§ 35. Mr. Shinwell
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in future negotiations with the U.S.A. and other Governments on the subject of an international monetary agreement, he will stipulate that there must be nothing in the plan which will prevent this country from entering into reciprocal trade agreements with other countries either in the monetary or economic field; and how far such a stipulation would conflict with Section 3 of Clause IX of the experts Joint Statement (Cmd. 6519).
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir John Anderson)
I am obliged to my hon. Friend for giving me an opportunity for clearing up a possible ambiguity in my statement of 10th May, in which I think it would have been better if I had used the words, "reciprocal arrangements," instead of "reciprocal trade agreements." I had particularly in mind the monetary field, since the monetary plan does not, and could not, impose any restrictions outside that field. During the transitional period wide latitude for reciprocal agree- 331 ments in the monetary field is expressly reserved by Article X. At a later stage, when we are able to accept the full obligations of the scheme, there will still be nothing to prevent arrangements such as those governing what was known as the sterling area before the war. It was on this understanding, explicitly conveyed to the American experts, that the British experts approved the plan, and if there should be any doubt on the point, the plan would certainly have to be amended. Any further discussions will be subject to the same understanding.
§ Mr. Shinwell
In view of that amended statement, which qualifies considerably the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman in his reply to the Debate last week, how can we regard the assurances he gave then as satisfactory? In the circumstances, may I ask whether it would be possible to have a further discussion on this matter in order to clarify these ambiguities? Has it been made perfectly clear to the United States Government experts, or their administration officials, that this proviso is a definite part of any agreement into which we enter?
§ Sir J. Anderson
That has been made perfectly clear. I do not think it is quite right for the hon. Member to suggest that I have qualified considerably or substantially, what I have said. But it seemed to me, on reflection, that the words I used might have been interpreted as meaning that, having accepted the full obligations of the scheme, we, nevertheless, remained free to do what we liked, provided we could point to some agreement with some country or other. Of course, that would be absurd and is not what I meant. I was reaffirming the assurance which, I would remind the hon. Member, I had already given him on 27th April, in reply to a Question, when I said that there was nothing in the proposed scheme to preclude the continuance of the sterling area arrangements, and that this was recognised at the talks with the officials from the Dominions, who recorded their opinion unanimously to that effect. They saw nothing in the scheme to interfere with the continuance of the sterling area arrangements. I went on, in reply to a supplementary question, to say that my understanding certainly was that there was nothing in the scheme which would 332 prevent the continuance of the same close monetary and economic arrangements between this country and the Dominions, as had obtained in the past. I emphasise that, because I recognise that it is of importance that there should be no sort of ambiguity, or room for misunderstanding on this matter. The position was made perfectly clear to the Americans in connection with the discussions.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, since he made his statement on Wednesday, the reactions in the United States have been most unfavourable and that there is considerable ambiguity there, as regards the precise meaning of the acceptance of the Motion last week? In all the circumstances, would it not be better to face up to the matter again, so that we may be assured that there is no ambiguity in the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I think it would be well that Members should have an opportunity of seeing in print exactly what I have said now. I have done my best to remove any possible ambiguity. As regards the reaction on the other side, it may be that the course of the Debate on Wednesday invited the reaction. I say that that is all the more reason for going on with the consultations, and as I made clear, there are points on which, in the opinion of the Government, the document is capable of adjustment and improvement.
§ Mr. Stokes
The Chancellor speaks as if the Government have accepted the plan. In order to avoid ambiguity will he make it clear that there is no change from what he said in the Debate and that there has been no acceptance? Also, will he bear in mind that the scheme was condemned by every speaker in the Debate?
§ Mr. Edgar Granville
Is not part of the trouble, that one version is given in this country and another in America, and that this has created difficulties in both countries? Would it not have been better if an agreed communiqué had been arrived at, before a statement was made in both countries?
§ Sir J. Anderson
The statement of principles was an agreed statement, and I have done what I could to remove any possibility of misunderstanding.