HC Deb 03 December 1946 vol 431 cc208-11
The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Dalton)

I beg leave to make a statement on the Anglo-American Agreement regarding the zones of occupation in Germany. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Mr. Byrnes, the American Secretary of State, have signed an agreement, which will be available, as a White Paper, in the Vote Office this afternoon. This agreement provides for the economic fusion of the British and American zones, as from 1st January, 1947, with the aim of making the combined area self-supporting by the end of 1949. There will be a joint Anglo-American Agency, which will deal with the imports and exports of the combined area, in which shall be established a common standard of living, including food rations. The imports will include necessary raw materials to enable the area to recover and to produce an export income. Insofar as exports from the combined area fall short of imports, the deficit will be met, subject to some minor adjustments relating to past transactions, by His Majesty's Government and the United States Government in equal shares. The costs incurred by the two Governments for their separate zones up to the 1st January, 1947, and for the combined zone thereafter, shall be recovered from future German exports in the shortest practicable time consistent with the rebuilding of the Germany economy on healthy, but non-aggressive, lines. Barriers in the way of German export trade will be removed as rapidly as world conditions permit.

The joint Anglo-American Agency will be responsible for determining German import requirements. They will be procured from the most economical sources of supply, subject to so selecting these sources as to economise the dollar cost to the United Kingdom. The food ration of 1,550 calories for the normal German consumer must be accepted for the present, but will be raised to 1,800 calories as soon as conditions of world supply permit.

The two Governments intend that this arrangement shall operate, pending an agreement, for the treatment of Germany as an economic unit, or until amended by mutual agreement, but it shall be subject to review at yearly intervals.

Mr. Eden

While welcoming the fact of this economic agreement for the fusion of the American and British zones, we should like, as the right hon. Gentleman will realise, to see the White Paper before expressing any detailed opinions; and it may be that we should like a Debate on the subject, though that will be a question for the Leader of the House. There is one question I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman now, which, I have no doubt, is very much in the mind of the Government, and that is in respect of our dollar resources In connection with this scheme, have the Government taken any precautions, and, if so, what precautions, for our own safeguard and protection should our dollar resources run low before the zone becomes self supporting, as it is hoped it may do?

Mr. Dalton

Yes, Sir. As to the Debate, that is a question which, of course, as the right hon. Gentleman said, should be addressed to the Leader of the House. I would say that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who, I hope, will be back again in a few days, would, no doubt, welcome an opportunity for this matter to be discussed at an appropriate time. On the matter of dollar costs, the agreement provides for the amendment of the agreement itself by mutual consent. It also provides for annual revision. If our dollar resources should so decline as to make it impossible for us to find the dollars required under the agreement, we should need that to be taken into account when reviewing the matter, so that steps could then be taken to meet the resulting situation. The United States Government have been so informed.

Mr. Gordon-Walker

Could the right hon Gentleman say whether this decision affects the socialisation of the Ruhr industries?

Mr. Dalton

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary stated the policy of His Majesty's Government on this subject on 22nd October in this House. This is what he said: As an interim measure, we have taken over the possession and the control of the coal and steel industries, and have vested them in the Commander-in-Chief. We shall shortly take similar action in the case of the heavy chemical industry and the mechanical engineering industry. Our intention is that those industries should be owned and controlled in future by the public The exact form of this public ownership and control is now being worked out. They should be owned and worked by the German people, but subject to such international control that they cannot again be a threat to their neighbours."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd October. 1946; Vol. 427, c. 1521 and 1522] That is what my right hon. Friend said. That policy still stands. It is not in any way prejudiced by the agreement. The United States Government have been so informed.

Mr. Eden

May I ask another question on the statement? The right hon. Gentleman said that the Joint Anglo-American Agency will be responsible for determining German import requirements. To whom will that Agency be responsible? Will it be responsible to the two Commanders-in-Chief, or to some Minister here or in America, or to the two Governments, or to whom?

Mr. Dalton

That goes a little wide. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would read the White Paper in which these matters are set out, I hope, with clarity, and at greater length than that at which I have explained them this afternoon. In the last resort, responsibility must be that of Ministers, British and American Ministers acting in collaboration. Perhaps we can consider the detailed application of that principle if a Debate takes place.

Mr. Julius Silverman

Would the Chancellor of the Exchequer tell us what is the estimated cost of our half share? What are the joint expenses estimated to be?

Mr. Dalton

No estimate is included in the White Paper, but the basis of discussion has been that we might hope that the total expenditure, Anglo-American expenditure, equivalent to £250,000,000 over three years, would put the combined area on a self-sufficient basis. That covers the whole thing—£250,000,000 shared between us over a period of three years. That is the estimate. Of course, I emphasise that it is an estimate. We must see how we can go.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

I am sorry to intervene now, but we have had an hour of a great many supplementary questions of extraordinary length. Now that we have a White Paper before us on this matter, is it not, therefore, really better, on the whole, that we should read the White Paper, before asking many questions about it?

Mr. Kirkwood

Going back to the right hon. Gentleman's reply, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, if I heard him aright, that in the Ruhr the Germans, who lost the war, are to have their steelworks nationalised. We, who won the war, have not done so.

Mr. Boothby

There is only one point I should like to put, and that is, whether the right hon. Gentleman could tell us whether anything in this agreement prejudices our plans for the reorganisation of the zone, such as, for instance, the appointment of a resident Minister? Is there anything in the agreement that prejudices our plans in that direction?

Mr. Dalton

No, Sir. They are not prejudiced at all.