§ 11.49 p.m.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Lieut.-Colonel Colville)
I beg to move,That the Clearing Office (Rumania) Amendment Order, 1937, dated the first day of June, nineteen hundred and thirty-seven, made by the Treasury under the Debts Clearing Offices and Import Restrictions Act, 1934, a copy of which was presented to this House on the seventh day of June, nineteen hundred and thirty-seven, be approved.A word of explanation only is necessary. The House will recollect that a clearing system was set up with Rumania in June of last year. I need not enter now into the reasons for that. Circumstances have changed somewhat since the establishment of that system. The sterling receipts of the Clearing Office have very substantially exceeded what was then expected. Negotiations were entered into and a new agreement was signed in London. That agreement forms the Schedule to the Order which is now before the House. The new agreement makes some changes which are all beneficial. The allocation for the service of the British holdings of the Rumanian public debt remains unchanged, but, owing to the fact that there were larger sterling receipts than had been anticipated, a surplus over requirements is expected, from which £84,000 a year is to be taken for miscellaneous financial payments in this country. The limit on the amount allocated to short-term banking debts and 522 credits in favour of this country has been raised from £50,000 to £100,000. It has been agreed to continue the allocation for outstanding trade debts due to United Kingdom exporters at the rate of £400,000 a year. The proportion of the total receipts allotted to trade purposes should provide for a substantial increase in the amount of the United Kingdom export trade; but I would utter a word of warning to exporters not to rush too lightly into the trade, or without having due regard to every circumstance. Owing to the larger total receipts of the clearing, it has been possible to meet the request of the National Bank of Rumania for an increase in the free sterling placed at its disposal.
In general, it will be seen, the changes are not very great. As far as concessions are made to the Rumanian Government, they are justified by the larger volume of sterling receipts available, and essential United Kingdom requirements are fully met. Full provision is made to cover the service of British-held Rumanian bonds at the rates at present agreed on by the bondholders; the limit on the allocation to short-term banking debts to the United Kingdom has been extended to double the previous amount; there is an allocation for trade purposes which should enable an increase to take place in United Kingdom trade and provision has been made for a further substantial reduction of outstanding trade debts. I would be happy, if it were possible to remove the clearing arrangement altogether; but that is not feasible. It was necessary to keep it for reasons which the House knows, but I am glad to say the position has improved, and an agreement has been made which will, I think, provide more opportunities for trade with this country.
§ 11.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
These debt clearing arrangements are always complicated, but I understand that the relationship between Rumania and this country has so far improved that a better arrangement is being made in this case, than that which existed previously. I cannot say that I followed all the details of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's statement, but I gather that we are now importing from Rumania a considerably larger quantity of goods than heretofore, and that the payments, therefore, by British nationals into the Exchange Account are larger than they were in the past. The 523 effect is to enable outstanding liabilities of the Rumanian Government or the people of Rumania to British nationals to be met; hence this new agreement. If I have interpreted the position correctly, I do not think it is necessary at this stage to make any further statement upon it.
§ 11.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
I do not think there is any city in be country more interested in this clearing agreement than Bradford, but at this time of night one does not wish to enter into a discussion on the subject. We have been discussing the Factories Bill all day; we have had the Import Duties Order dealing with iron and steel and now we have this Motion. I am not complaining, but I would appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury to bring these matters on for discussion at a time when it would be possible to raise questions upon them, such as some of us would like to raise on this Motion. If that were done, it would be a great assistance to the House generally in the transaction of business. I hope the Treasury will see that the terms of the agreement are carried out. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman knows what has happened in the past in regard to certain agreements which we have signed. There was art occasion only a few weeks ago when a case was brought to the notice of the Board of Trade. I am not suggesting that it applies to this agreement, but, speaking generally, I think our commercial attachés in the different capitals should press upon Governments who have signed agreements with us the necessity for carrying out their contracts. As I say, I am not referring specially to this particular agreement, but I think there are cases in which a rather stiffer attitude should be adopted, on behalf of the traders of this country in seeing that agreements are carried out properly.
That the Clearing Office (Rumania) Amendment Order, 1937, dated the first day of June, nineteen hundred and thirty-seven, made by the Treasury under the Debts Clearing Offices and Import Restrictions Act, 1934, a copy of which was presented to this House on the seventh day of June, nineteen hundred and thirty-seven, be approved.