House of Commons Summer Recess

In 1920 the House of Commons rose on Monday 16th August and did not return until nine weeks later (three weeks longer than the normal summer recess). The shadow of Russia again dominated the final day’s agenda. Tetchy questions covered the Government’s policies on the blockade of the Baltic and Black Sea, the international support for General Wrangel in southern Russia, the Japanese control of Eastern Siberia, the independence of Poland and the Soviet Trade Delegation.

The Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, reported that the naval mechanics in Baku were now living in a private house. He was less clear about the British prisoners-of-war in Moscow and said “I am not sure” when asked by the interventionist, Noel Billing, whether they had been “liberated”.

The five hour Motion for Adjournment was particularly bitter. The Government sought agreement to call the House back at two days notice if the Polish-Russian situation worsened, but the future Labour leader John Clynes attacked the Government’s “supply of munitions” to Poland and threatened a General Strike if Britain intervened against the Soviet Union. He suggested that if the Secretary of State for War, Winston Churchill, could not “accept the peace policy as announced by the Prime Minister, I fail to see how he can continue to hold office in a Government whose policy he so constantly contradicts…”

The nine-week adjournment allowed the Government to negotiate with Lenin’s envoys for a prisoner exchange and a trade deal. In its Cabinet Papers of September 1920, the National Archives holds a note sent by the Foreign Secretary, Lord Curzon to Lev Kamenev detailing the conditions for any treaty and emphasizing the need to release all the British prisoners in Russia. Meanwhile, as the situation in Poland eased, the Russian Trade Committee, headed by Sir Hubert Llewellyn, proposed an amendment to the secret Draft Trade Agreement with the Russian Soviet Government.

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