§ 30. Mr. MANDER
asked the Prime Minister the present position with regard to holding an international conference for dealing with matters of currency, finance, reparations, inter-allied debts, and other matters of mutual concern?
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Chamberlain)
I have been asked to reply. The policy of His Majesty's Government is that a comprehensive and permanent settlement of the reparation question must be reached as soon as possible. We believe, as successive Governments of this country have believed in the past, that this aim could best be realised by means of a general cancellation of reparations and war debts.
As soon as the report of the Basle experts was received at Christmas, we urged the necessity for the Governments to come together immediately to conclude a permanent settlement of the reparation 26 question on the basis of a frank recognition of the facts established in the unanimous report of the experts. But it became apparent that the present juncture was not favourable for a settlement on such a basis.
We accordingly expressed our willingness to agree to the postponement of the Inter-Governmental Conference till May or June, when we hoped that conditions might be more favourable for a permanent settlement. We also suggested that some provisional arrangement should be made covering the year commencing the 1st July next in case the Conference could not be concluded before the 30th June, when the Hoover moratorium will expire. An interchange of views on the subject has taken place with the French Government, but as it has not hitherto been found possible to secure full agreement in advance among the Governments chiefly concerned on the various arrangements which would be involved, it may prove to be the best course to reserve the whole question for settlement by the Conference when it meets.
In the meantime I would prefer to make no statement which might in any way render the task of the Conference more difficult.
There is, however, one further observation which I desire to make. The legal obligations of Germany are laid down by The Hague Agreements and cannot be altered or annulled by the unilateral action of Germany. That is clear: indeed, so far as I am aware, it has never been contested in any quarter. But it is equally clear, from the report of the Basle Committee, that Germany is not in a position to resume the fulfilment of these obligations and that consequently when the Creditor Governments come to consider future arrangements, that fact will assuredly have to be taken into account.