7. Colonel WHITE
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if, according to a proclamatoin of General von Bissing, Military Governor of Belgium, the goods of British and other residents now absent from Belgium are, after 1st March, 1915, to be confiscated; and, if so, whether he will warn the German Government that in that event the same course will be taken with regard to the property owned by German subjects in this country?
According to my information, the German Government's action is not exactly what the hon. and gallant Member supposes. A recent decree issued by General von Bissing imposes a tenfold tax on Belgians "who voluntarily left their domiciles at the outbreak of the War and have absented themselves from Belgium for more than two months if they do not return before 1st March," and this tax must be paid before 15th April, "after the expiration of which date recovery of the amount may be enforced." Although, the wording of this decree is restricted, I understand that it will, in practice, apply to all Belgians who shall by 1st March have been absent from Belgium for two months, and it is very possible that it may also, in spite of its wording, be applied also to foreign subjects domiciled in Belgium; but this is uncertain. Besides this, deposits in Belgian banks to the credit of the Belgian, British, French, Russian, Japanese, Serbian, and Montenegrin Governments, and of the Russian and Japanes State Banks were seized at the end of September. The question of retaliation therefore does not arise in the form contemplated in the question. In general, however, His Majesty's Government will take all such facts into consideration 218 in determining the advisability of retaliatory measures. I have already inquired of the Belgian Government whether they have any information to show that the decree is applicable to British subjects.