HC Deb 10 December 1945 vol 417 cc28-30
80. Mr. P. Freeman

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any Government programme of help from U.N.R.R.A. has been arranged for Austria; and, if not, will he consider the desirability of putting a temporary emergency programme into operation forthwith in view of the position threatening this country during the coming winter.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. McNeil)

I understand that U.N.R.R.A. has not yet received a definite invitation from the Allied Council in Austria to undertake relief and rehabilitation operations in Austria. As a first step, however, the Allied Council recently invited U.N.R.R.A. to send a technical fact-finding mission to Austria. This mission is still actively exploring the problem in consultation with the Allied authorities in that country. The delay in the issue of an invitation and in the drawing up of a programme by U.N.R.R.A. has been partly due to uncertainty which still exists as to the future availability of U.N.R.R.A.'s resources. I know that the administration is nevertheless fully alive to the urgency of the need, and as soon as the invitation has been issued and the necessary funds are known to be available no time will be lost in beginning operations.

Mr. Freeman

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this is one country, if not the only country in Europe, which is not receiving direct help from U.N.R.R.A., and would not an emergency plan for this country put into operation now help there more than in any other country?

Mr. McNeil

I am sorry, but the two conditions to which I have drawn the hon. Member's attention would prevent that taking place, but I promise him that as quickly as they are overcome we will begin operations in Austria.

Mr. Warbey

Will the Foreign Secretary instruct the British representative on the Allied Commission for Austria to urge that an official invitation shall be given to U.N.R.R.A. to come into Austria and operate there?

Mr. McNeil

My right hon. Friend will, of course, consider that, but that is only one of the two qualifications which must be fulfilled.

Mrs. Middleton

Is the Under-Secretary taking into account the fact-finding mission, so that we may know what they have found, in view of it being pretty well known all over Europe that there is a considerable degree of hunger, if not actually starvation, in Austria at the present time?

Mr. McNeil

The conclusions of the fact-finding mission will be very quickly available.

Mr. Stokes

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether, in view of the fact that it is well known in responsible quarters that this invitation is going to be issued, and the urgency of the matter, he will do all he can to remove whatever obstruction there is in the way of the invitation being issued?

Mr. McNeil

I need not point out to my hon. Friend that the second qualification relates to finance.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the position in Austria has been seriously aggravated by the size of the Occupation Forces, and, pending this agreement, cannot the situation be relieved by a reduction of the number of the Occupation Forces? Is there any hope of that?

Mr. McNeil

That is plainly quite another question, which I am sure my hon. Friend would not expect me to answer without notice.