Labour Conditions.

Oral Answers to Questions — Russia. – in the House of Commons on 26th January 1931.

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Photo of Sir William Davison Sir William Davison , Kensington South

24.

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?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Camberwell Peckham

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.

Photo of Sir William Davison Sir William Davison , Kensington South

Will the Soviet Government give facilities and freedom to visit these camps and full information to a representative of our Embassy in Moscow, or other official representative, and also to examine the system of loading our ships in the Baltic?

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Wolverhampton West

Can my hon. Friend say whether, if such a demand is to be pressed, our own Government propose to concede similar facilities to the Russian Government in respect of this country?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Camberwell Peckham

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.

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Wolverhampton West

Can my hon. Friend say whether, in the event of any further questions of this kind being put upon the Paper, the Foreign Secretary, or his Under-Secretary, will make it categorically clear that he does not propose to have his time so occupied?

Photo of Sir William Davison Sir William Davison , Kensington South

Will the Foreign Office say that we welcome any inquiry of the kind in this country as long as we have full facilities in Russia?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Camberwell Peckham

Such a statement would be quite outside the functions of the Foreign Office.

Commander LOCKER-LAMPSON:

25.

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?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Camberwell Peckham

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.

Commander LOCKER-LAMPSON:

Is is not a fact that an analogy exists in the case of Liberia where slave conditions were examined by the League of Nations?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Camberwell Peckham

That inquiry was made at the request of Liberia, which is a member of the League.

Commander LOCKER - LAMPSON:

Will the Government invite the Soviet Government of Russia to invite the League of Nations to make the inquiry?

Photo of Mr Edward Marjoribanks Mr Edward Marjoribanks , Eastbourne

Is this the way that the Government abolish slavery?

Photo of Mr Carlyon Bellairs Mr Carlyon Bellairs , Maidstone

27.

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?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Camberwell Peckham

Yes, Sir. Both the ordinances to which the hon. and gallant Member refers are included in the White Paper.

Photo of Mr John McShane Mr John McShane , Walsall

Is the Under-Secretary aware that the circular makes no reference to conscript labour gangs?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Camberwell Peckham

I said that the circulars to which the hon. and gallant Member referred were given in the White Paper. Whether their contents are exactly what certain hon. Members consider them to be, is another matter.

Photo of Sir Annesley Somerville Sir Annesley Somerville , Windsor

Will the White Paper include a statement as to the convict labour used for loading timber ships at Archangel?

Photo of Mr Hugh Dalton Mr Hugh Dalton , Camberwell Peckham

Without reference to some particular ordinance I cannot say, but the White Paper will be out in a few days, and we hope to publish all the relevant decrees and ordinances that we think will be of interest to the House.

Photo of Mr Carlyon Bellairs Mr Carlyon Bellairs , Maidstone

36.

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?

Photo of Sir George Gillett Sir George Gillett , Finsbury

His Majesty's Government have come to the conclusion that no useful purpose would be served by referring the matter to the League of Nations.

Photo of Mr Carlyon Bellairs Mr Carlyon Bellairs , Maidstone

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of any other nation that has raised this important question?

Photo of Sir Waldron Smithers Sir Waldron Smithers , Chislehurst

75.

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?

Photo of Sir George Gillett Sir George Gillett , Finsbury

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.

Photo of Sir Waldron Smithers Sir Waldron Smithers , Chislehurst

Will the hon. Gentleman, at his leisure, try to reconcile that answer with the answer given by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs earlier in the afternoon?