HC Deb 13 February 1947 vol 433 cc524-5
59. Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the total of blocked sterling balances as at 31st December, 1945, and 1946, respectively, showing the amounts owed at each date to each creditor country.

Mr. Dalton

I am considering bringing up to date the information on this subject published in December, 1945, in Cmd. 6707.

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

Can the Chancellor say how soon he will give this information, which would be of great assistance?

Mr. Dalton

I am anxious to publish it soon. It is a question of getting the best arrangements.

Mr. Walter Fletcher

Will the Chancellor publish the terms and conditions under which the sterling balances were created. because they vary very considerably?

Mr. Dalton

I will have to look at that; it is a different matter.

61. Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will give an assurance that no agreement for the settlement of the blocked sterling balances of any creditor country will be finalised until it has been submitted to and approved by this House.

Mr. Dalton

No, Sir.

Mr. W. Fletcher

Does not the Chancellor realise that this answer is similar to the very evasive answer which he gave me the other day on another Question? It leaves great doubt in the minds of the people regarding the negotiations now going on in India regarding the sterling balances there; and before a final conclusion is reached, this House should know what is happening in the matter.

Mr. Dalton

I do not think that "No, Sir" is an evasive answer. I am following here a very excellent practice which previous Governments have followed in this respect. Where negotiations take place on such a matter, His Majesty's Government take the responsibility to settle them. Then they report the settlement to the House of Commons, the settlement can be debated and, if the House disapproves, the Government can be removed from office. [Hon. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] There are a number of hypothetical elements in that. We cannot possibly slow up the work of government in order to bring things here before we settle them. We will settle them first, and take the judgment of the hon. Member afterwards.

Mr. Fletcher

Does not the Chancellor agree that this answer is quite different from the one he gave me the other day. when he said that before a final settlement was made there would be placed before the House details of what happened during the negotiations?

Mr. Dalton

We will keep the House informed, but we will take our own responsibilities on our own shoulders