asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reply has been received from His Majesty's Ambassador in Moscow with regard to the British Government's request for information as to the allegations of forced labour obtaining in Russian timber camps and the general conditions obtaining in such camps?
M. Litvinoff has stated to His Majesty's Ambassador in Moscow that no official request for an investigation could be considered by the Soviet Government any more than would a similar request be considered by His Majesty's Government, and that convicts are employed in the Soviet Union, as in other countries, on work such as road building, a matter which solely concerns the Soviet Government. His Majesty's Ambassador has also been informed by the Soviet authorities that neither prison labour, nor, in general, the labour of sentenced persons, is employed in the branches of the timber industry which produce for export, including the work at ports.
At the present moment I cannot add anything to the reply which I have given. My right hon. Friend has caused His Majesty's Government's representative in Moscow to make this inquiry of M. Litvinoff, and the purport of the inquiry I have reported to the House. M. Litvinoff raises the point which my hon. Friend has put, that any proposal of this sort must be treated in the same way as a counter proposal to this country would he treated.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the Government's inability to commit itself to an examination of alleged convict conditions of labour in Russia, he will invite the League of Nations to approach the Union of Soviet Republics and offer to undertake this work?
This suggestion has been communicated to my right hon. Friend who has made inquiries and finds that there is no precedent for the course suggested. In his opinion it is altogether undesirable that the League should be associated with any inquiry such as that suggested in the territory of a non-member State, except at the request of that State.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is now in a position to state whether the White Paper on labour conditions in Russia will include Circular 87 of the All-Union Commissariat of Labour of 4th March, 1930, for the raising of conscript labour gangs from collective farms for timber cutting, and the regulations of the Soviet Commissariat of Labour published in the official journal of the Soviet Republic, "Izvestia," on 5th November, 1930?
asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department with reference to his answer on 18th March that he would consider the question of raising the issue of the conditions of labour in exports, such as are produced in the Soviet Russian timber trade, at the League of Nations, if he will state what decision has been arrived at?
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to the regulations decreed by the commissariat of labour of the Soviet Government, published in "Izvestia" of the 5th November, 1930; and, in view of the fact that the object of this decree is the definite establishment of compulsory labour, will the Government reconsider its decision and prohibit the importation of goods so produced?
The attention of my right hon. Friend has been called to the regulations in question, which deal with the organisation of the supply of labour to the various industries in the Soviet Union. As has been stated in this House on many occasions, His Majesty's Government are not prepared to initiate legislation of the kind suggested in the second part of the question.