§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
I find myself in some difficulty. I propose to raise a matter of some constitutional and financial importance which affects the Chancellor of the Exchequer and, naturally the rest of the Treasury, but I see no representative of the Treasury who can reply to the Debate, for the Economic Secretary has already spoken on this Motion. I very much hope that the Chancellor will join us before I have proceeded much further in my remarks.
§ Mr. Nicholson
I expect that he is drinking an extra strong glass of water. I am glad to see that the Chancellor has arrived. It raises my spirits.
In the last few weeks series of Questions in the House have aroused considerable public interest. They have been concerned with the workings of the exchange control in so far as it concerns France, which I need hardly remind hon. Members is a soft currency country with which we have a favourable balance of trade. These Questions have touched upon such various subjects as the tourist allowance of £35, the permission to transfer funds to France for the erection of war memorials in the case of at least two Divisions, and the gift by Scottish miners of £1,000 to Communist strike funds or similar quarters. They have concerned gifts and loans by the Trades Union Congress and by the Labour Party to La Force Ouvrière and a newspaper called Le Populaire.
The purpose of these Questions was not to badger Ministers but to elicit information. It has been a most laborious process of question and answer. Information has not seemed to be very ready to be elicited. It has reminded me of nothing more than trying to draw a reluctant cork 484 from a badly made bottle. But we have assembled enough information to entitle us to demand clarification and explanation from the Chancellor and, we hope, a retraction and recantation of the attitude which he has taken up.
Arising out of this information, we on this side of the House feel increasing uneasiness and disquiet under four main heads which I shall later elaborate. We feel that the administration of the exchange control in so far as it concerns France is confused and capricious. We feel that the answers given in the House have often been evasive and have sometimes lacked candour. We detect evidence that exchange control is manipulated with political bias. That is a very grave charge. And we want to know not some but all the truth. We want to know how far this contamination by political bias of the mechanism of exchange control has gone.
I should like to take the House briefly through this series of Questions which have been asked and answered. The first matter concerns tourist allowances, which I need not labour beyond saying that I derived the impression from the Chancellor that he was anxious that more sterling should be spent in France, but that the chief obstacle was an agreement with the Swiss Government which limited the amount of sterling to be spent in France. We had a series of Questions connected with war memorials for two Divisions. I would like to call the attention of the House to one or two phrases used by the Chancellor in reply. He said that these cases were not dealt with on the basis of merit. His words were:I am not dealing here with the merits of the cases but with the amounts of money."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 1074.]In a later answer not concerned with war memorials he pointed out that charities were rationed for this purpose by a quota. The third group of Questions concerns the case of the grant by the Scottish section of the National Union of Mineworkers of £1,000 to the Communist strike funds in France, ostensibly for the relief of suffering women and children.
§ Mr. Nicholson
I say "ostensibly," and if the hon. Member will restrain himself for a moment he will see that I am 485 using the word because of what the Chancellor himself said. That it was an extraordinary gift will be seen when I read the Chancellor's reply on this subject. He was asked what steps he had taken to concern himself that these funds will be used for charitable purposes, that is why I used the word "ostensibly." He said:I have taken no steps to that extent—except the statement and undertaking of the people who transmit them."—[OFFIctAt, REPORT, 11th November, 1948; Vol. 457, c. 1726.]Whereupon the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) made the typical and exceedingly appropriate remark of, "Up the Reds."
