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Religious Situation

Volume 236: debated on Monday 17 March 1930

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18.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Government has yet come to a decision on the question of taking steps under Article 11 of the Covenant of the League of Nations to bring before the League the question of the conditions affecting religious liberty in Russia?

The Government have decided that they could not properly or suitably take any action in this matter under Article 11 of the Covenant of the League of Nations.

Is it not possible for the Powers to take any concerted action at all in the matter?

Is the right hon. Gentleman going to pay no attention whatever to the solemn protest made by the leader of every religion in Europe and the United States yesterday?

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is now in a position to make a further statement in regard to the policy of His Majesty's Government in respect of the conditions affecting religious liberty in Russia; and whether be will state the nature of the cases of religious persecution which he has already brought to the attention of the Soviet Ambassador?

As regards the first part of the question, I have nothing to add to the statements I have already made on this subject. As regards the second part of the question, I fear that the right hon. Gentleman may have misunderstood an answer which I gave to a supplementary question asked by him on the 27th January. It was not my purpose, when answering this supplementary, to convey the impression that I intended to bring individual eases to the notice of the Soviet Ambassador. Nor have I done so.

Is this the position of the Government—that they are going to take no action whatever in conjunction with other nations, and are going to do nothing themselves in this very grave matter?

When the right hon. Gentleman states that he is not prepared to take individual cases into notice with the Russian Government does he mean to imply that he has brought cases of persecution in the aggregate to the notice of the Russian Government?

Did not a great many of these cases occur during the régime of the late Government?

28.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the English church in Moscow is available for church use as and when required?

I have nothing to add at present to my reply to the hon. Member on Wednesday last.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that this is an important question, not so much as regards the specific church mentioned, but as an indication of the Soviet attitude?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are a good many churches in this country which are not in use?

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has recently received information pointing to a change in the situation in Russia regarding the attitude towards religion?

The only development of which I am aware is the recent announcement made by the Central Committee of the Communist party. It contains, I understand, instructions to local party organisations to close churches only at the genuine wish of the majority of the local population, with the concurrence of the regional executive committee. Further, those guilty of mocking the religious feelings of the peasants are to be held responsible, and Communist workers who do not accept and carry out these instructions are to be replaced.

Has the right hon. Gentleman received any official information at all on this or any similar subject, as yet, from the British Ambassador?

Has the right hon. Gentleman had any information as to whether the decree forbidding the teaching of religion to children is still in force or not?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say if the report bears out to some extent the information which has been published in the Press?

In view of the divergence of opinion which exists, will the right hon. Gentleman lay Papers with regard to the correspondence, so that we may know exactly where we are?

The House is already aware of the position of the Government on this matter.

Yes, but we do not know what the British Ambassador has said, and, surely, we ought to know?

What has the right hon. Gentleman received in the way of information from the Ambassador in Russia, which he is afraid to publish?

I have already stated the position of His Majesty's Government in reference to the subject.