§ 7. Major GLYN
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will state what is the last Report received from His Majesty's representative at Vienna regarding the economic situation in Austria; whether the reports of large numbers of women and children dying of starvation are confirmed by these dispatches; and whether there is anything to prevent His Majesty's Government, upon lines already suggested, instructing the British special commissioner on his arrival in Southern Russia to get in touch with the central union of Russian co-operative societies, which are the sole organisations in touch with the agricultural classes, with a view to arranging the exchange of manufactured goods for wheat which could be shipped to Central Europe by the Danube?
As regards the first part of the question, it is intended to lay Papers on the economic situation in Austria as soon as possible. The latest dispatches from His Majesty's representative at Vienna and other reports indicate that the food situation in Austria is critical. As regards the last part of the question, British representatives are in touch with the South Russian co-operative societies, but it has not been found practicable to make any arrangement of the kind indicated. His Majesty's Government are doing everything within their limited 211 resources to relieve a situation which calls for the co-operation not only of His Majesty's Government, but of the Allied, Associated, and other Powers.
§ Major GLYN
Is it true that all the food supplies in Austria will come to an end on:31st January? What steps will be taken?
Arrangements have been made which, I think, will deal with the situation until the end of January; after that the prospect is extremely doubtful.
§ 49. Captain W. BENN
asked the Lord Privy Seal whether hospitals have been closed in Vienna owing to lack of the necessary supplies: and, if so, whether the Government is taking any steps to assist in their relief?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The hospital situation in Vienna is undoubtedly serious, and medical work has been and is still being hampered by shortage of supplies, but no reports are to hand to show that hospitals have actually been closed. The coal shortage has interfered with the supply of hot water necessary for sterilisation, whilst there has been a shortage of linen required for surgical purposes. Moreover, the shortage of milk and other invalid foodstuffs has been felt severely.
Efforts to mitigate this situation have been made by the Allied and Associated Governments, and by voluntary societies in this country, assisted by the —1 for —1 grant, but the question cannot be fundamentally dealt with apart from the whole question of credits for the supply of coal and foodstuffs to Austria from neighbouring countries and overseas, and this matter is now receiving the urgent consideration of the Government and of the representatives in Paris of the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Italy.
Apart from the help is being afforded by the Italian Government in railing up foodstuffs from Trieste, and caring for a number of Viennese children, the British Government have granted a credit of —25,000 for the provision of coal from the United Kingdom for Vienna, and 212 arrangements are now being made to ship up to 1,000 tons of fats from the United Kingdom to Vienna.
Sir J. D. REES
Is it suggested that the British taxpayer should put down —I for every —I subscribed by voluntary agencies for hospitals in Vienna?
§ Mr. SONAR LAW
There must he a limit to what we do. I should be greatly surprised if the country does not approve of the efforts we are making to help these hospitals.
§ Mr. BILLING
Is there any limit to the amount the Government is going to cover, or is it unlimited?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I think a limit was set upon it, but in any case I am afraid a limit will be set by the amount of the voluntary contributions.