HC Deb 07 December 1922 vol 159 cc2167-70

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I do not think this Clause can be allowed to pass without some comment. This is the Austrian Loan, and I want to put to the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs two observations only. We are asked to guarantee some £6,000,000 odd to Austria. It seems to me that, unless something practical is done beyond lending Austria money and supervising her finances, we will have to help her further in the future. There are two practical propositions I want to put before the Government with regard to Austria. In theory, of course, the Peace Treaty ought to be revised, but that is hardly practicable at the moment. There are, however, two things that can be done. In the first place, is anything being attempted with regard to assisted emigration from Austria? The city population is so great that it cannot be maintained by either the country or the trade, especially in view of the obstacles placed in the way of trade. It is absolutely essential that the surplus population of Vienna, the professional classes, the skilled workers, the clerical classes, the doctors, teachers, and so on should have a chance to get out of it. You have parts of the world to-day which are short of population and want a white population. There are two of our Dominions needing white populations—South Africa and Australia. I know perfectly well at the moment the Australian Government does not encourage even British emigrants to go to the Commonwealth, because of unemployment. But the Austrians are very law-abiding people. They make good citizens. They are not pugnacious. They have very good qualities, and I believe it would be possible to have certain areas in Australia or South Africa specially divided off for Austrian immigrants. At any rate, it would be better from the Australian point of view than to have Japanese immigrants, which are the alternative. The proposition does not come out of my own brain, but from a much more informed mind than mine.

The other observation I wish to make is this. Austria is suffering in a very acute form, because of her peculiar circumstances, from the disease from which all Central Europe is suffering, and that is the lack of an assured market, and the assured market exists near the Austrian frontiers—I refer to the Russian market. The only outlet for Austrian products to-day, for her skilled engineering products, and for her textiles is Russia. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not Australia?"] I understand that it is our object in this country to encourage our trade with Australia. There is room for Russia, for Austria, and ourselves as well, to be brought into the trading community of Europe once more.

I cannot let this Clause go without putting this point before the Government. I put it before and the Government did not listen, and we are now paying for that non-attention this six millions. It is true that it is only a guarantee, but if we had to find the six millions it would not be so happy a position. It has been an expensive policy for the Government to ignore Russia, and not to make any real attempt to open her up to European trade. If the Austrian factories could be kept busy supplying the goods that Russians are crying cut for to-day these loans would not be required. The very fact that we have to-day to make this loan is a very fair comment on the utter failure of the policy of the late Government, and, by all signs, it is a policy likely to be slavishly followed by the present Government.


Last night I put a couple of questions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and did not receive a reply. They are rather important, and I shall not keep the Committee more than a moment or two in repeating them.

As to the security of the loan; is it secured by a first charge on the tobacco monopoly and the Customs? I understand by the protocol it is a second charge on the Customs. In respect to the bank, I understand from the official announcement that the Austrian Government have opened this particular loan as from last Monday, 4thDecember, and have invited subscriptions to the issue of six million dollars of guaranteed Treasury Bills. Why is it dollars, and not kronen? If we have guaranteed it, why is it not pounds? The interest on these Treasury Bills is 9 per cent., I understand: is that so?


The question—


Cannot we have an answer to the questions put by hon. Members?

The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Baldwin)

In regard to the first point raised by the hon. Member for Ilford (Mr. Wise), as I understand it, the charge is on both the tobacco and the Customs, and is the first charge. The loan will be raised by the Austrian Government, and they will raise it on the best terms they can get. As to other of the information that the hon. Gentleman has given to the House, I have no knowledge of it beyond what he says. I cannot say how or at what rate the Austrian Government will raise this loan. In the Bill before the Committee our function is restricted to the guarantees specified in the Bill; the responsibility for raising the loan will be that of the Austrian Government. If the Austrian Government be unable to arrange with the issuing houses in the different countries then, of course, the whole thing falls to the ground. The Austrian Government will have to do their best to raise such loans as they require on the best terms that they can. Of course the position of the Comptroller in Vienna is a very strong one. He is able to prevent further issues.


Who is the Comptroller?


The Comptroller has yet to be appointed, but he will be a neutral.