HC Deb 20 March 1945 vol 409 cc610-2
14. Mr. Graham White

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare if he is in a position to make any statement on the discussion of economic matters which has recently taken place with the Swiss Government.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare (Mr. Dingle Foot)

Yes, Sir. As has already been announced, the principal subjects raised in these discussions were the remaining Swiss exports to Germany; transit traffic on Swiss railways between Germany and Northern Italy; Swiss exports of electricity; the steps which have been or will be taken by the Swiss Government to prevent looted property being concealed in Switzerland; the supply of food and raw materials to Switzerland from overseas and how such supplies could be transported to the Swiss frontier. On all these matters complete agreement was reached between the Swiss Government on the one side and the British, American and French Delegations on the other. Although these negotiations, like earlier negotiations with neutral countries, were handled by my Department on behalf of His Majesty's Government, I should like to make it clear that these recent discussions at Berne were by no means confined to questions of economic warfare. We were also concerned with the part which Swiss industry will be able to play in the reconstruction of Europe. I can assure the House that the Swiss authorities were not only willing but eager that Switzerland should make the largest contribution in her power. Simultaneously with our negotiations a financial agreement was reached between the French and Swiss Governments which I understand will greatly facilitate trade between the two countries. I would like to take this opportunity of expressing my most sincere thanks for the manner in which the Allied Delegations were received. Not only Swiss Ministers and officials but also members of the general public showed us the greatest courtesy throughout our visit.

Mr. Graham White

Is there any appointed day when the provisions of the agreement come into operation; also do they include the Principality of Lichtenstein?

Mr. Foot

Most of the measures covered by the agreement are already in force and others will be in force shortly. As regards the second part of the hon. Member's question, the Principality of Lichtenstein is also covered by the agreement in so far as it is appropriate and applicable.

Colonel Greenwell

In view of the satisfactory nature of these discussions, will the hon. Gentleman now be able to facilitate British firms getting into touch with Swiss firms with whom they previously had commercial relations with a view to enhancing our export business to the Continent?

Mr. Foot

That question should be addressed to the Board of Trade.

Mr. Edgar Granville

Did the discussions cover the supply of precision instruments for our war effort?

Mr. Foot

No, we were chiefly concerned with curtailing supplies to the enemy.