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Factories (Russian Representatives' Visits)

Volume 478: debated on Monday 18 September 1950

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29.

asked the Minister of Supply to which factories Russian agents have had access during 1950.

32.

asked the Minister of Supply how many factories, where Government contracts of a secret nature are being carried out, are authorised to admit technical representatives of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Several thousand industrial firms hold contracts for defence work for my Ministry. Of these, a very large proportion undertake, in addition, work with which my Department has no concern. I cannot say which of them have been visited by Russian representatives in connection with this side of their work. I can, however, say that no visits involving access to information of defence significance have been made by Russian purchasing agents or technical representatives to any of our contractors.

How can the Minister give that assurance when he knows very well the names of the firms which have been involved?

I have just said that I know of no case, and I am perfectly certain that no Russian representative or agent has been to any firm which is carrying out for us any work of a secret nature.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that in the present circumstances his Department should keep a very careful check on the movements, visits and activities of Russian members of their alleged trade delegations?

I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that the arrangements for defending the secrecy of any secret contract which we give to industrial firms are very tight indeed.

Would it not be better to restrict these activities until reciprocal facilities are granted by Russia?

The arrangements for inspection have been made with the Russian purchasers by private firms and have nothing to do with us.

Is it not a fact that certain of the firms engaged on contract work for the Soviet Union, and whose plants are open to inspection by Russian agents, have made representations to the Ministry of Supply about the security angle; that these representations were made long before the disclosures by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition; and that they have been ignored?

If the hon. Member is referring to the allegations made on behalf of Craven Brothers, I would point out that that company has no secret contracts from us at all.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether there is anything in the slightest degree unusual or in the slightest degree sinister in a contractual arrangement which enables the purchaser of a complicated machine to inspect it before he takes delivery?

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that certain secret equipment which is being made for his Department is of such a character that it is impossible to keep it secret from the works, which are accessible to members of the Russian delegation?

If the hon. and gallant Member has some specific case in mind I will willingly look into it. I do not know what it is.