HC Deb 20 November 1947 vol 444 cc1336-7
56. Mr. Platts-Mills

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the £52,700,000 converted by Belgium in the period 1st January to 20th August, 1947, how much was by way of Belgian purchase of old sterling balances from other countries; and how much by way of old sterling balances in the hands of Belgian citizens.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)

It is impossible to relate the amount of sterling currently converted to the level of old sterling balances either in the hands of Belgian citizens or acquired by them from other countries. Of the sterling converted by Belgium between 1st January and 20th August, 1947, part accrued from current transactions with the sterling area and part from current transactions between Belgium and other countries. During the period 1st January to 31st August, 1947, Belgian sterling liabilities fell by £1.6 million.

Mr. Platts-Mills

Does that mean that to the extent that the right hon. Gentleman cannot ascertain this, certain Belgian financiers—mainly friendly Belgian financiers—taking advantage of the special terms of the financial agreement between their country and ours, bought up substantial sterling balances held in countries that had no such agreement, thereby equipping themselves the better to reduce our dollar balance?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

It would be unwise of my hon. Friend to assume anything of the kind. It would be better and, I think, right of him to assume what I have said in reply to his Question.

Colonel J. R. H. Hutchison

Under the terms of the agreement, have not the Treasury the right and duty of checking each demand for conversions of sterling to dollars, in order to satisfy themselves that in fact these dollars are being used for the purposes of the original loan?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

As the House will remember, these agreements on transferable accounts were come to, and to a certain extent we did rely, and do rely, on the country concerned, and to that extent, of course, they were not checked.