diplomatic relations on definite terms, and is not the action of the Russian Government a breach of those terms?

I have already answered that question, and I am also aware that hon. Members opposite opposed the resumption of diplomatic relations with Russia.

When the official papers of the Soviet Government announce, as is reported in to-day's Press, that it recommends a hunger march on London to start on 30th March and continue until 1st May, does the right hon. Gentleman not consider that that is a breach of the Protocol?

I have already said that this question must be left to the Government to decide.

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask whether it is within the province of the Government itself to be the judge and jury as to whether regulations have been broken or not. I would like to ask if the Government are satisfied that the regulations have not been broken.

The point raised by the hon. and gallant Member is a matter of argument, and not a matter of question and answer.

22 and 26.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1), whether his attention has been called to a letter from the political secretariat of the executive committee of the Communist International in the issue dated 1st February, 1930, of the "Communist International"; and whether he will draw the attention of the Soviet Ambassador to this propaganda advocating revolutionary activity in this country;

(2), whether his attention has been called to the fortnightly publication entitled the "Communist International," published by Modern Books, Limited, of 26, Bedford Row; and whether, in view of its connection with the Komintern and of the pledge of the Soviet Government not to engage in propaganda in this country, he proposes to make representations on this matter?

There is nothing that is either new or original about the publication known as the "Communist International." It first appeared as a monthly in 1919, and from December, 1928, it has been published fortnightly. The article in the issue of the 1st February, to which the hon. Member draws attention, deals generally with the organisation of Communist parties outside the Soviet Union, but I do not consider that it merits any action on the part of His Majesty's Government.

Is it not becoming daily more apparent that the Soviet Government have no intention whatever of keeping the terms of the Protocol?

Religious Situation

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has now satisfied himself as to whether there is religious persecution in Russia; whether he will also state the facts in relation thereto that are within the knowledge of the Government; and whether any action is being taken in the matter?

32.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can now state what action he proposes to take on the report of the British ambassador as to religious persecution in Russia?

From a study of the Decree respecting Religious Associations, I have no doubt that it indicates a continuance of the anti-religious pressure which has consistently and for many years past been a notorious feature of Soviet policy. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, in pressing me for a statement on this matter, is sincerely desirous of promoting the cause of religious liberty. I fully sympathise with his object, but cannot share his belief that any action which it is open to His Majesty's Government to take would be calculated to further that object.

I ignore the personal references to myself, but would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he thinks that it is a proper description of what is going on at the present time in Russia to call it pressure? Is it not persecution, and is not the right hon. Gentleman going to do something in the matter?

Do I understand my right hon. Friend to say that this pressure has continued for several years, and, if so, was this pressure not operating during the time of his predecessor; and what did his predecessor do?

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that I at least belong to a creed that has suffered severely—[Interruption.]

On a point of Order. Is it in order for hon. Members opposite, in these questions, to give a statement of their personal beliefs, and also to make speeches during the course of their questions?

I hope that references to personal religious beliefs will not be made by either side.

May I make an appeal on behalf of the creed to which I belong —[Interruption.]

It is all very well for us to make appeals to behalf of any of our creeds, but I have said, in answer to the question, that it is very difficult to see what the Government can do to assist even members of the creed to which the hon. Member belongs.

30.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any instructions have been issued to British diplomatic representatives abroad respecting their attendance at intercessory services on behalf of Christians in Russia; and, if so, of what nature?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative. The second part, therefore, does not arise.

Does the right hon. Gentleman say that no instructions have been issued to the diplomatic representatives of this country in foreign countries with regard to this subject?

45.

asked the Prime Minister if he will state the number of written representations made to the Government by religious bodies, officials and members of the public as to their decision with regard to prayers in military and naval services on behalf of Christians in Russia; whether he has received any deputations on the question; and whether the heads of the Church of England and of any of the other religious denominations in England have approached the Government on this subject with a view to a change of policy?

Without circularising Departments, I am unable to give a definite answer to the first part of the question, but I understand that the representations of those interested in this matter have been voiced more fully in Parliament and the Press than by correspondence. The answer to the second part of the question is in the negative. As regards the third part, since this matter was raised there have, I understand, been exchanges of views between the Government and the various denominations.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied now that there is much more in this than mere political agitation?

I think the answer to that question might be inferred from what I said in the reply I have just given. The representations received from outside bodies are less numerous than the strength of those interested in the matter which has been shown in Parliament and the Press. It may interest the House to know that so far as I have been able to ascertain, representations have only been received from four bodies and six individuals.

I cannot say what the bodies were except that they were religious bodies.

Did the right hon. Gentleman read the speech of the Archbishop of Canterbury last week?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Chairman of the Committee carrying on this campaign happens to be the most notorious anti-Socialist in this country?

49.

asked the Prime Minister whether the attendance of any of the fighting services at churches or chapels at which prayers in regard to Russian religious persecution are to be read on Sunday, 16th March, is to be compulsory?

Certain administrative details are now being adjusted. The only matter with which the Government is concerned is to take care that these prayers will not amount to an official exercise contrary to well-established usage in diplomatic relations.

Will my right hon. Friend convey to the Prime Minister the very strong feeling, at any rate on this side of the House, that any soldiers or sailors should be compelled to go to these services to listen to these prayers?

I will convey what the hon. Member himself has said about this matter to the Prime Minister.

Has the attention of the right hon. Gentleman been called to a speech by the Secretary of State for War at Preston on Friday, where he made a disgraceful accusation—

British Relations

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Soviet Government has been informed of any limit to be placed on export credits pending the result of the negotiations in regard to repudiated debts and confiscated British properties; and whether the validity of British patents in Soviet Russia forms part of his negotiations?

No, Sir. Export credit guarantees are a matter concerning exclusively His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and the individual British exporter. Details of such guarantees could not, therefore, properly be discussed with any foreign Government. The answer to the second part of the question is in the negative. Soviet legislation is understood to provide that British subjects shall enjoy the same rights as Soviet citizens in regard to patents.