HC Deb 06 April 1939 vol 345 cc2996-9
Mr. Greenwood

(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether he has any statement to make on the international situation, with special reference to the conversations now proceeding with the Polish Foreign Minister and to the recent visit of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade to foreign capitals?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, I can give the House the following account of the conversations with the Polish Foreign Minister. The account has been framed jointly by M. Beck on behalf of the Polish Government and the Foreign Secretary and myself on behalf of His Majesty's Government. The conversations with M. Beck have covered a wide field and shown that the two Governments are in complete agreement upon certain general principles.

It was agreed that the two countries were prepared to enter into an agreement of a permanent and reciprocal character to replace the present temporary and unilateral assurance given by His Majesty's Government to the Polish Government. Pending the completion of the permanent agreement, M. Beck gave His Majesty's Government an assurance that the Polish Government would consider themselves under an obligation to render assistance to His Majesty's Government under the same conditions as those contained in the temporary assurance already given by His Majesty's Government to Poland.

Like the temporary assurance, the permanent agreement would not be directed against any other country but would be designed to assure Great Britain and Poland of mutual assistance in the event of any threat, direct or indirect, to the independence of either. It was recognised that certain matters, including a more precise definition of the various ways in which the necessity for such assistance might arise, would require further examination before the permanent agreement could be completed.

It was understood that the arrangements above mentioned should not preclude either Government from making agreements with other countries in the general interest of the consolidation of peace.

With regard to the journey of my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Department for Overseas Trade, he has visited Warsaw, Moscow, Helsingfors and Stockholm. At Warsaw he was able to clear up a number of difficulties which had arisen in the working of the trade agreement with Poland and to discuss with the Ministers concerned the development of Polish industrial equipment. At Moscow my right hon. Friend discussed the general economic relations between our two countries and was able to obtain the consent of the Soviet Government for the opening in London of negotiations for a new agreement. As the result of conversations at Helsingfors and Stockholm it was agreed that deputations of industrialists should be sent at an early date to London with a view to devising practical methods of increasing our exports to Finland and Sweden.

I should like to take this opportunity of expressing on behalf of His Majesty's Government my appreciation of the hospitality which was extended to my right hon. Friend's delegation and the helpful way in which the Governments concerned co-operated in making his tour a success.

Mr. Greenwood

May I ask the Prime Minister whether, on completion of the discussions with Colonel Beck, it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to use what influence they have to get similar reciprocal arrangements between the French and the Polish Governments; and on the completion of this Agreement does the right hon. Gentleman then propose to proceed swiftly to that wider basis of association which on this side of the House we regard as essential and fundamental?

The Prime Minister

In regard to the first question, I think the arrangements already existing between Poland and France are practically similar to those which are contemplated between the Polish and British Governments. With regard to the second supplementary question, it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to proceed with the consultations and communications which have already been begun with other Governments.

Mr. Greenwood

With reference to the Trade Agreement part of the answer, I assume that the missions which are coming over here will be coming here pretty quickly, and that the House will have an early opportunity of understanding the course of those discussions?

The Prime Minister

I could not at the moment say exactly when they may be expected to come over, but the House will be kept fully informed.

Mr. Benn

Has it been decided what does constitute a threat to Polish independence?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. As I said in the statement I made, that will be the subject of further discussion between the representatives of the Polish Government and ourselves.

Sir P. Harris

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that at an early date staff conversations will be initiated with Poland in which France can take part; and, further, will he assure the House that during these discussions friendly contact is kept with Russia?

The Prime Minister

With regard to the first part of the question, I am not in a position to give an assurance of that specific character, but I think the hon. Baronet may rest assured that when this Agreement is completed, or while this Agreement is being completed, we shall take all the steps that seem to us necessary to make it effective. As regards the other question, my Noble Friend is keeping in close touch with the Soviet Ambassador.

Mr. Boothby

Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us with what other Governments consultations are taking place?

The Prime Minister

I think that might be misleading, because although we have begun consultations with other Governments it does not follow that that is the end. There are a number of Governments we wish to consult.

Mr. Noel-Baker

May we be assured that the Foreign Secretary will be in con-tact with the Soviet Government during the Easter holidays, these 10 days, which may be very dangerous days?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that my Noble Friend intends to keep in close touch with the Soviet Ambassador, but I am not going to tie him down by saying that he is going to see him every day.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Are the United States Government being kept fully informed of these consultations?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Week ending 11th March, 1939 Estimated annual cost of outdoor relief in money or in kind to old age pensioners and their dependants falling to be met out of rates and the Block Grants.
Number of old age pensioners to whom outdoor relief in money and kind was granted during the week Number of dependants of persons in Col. 1 other than those who are them-selves in receipt of old age pensions Total cost of outdoor relief in money or in kind granted to persons accounted for in Cols. 2 & 3 Amount Equivalent rate in the pound
1 2 3 4 5 6
COUNTIES. £ £ s. d.
Aberdeen 247 145 93 4,849 2.7
Angus 265 41 80 4,171 5.0
Argyll 320 50 91 4,745 5.8
Ayr 1,701 232 535 27,896 10.1
Banff 150 64 45 2,346 8.3
Berwick 73 13 29 1,512 4.1
Bute 83 6 23 1,199 5.2
Caithness 146 38 53 2,764 1 7.8
Clackmannan 65 14 17 886 3.3
Dumfries 157 71 55 2,868 3.3
Dunbarton 722 161 269 14,026 7.3
East Lothian 323 46 92 4,797 6.4
Fife 1,187 223 283 14,756 6.2