HC Deb 05 March 1934 vol 286 cc1582-4

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £9,000, be granted to His Majesty to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1934, for a Contribution towards the Expenses of the League of Nations and for other expenses in connection therewith, including British Representation before the Permanent Court of International Justice.

5.42 p.m.


The sum of £138,000 was provided in the 1933 Estimate for the payment of His Majesty's Government's contribution to the League of Nations, at a rate of exchange of 17.55 gold francs to the £. In actual fact a payment of approximately 40 per cent. of the contribution was made in May, 1933, at a rate of 17.33 gold francs to the £, and the balance was paid last October at a rate equivalent to 15.88 gold francs to the £. These payments, therefore, were unfortunately, at rates less favourable than the rate assumed in the Estimate, and the result has been that the provision of £138,000 has proved inadequate to the extent of £9,000. I have, therefore, to ask the Committee for this additional sum to meet that position.

5.43 p.m.


This Supplementary Estimate asks for a further £9,000 in respect of this country's contribution to the League of Nations. On page 10 of the Estimate, hon. Members will see this explanation: The contribution of His Majesty's Government, which is fixed in gold francs, has not been increased, but, in consequence of the rise in the value of the gold franc, the sterling cost of meeting this contribution is in excess of the amount originally estimated. The Lord Privy Seal has referred to this fact, but what we are not told in the White Paper, nor have we been reminded of it by the Lord Privy Seal, is that, if other countries paid their due contributions——


That does not arise on this occasion. The hon. Member can raise it on the main Estimate.


I would respectfully point out that if in fact these other contributions were paid this Supplementary Estimate would not be necessary, and I suggest that on these grounds——


I do not see how the hon. Member can put that case forward. An original Estimate is made for £138,000 at a certain rate of exchange. The rate of exchange then becomes more unfavourable. It seems to me that the hon. Member's argument might be in order on the original Estimate whether we ought to have given so much, but he cannot raise that point now.


When the original Estimate was submitted, no specific rate of exchange was mentioned. Therefore, surely my hon. Friend is entitled to say that, if contributions had been paid by other members of the League, this Supplementary Estimate would not now be before the Committee?


I think not. When the original Estimate was made, I do not know at what rate of exchange it was calculated, but that was the time to argue that if other members of the League of Nations had paid their contributions the amount now asked from this country would not be so large.


Do I understand you to rule that, while the Committee are entitled to vote against the Motion, they are not entitled to urge any reason why they should do so?


If the hon. Member can explain why the exchange has altered, he might be able to get that in. That is the sole issue in the Estimate.

Captain EVANS

As we are unable to raise the larger and more important issue whether it is desirable or not that the taxpayer should be called upon to make a large contribution to the League of Nations when other nations are in default, may I ask the Lord Privy Seal whether he has any evidence at all that other nations are making similar provision to make up the difference on the basis of the gold franc in the same way as we are? I think we are the only important member of the League which is so anxious to take the earliest possible step to make up this difference.


If the hon. Member opposite votes against the Government on this matter, surely he will be voting against it because the exchange has gone the wrong way.


All subscriptions are paid, if paid at all, in gold francs. If any other country is similarly circumstanced to ours in respect of their currency, they must take similar action.

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