HC Deb 17 March 1947 vol 435 cc20-2
25. Major Mott-Radclyffe

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement regarding the incidents which occurred in Sofia on 7th March and which caused a note of protest to be subsequently delivered by His Majesty's representative in Sofia upon the Bulgarian Government; and whether any reply has yet been received to this note.

Mr. McNeil

The Bulgarian Government announced on the morning of 7th March that the whole existing note issue was to be called in by 16th March. At the same time they informed the Office of the British Political Representative and other foreign Missions that all currency in their possession must be handed in to the National Bank by 6 p.m. that evening. All foreign Missions and private dwellings of members of the British Representative's staff were at once surrounded by uniformed and plain clothes Militia men, who interfered most discourteously with visitors to the British Representative's office, including the First Secretary to the French Legation, as well as with members of his staff. Meanwhile, the Governor of the Bulgarian National Bank refused to exchange currency held by the British Military Mission for new notes, and before exchanging any currency the Bulgarian authorities demanded to be satisfied that the Political and the Military Mission had acquired their funds in conformity with the Law of Foreign Currency. Eventually the Governor of the National Bank agreed to exchange about one third of the cash holdings of the British Missions.

A Note of protest was presented to the Bulgarian Government on 8th March by the British Chargé d'Affaires, as well as by the United States, French, Swedish, Swiss, Italian and Turkish Missions. No reply having been received to these Notes, a collectively signed Note was addressed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on nth March. A reply, which is in no sense satisfactory, has been received to this last Note, and His Majesty's Government are considering what action they should now take.

Major Mott-Radclyffe

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure this House that His Majesty's Government will not accept any unsatisfactory reply, in view of the entirely unjustified and high handed action on the part of the Bulgarian authorities?

Mr. McNeil

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Mack

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that gross exaggerations of trivial incidents like this—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh !"]—I repeat, gross exaggerations of trivial incidents like this are calculated only to undermine the integrity of the Bulgarian Government, who are doing all they possibly can to bring about proper relationships between their country and ours, and to carry out the terms of the Peace Treaty?

Mr. McNeil

I do not want to magnify this incident at all, but it is obviously improper and unfair to describe as trivial a situation where members of a mission enjoying diplomatic status are treated in such a fashion.

Mr. Boothby

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether similar treatment is accorded by the Bulgarian Government to the missions and legations of countries which are under the domination of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics?

Hon. Members


Mr. Philips Price

Has the right hon. Gentleman any information about currency speculation, which is said to have gone on in some foreign missions—not ours—in Bulgaria?

Mr. McNeil

I am concerned only with our mission. We made most rigorous inquiries, and I am satisfied that there were no transactions designed to make illegal profits from currency.