HC Deb 14 December 1922 vol 159 c3232

I think I can answer these questions in a way that will do the least harm by treating them in this general way by putting against the French view what is in my opinion the British view. Take, first of all, the question as to the relationship between the inter-allied debts and reparations. That question I think was unnecessary. The answer was given in the statement I read yesterday, and in which I made it perfectly clear that anything said by me on the subject was bound up—and I put it as plainly as words could put it—was bound up if not with the certainty with the great probability that there would be a final settlement and that the question would not be opened again. It follows from that, that, the concession does involve our not doing anything which, in our opinion, would make a final settlement impossible. It does imply that it will only come into effect when we have a chance of a settlement which will be a settlement. Let me look at the other aspect of it from our point of view. It is assumed very often—and in what I am going to say now I am thinking of the public, not within this House, but outside—it is assumed that we have no interest, in reparations. It has been suggested, I do not say by anyone in this House, but it has been suggested over and over again that, from the point of view of getting on with our business, what we ought to do is to wipe off German reparations and our Allied debts, and at the same time pay this enormous sum to America. I will look at it from two points of view—firstly, the justice of it, and secondly, our ability to do it.