I do not wish to go into great detail over this extraordinary permission to allow funds to go through for this purpose while other and more pressing needs were rejected. So many cases have been brought forward and all are pressing needs. There are people who wish to go back to France, which is their native country, to retire. There are people who want to send money to old servants in France, and so on. I would refer to one particular case, which, if the right hon. Gentleman will read the "Glasgow Herald" of 27th November, he will see to be a very striking case. I wish to bring the House to the most startling and disquieting statement of all. On 30th November, the Chancellor was asked by the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor)the principles upon which he permits, or refuses, the transfer of money abroad by individuals or organisations for political purposes.There was such a startling, staggering answer that I ask the House to listen to it very carefully. The Chancellor said:All applications must be considered on their merits …"—and I would point out that I have just told the House that applications for war memorials are not considered on their merits. He went on to say:If there is no exchange difficulty, then, broadly speaking, I"—and I would ask the House to remember that he uses the word "I"—would approve contributions made for the purpose of strengthening the democratic forces in any country, and I would disapprove contributions made to organisations whose activities are hostile to that purpose."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 165.]486 That was a startling statement for many reasons. First, it showed that the principle of political discrimination had been introduced into exchange control. Secondly, it really was a rather stupid definition, because it did not seem to help him at all. It enabled him to be both Communist and anti-Communist at the same time, a very comfortable and convenient form of united front. Thirdly, it showed a departure from the traditional British attitude that we should not support, at the whim of a particular statesman as a member of a particular party, particular political parties in foreign countries. It has always been the tradition of this country that British statesmen in dealing with foreign Powers and countries have to regard themselves as the representatives of the nation and not as the representatives of a political party. I think when the significance of those words sink in hon. Members on both sides of the House will be amazed.
Then I would call attention to another series of Questions and answers last Thursday, 2nd December. This concerned the gifts to Le Populaire and the loans to Force Ouvriere. It came out that the Trade Union Congress had lent £5,000 to La Force Ouvriere and that the Labour Party had presented £1,000 to Le Populaire. Those facts did not emerge in this country, but in the French Chamber. If it had not been for Communists in the French Chamber making a fuss about it and saying that they were not allowed to receive funds from Russia and why should their Socialist competitors receive funds from the Labour Party in this country, we in this House and this country would not have known anything about it. It is a hole and corner matter.
I do not propose to lead the House through all the questions and answers but there is one sentence which is too good to miss, enunciated by the Financial Secretary. He said:The purpose of the applications in each case was to strengthen the financial position of the institutions concerned.It is a phrase which I shall use when I try to borrow five bob from anybody in the future. But there are certain points. The Financial Secretary said that what the Chancellor had done was to: 487follow the usual practice and treat these transactions as they come on their merits."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd December, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 2177–8–9.]"On their merits." Political questions are treated on their merits. Political applications are treated on their merits but applications for war memorials, and possibly other applications, are not treated on their merits. That emerges quite clearly from these questions.
Then there were Questions yesterday which seem to merit some attention. The Chancellor was asked:To what extent he personally investigates and approves the authorisation of every transfer…I asked him this Question and in reply he said:I accept full personal responsibility for all decisions taken by the Treasury.That, of course, is not the answer to my Question and I pointed that out. Then he said:I am afraid it is not possible, because in the ordinary course of administration some cases may be decided in one way and some in another.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Tuesday, 7th December, 1948; Vol. 459, c. 270.]The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) pointed out the extraordinary implication of those words. The Chancellor said that civil servants took these decisions. In many cases a civil servant is deputed to decide political applications on their merits. I think that is a very serious state of affairs.
I do not wish to say any more about the war memorials because the Chancellor has, very rightly, in my opinion, recanted. He has seen that his refusal to allow funds for that purpose was contrary to public sentiment. Whether he has been convinced himself or not I do not know. But I congratulate him, and I hope I shall induce him to retract the extraordinary statement he made about allowing applications for political purposes to be decided according to his own whim and personal views.
I wish to elaborate the nature of our anxieties. First, as to the administrative muddle. It is quite clear that too many people are involved, that decisions are not consistent, and that they are capricious. We are also worried that civil servants should have to exercise 488 political discrimination. Or do they? Or is it the Chancellor himself who decides in the political cases? We are worried because the whole thing is wrapped in administrative secrecy. They are matters which concern the whole public of this country. If I apply to send my grandmother to the mountains to recover from bronchitis it is a private matter and no business of the general public. But it is the business of the general public where political matters are concerned and when the Government are involved in effect, in subsidising political parties in another country.
