HC Deb 28 February 1945 vol 408 cc1355-7
1. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will inquire, and inform the House, as to the basis upon which compensation to the Primitiva Gas Company has been computed; and whether any representations have been made to the Argentine Government on the matter.

2. Dr. Russell Thomas

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware of the anxiety caused to some thousands of British shareholders by the methods adopted by the Argentine Government to obtain possession of the assets of the Primitiva Gas Company of Buenos Aires; and what steps he proposes to take in the matter.

3. Wing-Commander James

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that without drawing up an inventory of the company's assets, the Argentine authorities are claiming to take possession of the Primitiva Gas Company's plant on the basis of a monetary deposit made by them, which bears no relation to book values and which is out of all relation to the present value of the installations, which, in spite of all war difficulties-, have continued successfully to provide the gas service to the city of Buenos Aires; and if he will make representations on the subject.

4. Mr. Moelwyn Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will take all possible steps to ensure that the Argentine Government are made aware that His Majesty's Government will resent any forced transfer of the assets of the British-owned Primitiva Gas Company until an inventory has been drawn up, a reasonable deposit based thereon made with the competent judicial authority, and arrangements agreed for the final determination of the purchase price by arbitration between experts appointed by both parties, in accordance with the laws in force in the Argentine at the date of the official notification of the intention of the Argentine Government to nationalise the gas service of Buenos Aires.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)

The Argentine authorities have been left in no doubt of the close attention with which His Majesty's Government are watching this case, as was made clear in the replies given to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Sir A. Pownall) and to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox) on 2nd May and on 14th June, 1944, respectively, to which I would refer my hon. Friends. His Majesty's Embassy at Buenos Aires have, naturally, reported on recent developments regarding the computation of the price to be paid for the company's installations in Buenos Aires. After the assurances which have been given to the company, His Majesty's Government expect and, I may add, indeed have no occasion to doubt, that, should the parties fail to agree as to price, the Supreme Court will award the final indemnity only after giving full weight to evidence presented by the company in support of its own computation of the value of the installations concerned.

Wing-Commander James

May we have an assurance that on the outcome of this affair, which I have no doubt will be a happy one, the Government will base their post-war agreement with the Argentine Government?

Mr. Eden

It is a little difficult to visualise the outcome of negotiations which have not yet concluded, but, provided His Majesty's Government consider that the final indemnity award is definitely inadequate and that in their view, for one reason or another, there has been a miscarriage of justice, we shall take account of that in our post-war dealings with the Argentine.