Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, 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, 1942, for the expenses in connection with His Majesty's Embassies, Missions and Consular Establishments Abroad, and
other expenditure chargeable to the Consular Vote; certain special grants and payments, including grants in aid; and sundry other services.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Richard Law)
I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee if I gave a brief explanation of this Supplementary Estimate. The first item is an increase in the contribution of His Majesty's Government towards the funds of the International Red Cross. I do not think that it is really necessary to explain to the Committee the very great value of the work which is being done by the Red Cross. It is of the greatest help in the sending of parcels to prisoners of war and facilitating communications between prisoners and residents at home and a great many other works. I am sure that relatives, and this country generally, are under considerable indebtedness to the International Red Cross Society for the work that they have done. This work has to be financed. It is financed in the main by the International Red Cross itself, but there are contributions also from the various belligerent Governments. The cost of this work does not go down but increases all the time. We have decided to give an additional grant of £12,500 towards this work, and I hope that the Committee will not feel that this is wrong.
The second item is the grant-in-aid towards the relief of distress in. China. Last year His Majesty's Ambassador in Chungking drew the attention of His Majesty's Government to the very great difficulty which the Chinese Red Cross was experiencing from lack of transport; and in answer to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker), my right hon. Friend said that we were going to give the sum of £50,000 to help the Chinese with their transport difficulties. That sum is being administered by the British Fund for the Relief of Distress in China, in co-operation with a Committee set up for the purpose by His Majesty's Ambassador at Chungking for assisting the distress of British and Chinese nationals. The Friends' Ambulance Unit, incidentally, provides the personnel for ambulances.
The final item is an anticipated saving on the grant-in-aid to the British Council. I think the Committee generally are agreed that the British Council does very valuable work, and the fact that there is this reduction does not mean that that 1214 work has become any less valuable or that it is any the less appreciated. It is simply that owing to the developments of the war the activities of the British Council in several parts of the world have been reduced, notably in the Balkans, and the reduction of the work in the Balkans has caused the reduction in the Estimate.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
The Committee will agree with the hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to the excellent work done by the International Red Cross. He made one remark that intrigued me when he stated that contributions were being made from the various belligerent Governments, and I was wondering what is the basis of contribution. Is it based upon the number of prisoners of war or upon the population of these particular countries?
§ Mr. Law
I am afraid that I cannot tell the hon. Member exactly what the basis is or exactly what are the contributions of the belligerent Governments compared with that of the British Government; but I can assure him that, generally speaking, there is an equality and that our contribution is very much on a level with that of other Governments.
§ Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
Can my hon. Friend say whether any of the extra contribution will be required in connection with the distribution of food in Greece under the supervision of the International Red Cross, and whether, if that is so, he is satisfied that there will be complete control by the International Red Cross of the food that is distributed by the Red Cross in Greece? I would also like to know whether the International Red Cross is operating in all the countries occupied by the three enemies at the present time.
§ Mr. Law
With regard to the first point of my hon. Friend, the grant in aid is specifically directed towards the relief of the distress of prisoners of war, and I do not think it applies to the question of foodstuffs for Greece. The International Red Cross operates in all occupied countries in Europe. The situation is a little obscure with regard to the Far East. The International Red Cross, as my hon. Friend is aware, operates under the Prisoners of War Convention. The Japanese are signatories to the Convention, but they have never ratified it, and we do not yet know, though we have asked 1215 them, whether they intend to observe it or not. We cannot really tell, until we know this, what the position will be in the Far East as far as the Japanese are concerned. I can assure him that the International Red Cross are very much alive to the importance of the Far East and that they are doing everything they can to regularise the position there.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, 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, 1942, for the expenses in connection with His Majesty's Embassies, Missions and Consular Establishments Abroad, and other expenditure chargeable to the Consular Vote; certain special grants and payments, including grants in aid; and sundry other services.