HC Deb 26 September 1939 vol 351 cc1216-7
Mr. Pethick-Lawrence

(by Private Notice) asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether there is any, and if so what, time limit permitted for the surrendering of foreign currency to the Treasury under the Defence (Finance) Regulations?

Sir J. Simon

No, Sir, no delay is permitted. I must emphasise the importance of prompt compliance with the Regulations, under which every person resident in the United Kingdom is under immediate obligation to offer forthwith for sale to the Bank of England for the Treasury any of the following currencies which he may possess:

American or Canadian dollars,

French francs,

Swiss francs,

Belgium francs,

Dutch guilders,

Swedish or Norwegian crowns,

Argentine pesos.

Every person who has not already done so should immediately give his bankers the necessary instructions. If any person has no bank and is uncertain exactly what to do, any bank is in a position to advise him. The above applies both to amounts held on 2nd September, and to any amount since received, or which may be received in future, by way of payment for exports or otherwise. Cash payment will be made in sterling for all foreign currencies sold to the Bank of England on the basis of the official rates published daily in the Press. I must make clear that the obligation applies to private individuals as well as to firms and companies; they are not entitled to retain holdings in the currencies named, whether for the purpose of carrying on their business or otherwise, without special permission. Failure to comply with this obligation may entail heavy penalties. I need not add that it is most desirable in the national interest that the Treasury should receive the full amounts available. What I have said of the currencies in question applies equally to gold coin and bullion. Small amounts of token coin (that is, coin other than American or Canadian dollars) need not be offered for sale as above.

Mr. Bellenger

Does the right hon. Gentleman's reply also refer to bank deposits that may be held abroad by British citizens?

Sir J. Simon

Yes. Certainly it applies to any foreign currency which British residents here control.

Mr. Bellenger

Would that mean that bank deposits would come under this rule?

Sir J. Simon

If, for example, a British trading firm has an account in New York in which it is holding dollars, those dollars so held in New York are within these Regulations, and should all be reported.

Colonel Nathan

Will this apply to persons resident here irrespective of whether they are themselves British or not?

Sir J. Simon

I am greatly obliged to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. The expression in the answer was "Persons resident in the United Kingdom." There is no exemption in the Regulation for any person who is resident here but who is not British. If they reside here, I think everybody will agree that they ought to come within the scope of this Regulation.

Mr. Thorne

What are you going to do with the defaulters? How are you going to exercise authority?

Sir J. Simon

There are specific penalties provided.

Mr. Thorne

Put them into operation.