HC Deb 19 March 1923 vol 161 cc2059-63

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that the London and Cologne Steamship Company, Limited, of London, have had to cancel all sailings, both inwards and outwards, between London and Cologne; that at the present time they have awaiting export to Cologne over 1,000 tons of goods, including Government stores for the Cologne British garrison, foodstuffs, and raw materials, the latter for factories in the Cologne area owned exclusively by British nationals; and, if so, does he intend to allow the complete stoppage of British export trade in this manner to continue?

Lieut.-Colonel BUCKLEY (Secretary, Overseas Trade Department)

I have been asked to reply. I am aware of the facts. His Majesty's Government have already made strong representations to the German Government regarding the conditions in Cologne, and the importance of facilitating in every way possible the passage of British trade inwards and outwards. Arrangements have been made by the War Office for the carriage of stores to and from the Rhine.


Is it the fact that ships arc travelling from Cologne or not?

Lieut.-Colonel BUCKLEY

I must have notice of that question.


Can the hon. And gallant Gentleman say whether any good results have come out of the representations he has made?

Lieut.-Colonel BUCKLEY

I hope to be able to say so in the course of the next few days.


Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware of the trouble caused by these Regulations?


Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the same answer was given to me a week ago by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and that the traders in Cologne complain that the position is quite unchanged?


Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said that this particular ship was despatched from Cologne? Does he know whether that is so or not?

23. Mr. MOREL

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that, owing to the embargo placed upon their property by the French military authorities at Ruhrort, a London firm of importers of sulphate of alumina are unable to fulfil their contracts at home, with the result that British chemical works they supply are likely to close down and throw several thousand men out of employment; that a London textile firm with £10,000 worth of textile goods, originally imported from Bradford and upon which the German duties have already been paid, is unable to export these goods from Cologne to Hamburg without paying a further 10 per cent. duty to the French military authorities; and that these eases are typical of a large number; if he will state whether His Majesty's Government are consenting parties to the position under which British commercial intercourse with Germany, within the boundaries of the German Republic as defined by the Treaty of Versailles, is subject to interference by, and to the payment of customs, taxes, and licences to, French or Belgian military authorities; and, if not, whether he will inform the House what measures His Majesty's Government propose to take on the matter of the principle involved, apart from representations in regard to particular cases of such interference?


I have no information respecting the cases to which the hon. Member refers. If details can be supplied, they shall be immediately investigated. With regard to the remainder of the question, His Majesty's Government have formally dissociated themselves from responsibility for the French and Belgian independent action and, as the House is aware, they are doing their utmost to secure concessions of principle that will ensure that the consequences of this action shall be as little prejudicial as possible to British trade.


My I take it from that answer that the Government do not accept the decision that the French military authorities have any right to interfere with British trade in a country not under French sovereignty?


I have already said that the Government have dissociated themselves from the action these two countries have taken in this matter, and the hon. Gentleman can draw what conclusion he considers well.

Captain BENN

Have the Government dissociated themselves from the French levying taxes on our traders?


Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggest that we have any power to prevent the French doing so?

33. Sir J. SIMON

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, before the recent advance of the French and Belgians into the Ruhr district, British goods imported into unoccupied Germany through the occupied area paid an import duty, collected by German officials of 10 per cent. ad valorem, whereas, as a consequence of the Franco-Belgian advance, they now are required to pay an import duty of 10 per cent. collected by French Customs officials on entering the occupied area, and a further duty of 10 per cent. collected by Gorman officials on entering the unoccupied area?

Lieut.-Colonel BUCKLEY

I have been asked to reply. Before the recent advance, duty on goods destined for unoccupied Germany was paid to German officials either at the frontier or at an internal Customs house, the duty being that fixed by the German Customs tariff according to the nature of the goods. At the present time goods which are not on the free list pay duty to the occupying authorities at the uniform rate of 10 per cent. ad valorem. I am informed that the early re-introduction of the German Customs tariff with some modification is being considered, and that the question of the levy of duties on goods in transit through the occupied areas to unoccupied Germany is also under consideration. I believe the German Government regard such goods as still liable to the duties of the German tariff, but I am not aware what steps are taken, in practice, by that Government to enforce payment of duty in unoccupied Germany on goods entering from the occupied areas.


Are we to understand from that answer that the Government is not prepared to deny that, under the new arrangements, an import duty is first collected by the French Government officials, and that a further duty of 10 per cent. is collected by the German Government officials?

Lieut.-Colonel BUCKLEY

So far as we know, there are no German Customs at all, either in the occupied or unoccupied territory. It is very difficult to get exact information, because the line is always changing as the French advance.


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, if he is aware that, despite the promises of the Franco-Belgian authorities that all goods sent forward before the 20th February on which export licences had been obtained and duties paid would be released forthwith, cabled advices are still coming to hand in London from British firms' representatives on the spot that it is impossible to move such goods owing to the attitude of the Franco-Belgian authorities; and, if so, does he intend to take action to protect the interests of British export and import trade?

Lieut.-Colonel BUCKLEY

I have been asked to reply. I am fully aware of the difficulties of trading with occupied Germany in present circumstances and His Majesty's Government are in constant communication with the French and Belgian Governments on the subject. If full particulars of individual eases are forwarded to the Board of Trade every effort will be made to obtain reasonable treatment where there is a British interest involved.

51. Colonel WEDGWOOD

asked the Prime Minister whether he will take every opportunity of trying to liberate British trade with the Rhineland and Germany from the hampering restrictions recently inflicted upon it; and will he make such efforts in connection with the evident desire of the French Government to secure our co-operation in dealing with the Turkish demands?

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Bonar Law)

His Majesty's Government are continuing to do everything possible in the direction suggested in the first part of the question. The Turkish reply to the peace terms offered at Lausanne is to be shortly discussed with the expert advisers of the French and other Allied Governments. I have no doubt that the Allies will, as heretofore, find themselves in agreement, and will continue to act in close co-operation in the matter.