HC Deb 12 March 1923 vol 161 cc1007-11
19 and 20. Mr. DARBISHIRE

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) if he is aware that an order for 400 coils of wire, placed on 10th January last in Germany, is now ready for shipment; that, owing to the conflict between the French and Belgian Governments and the German Government, delivery is impossible; if he will demand an instant removal of this restrictions upon international trade;

(2) if he is aware that 500 kegs of wire nails ordered on 3rd January last were despatched from German works on 26th January last for shipment from Hamburg; that all trace has been lost of the goods; and that they are held upen route by the French authorities: and if he will demand the instant release of the goods and a refund of all charges incurred in consequence of this interference with international trade?


Without fuller particulars it is impossible to give any information in regard to these consignments. But in these and in similar cases, if full details are supplied, every endeavour will be made to facilitate the movement of the goods.


Has any success attended the efforts of previous cases, details of which have been brought to your notice?


Negotiations are going on. I cannot say more than that.


asked the Prime Minister if he is aware, in regard to the Ruhr occupation, whether the French and Belgian commanders, acting in conjunction with the newly installed French customs house authorities, have forbidden the discharge of Rhine lighters and insist. upon French customs house formalities being complied with, namely, that the ore-carrying lighters shall be entered at the French customs house and that the receivers of the cargo shall pay import duty as required by the French and Belgian authorities; that German receivers have declined to do this, in view of the fact that the German Government have threatened to treat them as traitors to their country if they are prepared to do so; that, since the German works look on the situation as a case offorce majeure, they can no longer take delivery of or pay for cargoes on board of steamers which have already been chartered; and whether, seeing that the Rhine Convention of 1868, referred to in the Peace Treaty under Article 354, guarantees to all countries free and unhindered navigation on the Rhine and Rhine ports, discharging places included, he will say what steps the Government: propose to take in order to protect the interests of British shippers, both from this country and other British Dominions?


His Majesty's Government have no information to the effect that the French and Belgian Governments have, in connection with the import and export duties imposed by them in the occupied territories, instituted a general prohibition of the discharge of lighters on the Rhine, or that they have insisted on ore-carrying lighters being entered at the French Custom House. Goods carried in such lighters are, however, presumably liable to the appropriate customs duties fixed by the French and Belgian Governments before entering the territories now occupied by those Governments, and the attitude of the German receivers is understood to be generally as stated by my hon. Friend.

While the Mannheim Convention prohibits the imposition of navigation dues, it does not relieve traders from paying customs dues. As to the steps which His Majesty's Government propose to take to protect the interests of British shippers, I am unable to add anything to statements already published to the effect that if British traders will forward to the Board of Trade, or to the British High Commissioner at Coblenz, full particulars of the cases in which difficulty is experienced, every effort will be made to assist them.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, were the policy of the French insisted upon, it would result in the closing down of many ore mines within the British Dominions, with the result that some thousands of men would be thrown out of employment?


Yes, I am aware of that fact.

59. Mr. LEACH

asked the Prime Minister if he has received complaints from British traders that since the French occupation of the Ruhr they have been asked to pay a 10 per cent.ad valorem duty on their goods to the French authorities, after meeting all the. German duties and before such goods could be released; and if he will cause representations to be made to the French Government on the matter?


I should be obliged if the hon. Member would be good enough to put his question down again as I am in communication with His Majesty's High Commissioner at Coblenz with regard to this matter, and I have not yet received his reply?

Captain W. BENN

(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether he will make immediate representations to the French and Belgian Governments to the effect that all goods, both for export from and import into the occupied territories, at present ready for shipment in transit, or contracted for which are British owned or for British order should. be allowed to enter or leave the occupied territories on licences issued by the German authorities paying dues levied in accordance with the scales already laid down by the German Customs?


His Majesty's Government have been in constant communication with our representative on the Rhineland High Commission with a view to arrangements for facilitating British trade, and it is hoped that such arrangements will shortly be successfully concluded. We are communicating today with the High Commissioner in regard to the hon. and gallant Member's question.

Captain BENN

Is it not a fact that this same suggestion was put some days ago by the British Chamber of Commerce in Cologne to the Foreign Office, has no action between taken, and are not British traders daily suffering severe losses?


I am sure that British traders must be suffering losses, hut, as regards goods in transit, I think it, necessary to communicate with the High Commissioner in order to get to know what are the facts.


Is it not a fact that the steamship "Badenia" was stopped on the high seas in transit from Cologne to Great Britain, and has the right hon. Gentleman had any representations made to him on that point?


No, none.

Captain BENN

Would the right hon. Gentleman be prepared to give an answer to-morrow?


Yes, if we have had the reply.