There can be no room for secrecy there. Secrecy there is a crime. I think that all of us are worried about the evasiveness and lack of candour which has been shown. One would think that when one puts down a definite Question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a definite answer would be given whether it be favourable or unfavourable. But in answer to the Questions which I put down in two cases a definite answer was not given and the wrong Question was answered. I asked for a list of charities and political or quasi-political bodies to which payments had been authorised. The answer I received was about the number of charities and political or quasi-political authorities which had been authorised to send money. No reference was made to those to whom payments had been authorised. I asked another Question and again the wrong answer was given. There has been considerable evasiveness and lack of candour on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Treasury. The whole chain of incidents has had to be painfully extracted. I want to know whether we know everything now, whether we know the full extent to which this partisan discrimination has been exercised.
The third anxiety which we feel is due to the fact that we think that it is wrong and contrary to British constitutional practice for party political bias to be exercised in relation to foreign countries. Cabinet Ministers should speak for the nation and not for a political party. I suppose it is vain to preach that doctrine to the party opposite. It is symptomatic of Socialist thought and practice, as it is of other totalitarian regimes, that they are right and everybody else is wrong, and that minorities which disagree with them 489 have no right to have their opinions expressed. [Interruption.] If that is not the case and if I am wrong, how do hon. Gentlemen opposite explain the fact that the exchange control mechanism is being wangled and gerrymandered in order to support Socialism in foreign countries? That is admitted.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite should ask their own Chancellor of the Exchequer to deny it. They should ask him to give the House a list of organisations to which contributions have been permitted. If my suggestion is then not perfectly justified, I will withdraw and apologise. Until that is done, until we know the full list of the charities in the different countries in Europe to which contributions have been permitted, then I say that these funds have been gerrymandered for the purpose of Socialist Party politics. It is a regrettable departure from British political tradition and I cannot regard it as honourable conduct by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. How far has it gone? Were payments permitted to Signor Nenni, to Herr Schumacher and to Signor Saragat? How has the exchange control machinery really been operated?
My final point is one on which I have already touched. It is to inquire how the Exchange Control Act has been used. I must point out to the House that it is by far the most powerful weapon in the whole Government armoury. None of the other powers they have taken to themselves is half so powerful as this weapon, which is all-pervasive, all-powerful, and exercised in secret. If it is believed that the Exchange Control Act is being manipulated for party political purposes, there will be the same loss of public confidence as there would be if the right hon. and learned Gentleman introduced party politics into the affairs of the High Court or the Inland Revenue. Every activity of the Government in which political discrimination may occur must be open and public. I defy any hon. Gentleman opposite to deny that that is sound constitutional doctrine. I think we all agree on that. We do not want party political discrimination, bias and prejudice exercised in secret. I am sure that the whole House is with me in that opinion. I do not believe that any hon. Gentleman can deny, after what I have said—if the Chancellor does not deny it, and I do not think that he can—that grave suspicion 490 rests on the right hon. and learned Gentleman of having exercised party political partisanship and bias in secret in the manipulation of the Exchange Control Act. That is dishonourable, and I say that he must clear himself of that charge. The Chancellor has been wise enough to retract on the question of war memorials. If he is a wise man he will retract the extraordinary statement he made on 30th November when he said:I would approve contributions made for the purpose of strengthening the democratic forces in any country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT 30th November, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 165.]Who is to define the democratic forces in any country? At a meeting in London the other night the Communist Party collected funds for guerrillas in Spain. Will the Chancellor approve of that? I do not suggest that he should or should not. He approved funds for the Communists in France. Does he regret that or does he not?
§ Mr. Nicholson
Of course they were Communists. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is anxious to claim credit or discredit for the Communists.
§ Mr. Nicholson
Scottish miners made the gift—but we will not go into that. Many of the miners who were on strike in France claim to be Communists.
The Chancellor must retract his fantastic statement which will put him and the Government in a false position for all time.
