§ 42 Mr. RAPER
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign 1899 Affairs (1) whether the rate of exchange for the rouble in the Caucasus was 80 to the pound sterling at the time when our forces arrived there and in a few months depreciated to about 475 roubles to the pound sterling; whether this abnormal depreciation was due to the fact that the military authorities when requiring funds sold exchange on London by auction to a ring of local speculators; and whether, in order to safeguard the interests of British merchants, he would take steps to ensure that such delicate financial operations should be conducted by properly qualified financial experts in future, and not by military authorities;
(2) whether he was aware of the discontent caused among our troops in the Caucasus owing to the fact that while they were being paid at the official rate of 200 roubles to the pound sterling the sailors serving on British cruisers in the vicinity were being paid in sterling, which they could sell at the much higher current rates in the bazaar; and whether he would take steps to put this exchange question on a proper businesslike basis?
(3) Whether he was aware of the speculation which was taking place in roubles in the Caucasus owing to the fact that while the rouble rate in the bazaar was between 350 and 450 roubles to the pound sterling, the staff paymaster had fixed the official rate at 200; and whether he was aware that officers having money in Lon don could, accordingly, sell their cheques at the current rates, and with the proceeds buy transfers on London at the military post office at the official rate, namely, 200 roubles to the pound sterling; and whether he would say what he pro posed to do in the matter?
§ Mr. FORSTER
I have been asked to answer these questions. I am not prepared to admit the correctness of my hon. Friend's suggestion as to the responsibility of the military authorities for exchange difficulties in the Caucasus, but, as stated in my answer to a question by the hon. and gallant Member for Abingdon on the 8th August, I am inquiring into the position there. As regards the rate at which soldiers are paid, I would refer my hon. Friend to the same reply of the 8th August. The payment of sailors in sterling has been discontinued. With regard to question No. 123, I will inquire and communicate with my hon. Friend.