HC Deb 07 November 1921 vol 148 cc14-6
16 Mr. A. M. SAMUEL

(1) asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has requested His Majesty's representative in the Argentine to make inquiries of the Argentine Government on the subject of what appears to be the confiscation of British investments in Argentina owing to the partial repudiation by the Argentine Government of the obligations it undertook under the Mitre Law to British shareholders in Argentine railways; whether a reply has been received; if so, whether he will, when he has communicated that reply to the House, for ward it to the United States Government for their information;

(2) asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department whether he is aware that the export of British railway equipment to the Argentine must cease if the securities received by British subjects from the Argentine railways in payment for such exports are rendered valueless by the action of the Argentine Government in refusing honour its obligations under the Mitre Law; and whether he will take steps to deal with the position set up by the Argentine Government;

(3) whether there is a commercial attaché or other British Government official working in connection with the British Legation at Buenos Ayres in the interests of British commerce; and, if so, will he state whether that official, prior to the subject being raised in this House, took any action on his own initiative, or at the request of British commercial interests, to investigate the allegations of maltreatment by the Argentine Government of British capital invested in Argentine railways.

17. Sir R. NEWMAN

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether it is the function of the British Foreign Office to take steps to protect British commercial interests in foreign countries when it has reason to believe that British commercial interests have received unfair treatment at the hands of foreign governments; and, if so, will he state whether he has made any representations to the Argentine Government with regard to that Government's treatment of British money invested in the development of the Argentine railways?


As I stated in answer to a question from the hon. Member for St. George's on the 31st ultimo, His Majesty's Minister at Buenos Ayres is furnishing a full report on the situation. This report is on its way, and may be expected to arrive shortly. As soon as it arrives it will be given the earnest consideration of His Majesty's Government, but until that is done there is no further information which I can usefully give the hon. Members.


Will the hon. Gentleman publish the report when it arrives at Buenos Ayres, if it arrives when the House has risen?


I think that is entirely conditional.

Sir J. D. REES

Will the hon. Gentleman remember that half the mileage of the Argentine railways was made after the Mitre Law was passed, and on the faith of that law, and will he consider just claims of British capitalists?


I am well aware of the great importance of the matter.


Is the policy of the Foreign Office in reference to the action of its diplomatic representatives abroad to be reversed in future, in view of the fact that these representatives have not been greatly interested in commercial matters, whereas other countries, such as Germany, have made use of their diplomatic representatives in many different ways?


Have not the manufacturers in this country always had a grievance against the general policy of the Foreign Office, which has never been used to advance their interests in foreign countries?


That is entirely contrary to my experience.