§ Mr. Nicholson
I beg the Chancellor to "come clean" and to be man enough to recognise that he has got himself into an awkward position or that his Department have got him into an awkward position. I ask him to "come clean" 491 and to restore the traditional position of British statesmanship which was that in so far as their dealings with foreign countries were concerned, Cabinet Ministers speak for the nation, and that in so far as political bias and discrimination came into discussion, they should never act in secret but always in the fierce light of day.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Proctor (Eccles)
I wonder upon what principles the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) is proceeding. As he was speaking I wondered why, when the question of Greece was discussed in this House, he never gave full support to the opinion of some of my hon. Friends who were against using Government funds for the assistance of the Government in Greece. It appears to me that if this principle were really applied he should have protested loudly then. But it is only now when private funds are being sent to support the Socialists in France that the protest is made.
§ Mr. Nicholson
The difference lies in this. In Greece we are, rightly or wrongly—and I am not discussing that—supporting a regime which is a coalition of several parties. It would be completely wrong in my view to send funds to one of those parties, but if we are under a contractual obligation to support a regime, I suppose we must support it with Government or any other funds. It is the giving of funds to one political party—to one section—which is clearly wrong. If the hon. Gentleman cannot see that point, I am much surprised.
§ Mr. Proctor
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. It still seems to me inconsistent on the part of the hon. Gentleman. He is objecting to the Government of this country using funds for the purpose of upholding a political party or set of parties. There is an Opposition and there is a Government in Greece and he should be objecting to any support given there from Government sources. I should like to point out the special difference between these two cases. It has been a tradition of the British people that we should not interfere in the politics of other lands. That is a principle which we may or may not be able to sustain in the future. As to the question of 492 using funds to maintain political parties in other countries, we have got to examine that situation and see whether or not the principles which we have applied in this country continue to apply in the world.
There is nothing sacred about that idea. There has never been in this country a tradition or any accepted agreement that a British political party cannot assist another political party in any quarter of the world. There has never been anything to prevent a British citizen from assisting any other person in any other country is he so desired. The only difficulty at the moment is that we have not the financial resources to allow that to be carried on in the same way as in the past. Therefore, we have the principle that the British Government have the right to use the funds of the people of this country in the interests of the people of this country, and they have the right to prevent any funds from being sent out of this country. It is fortunate that they have this right; otherwise many unpatriotic wealthy people in this country would have denuded this country of whatever wealth it possesses. They have already done so to a large extent, but there is a control on them, and it is right that there should be such a control.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)
Surely, my hon. Friend remembers that in the past the British Government sent millions of pounds to support the Royalists in France, in particular during the French Revolution.
§ Mr. Proctor
I will accept that from my hon. Friend. Suppose the United Europe Movement in this country wished to support a similar kind of organisation on the Continent of Europe with funds, there is no principle which would prevent that from being done.
§ Mr. Proctor
The hon. Gentleman says "hear, hear" when it relates to the United Europe Movement. Why does he not agree that British Socialists should support French Socialists?
§ Mr. Nicholson
I am in favour of Communists and anybody else being able freely to support the people with whom they are in sympathy in other countries, 493 but I am not in favour of putting in the hands of the Chancellor the power to say which shall be sent and which shall not be sent.
§ Mr. Proctor
We are not in a position to allow anything to be done which is against the interests of the main policy of the British people. It is mainly on the grounds of the stringency of our resources that we are not able to assist other countries. The hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) said that a British statesman, when he deals with another nation, does so as a representative of the nation and not of a party. No British Government funds are at stake in this matter. No British funds have been used to support either the miners who were on strike or the French Socialist newspaper. It is private funds that have been allowed to be transferred from one country to another for that purpose. I stand by that principle and I say that it is right that that should be so. It is also proper that the Government of the country should claim the right, as every Government must, to say whether or not a transfer of funds from this country to another is in the interests of the people of this country. As far as possible, every Government should allow liberty on those lines for all parties to contribute.
§ Mr. Proctor
But apparently the hon. Gentleman's basis of complaint is that none should be allowed to contribute. In Europe today the greatest British interest is the preservation of democracy on the Continent of Europe. Any Government would be false to the true interests of the British people if they failed to support democracy on the Continent of Europe. On that basis, I say that the British people can assist the democratic forces in Western Europe, and there can be no complaint whatsoever on that score. No vital principle has been violated by the Government in this matter. It has been a long-established tradition that the British working class should claim the right to assist those in other countries who hold similar opinions to those which we hold.
