HC Deb 13 March 1939 vol 345 cc20-4
11. Sir William Davison

asked the Prime Minister what action is being taken by the British Government, in view of the loans recently made by Great Britain to Czecho-Slovakia, as to the demand on the part of the German Government upon Czecho-Slovakia to transfer a large amount of gold from the reserves of the Czecho-Slovak National Bank to the Reichsbank; and whether similar demands are being made by Hungary and Poland?

37. Sir Walter Smiles

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the claim made by Germany for part of the gold reserve of Czecho-Slovakia, any additional conditions will be attached to the gift and loan from the United Kingdom to Czechoslovakia to prevent any of that money going to Germany?

Mr. Butler

The proposal to which my hon. Friend refers is concerned with the reserve of the National Bank of Czechoslovakia as it stood at the time of the cession of territory by Czecho-Slovakia to Germany, before the advance of£10,000,000 had been made by the Bank of England to the National Bank. The Czecho-Slovak Government have, moreover, undertaken that the advance already made and the sterling proceeds of the guaranteed loan which it is proposed to issue, in so far as they are not used for actual expenditure in foreign currencies, will be kept in sterling at the Bank of England. I regret that I have no information on the last part of the question.

Sir W. Davison

Is there not serious danger of the object of our loan of£10,000,000 being nullified by this transfer to the Reichsbank from the Bank of Czecho-Slovakia?

Mr. Butler

As I tried to explain in my original reply, the German proposal was with reference to the reserves of the National Bank of Czecho-Slovakia as they stood at the time of the cession of territory and before the advance was made.

Mr. Wedgwood Benn

Does it not amount to this—that we have to make good the losses which the Germans inflict on the Czechs?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir.

Sir W. Smiles

Does "foreign currency" include Reichsmarks?

Mr. Butler

I should want to investigate that question.

30. Mr. Cocks

asked the Prime Minister whether he has received a report from the British representative who has been sent to Prague to ascertain the facts concerning the Sudeten Germans who have been refused the right of option promised in the Munich Agreement; and whether he will state the nature of the report?

Mr. Butler

No special report on the subject has been called for, but, as a full statement on the position regarding the execution of Article 7 of the Munich Agreement would be somewhat long, I will, with the hon. Member' s permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.


Has not a British representative been sent to Prague for this purpose, as stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other night?

Mr. Butler

We have a representative in Prague but he has no specific mission in connection with this matter, although we get information about it from him.

Mr. Benn

The Sudeten Germans have, with our consent, been left to their fate?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir.

Mr. Ridley

Is it not a fact that Article 7 of the Munich Treaty has been seriously disregarded, and what steps are the Government proposing to take to see that it is observed?

Mr. Butler

I am circulating a long and careful statement in the Official Report, to which I would refer the hon. Member, but I would remind him that there was agreement on this matter between the Czech-Slovak and German Governments.

Miss Wilkinson

When are we to have notice of those frontiers which we are supposed to guarantee?

Following is the statement:

Article 7 of the Munich Agreement reads as follows: There will be a right of option into and out of the transferred territories, the option to be exercised within six months from the date of this Agreement. A German-Czecho-Slovak Commission shall determine the details of the option, consider ways of facilitating the transfer of population and settle questions of principle arising out of the said transfer

It does not contain any definition of the persons who were to enjoy the right of option, and the elaboration of the general principle laid down at Munich was left to the two countries directly concerned —Germany and Czechoslovakia. This is not to say that once the Munich Agreement had been signed, His Majesty's Government entirely disinterested themselves from the execution of the provisions concerning optants' On the contrary, they were anxious to see the right of option granted without discrimination and on as wide a basis as possible; and before the conclusion of the Optants' Agreement they took care to indicate both in Berlin and Prague the importance which they attached to this point. The German and Czecho-Slovak Governments were, however, under no obligation to accept the views of His Majesty's Government; and although regret may be felt at the restrictions which were placed upon the right of option, His Majesty's Government consider that the two Governments concerned were fully entitled to determine the details of the Agreement in whatever manner seemed to them most suitable. In addition there is no justification for the belief that the Czecho-Slovak Government were obliged to accept these restrictions. On the contrary, they were never anxious to see the right of option extended to persons of German race in the ceded territories. If only for economic reasons, they have all along wished to keep the number of optants as low as possible, since they realised the difficulty of establishing any further considerable volume of persons within their frontiers; and it is understandable that they should consider first the claims of persons of their own race.

Mr. Noel-Baker

(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether he can make a statement on the present situation in Slovakia?

The Prime Minister

On 10th March it was officially announced in Prague that the President of Czecho-Slovakia had dismissed from office the Premier of Slovakia, Dr. Tiso, and other members of his Government on the ground that certain factors in the Slovak Government had not been showing sufficient resistance to subversive activities and that the federal interests of the State were thereby threatened. On 11th March a new Slovak Government was appointed under the Premiership of M. Sidor, formerly the Slovak representative in the Central Government at Prague. According to our reports, only minor incidents have occurred at Bratislava during the last few days, and the situation there appears to be outwardly calm.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Has the Prime Minister had any confirmation of the news reported this morning, that Monsignor Tiso and the leader of the German Nazis in Czecho-Slovakia are on their way to Berlin to meet Herr Hitler, and that that has been officially announced in Berlin?

The Prime Minister

I have not received any such information.

Mr. Noel-Baker

If that should prove to be true, will His Majesty' s Government consider the matter and make representations in Berlin, in view of the promise of a guarantee of the frontiers of the Czecho-Slovakian State against unprovoked aggression which was contained in paragraph 6 of the Anglo-French proposals of 19th September, 1938?

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