We are not a nationalistic movement. We are a worldwide movement; we believe in international Socialism. I say to hon. Members opposite that if they were to deprive the forces of democracy 494 in Europe of the right of looking to democrats in this country for sustenance, assistance, support and comradeship, they would live to regret it, because it would mean not only the end of democracy in this country but the end of this country, as a national unit, in the affairs of the world. It is on that serious plane that hon. Members opposite ought to consider what they are doing. One cannot in one breath say that one is in favour of democracy, and then adopt a principle which means the death of democracy in Western Europe.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Combined English, Universities)
There is one point, I think, on which I agree with the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor). and it is that this problem arises on account of exchange control. So far as that is the basis of his argument, I agree that it is on account of exchange control that this question has arisen. But I hope that it will be possible to explain to hon. and. right hon. Gentlemen opposite why we think that a very serious mistake has been made, and that issues are involved on which I hope that some, at any rate, of the hon. Members opposite will sympathise with us and on which they will agree with the view that we put forward.
Let me take the Exchange Control Act. That puts the people of this country, including legal persons—that is to say, companies, trade unions—as well as individual natural persons, under great and very irksome restraints. The case for the Government is that those restraints are necessary. But let hon. Members realise how great a tyranny may be involved in the exercise of this control.
Let us take, first, an example that has nothing immediately to do with this transfer of funds. Let us take the arbitrary decision by the Government as an act of tyranny to decide between people's pleasures. They say "We can decide as a Government that so much money in foreign exchange has got to be expended on importing the bilge of Hollywood, but that hon. Members are not to be allowed to travel freely abroad." The man who wishes to indulge in foreign travel or buy a foreign book is not to be allowed to do so, though the money that would enable-him to do so can be legitimately 495 expended on the purchase of American films. That can be arbitrarily decided by the Government.
I say that that is a very considerable inroad into public liberties and an exercise of tyranny which would be very dangerous and onerous in any event, but is rendered just tolerable if it is uniform. If, that is to say, the Government say to the people of this country—and are prepared to justify it in Debate in this House—" We will stop all persons irrespective of their politics from travelling abroad, except to the extent of the expenditure of £35 this year and some other amount another year," that would apply to all persons uniformly. Suppose that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, instead of adopting uniform limits for all foreign travel under this Act, were to say, "I will give such sums as I think fit to those who I think will aid democracy abroad, but will refuse it to those about whom I am less confident," then I hope that hon. Members in every quarter of the House would say that that would be quite intolerable.
What do we find when we get to these transfers abroad for charitable purposes or to political parties? Surely, there is the same absolute necessity for complete uniformity of procedure and for the whole thing to be subject to rules which can be known to the public of this country and debated in this House. The hon. Member for Eccles drew, I thought, a quite ridiculous parallel when he took the case of payments to the Greek Government by our Government. I am not going to debate whether that is good or bad, but it is a payment by a Government to a Government, which is well known and debatable in this House. What we are here concerned with is the transfer by private individuals or by institutions to private persons or institutions abroad. In that case, we say that it is really intolerable that this should be decided by the whim, or even the opinion, of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Of course, I give the Chancellor of the Exchequer the credit for deciding to the best of his ability on the principle which he himself enunciated in the Question quoted by my hon. Friend——
§ Mr. Palmer (Wimbledon)
Who else does the hon. and learned Gentleman suggest should decide, except the Chancellor of the Exchequer?
§ Mr. Strauss
If the hon. Gentleman had waited he would have found that I was going to deal with that. I say that it is quite intolerable that anybody should have to decide.
§ Mr. Strauss
Indeed, no; unless the Government are going to get into the most appalling difficulties and embarrass the Foreign Secretary very greatly they will have to adopt a plan about aiding foreign parties—all or none. Let us take the question of the French democracy. There are many lawful parties in France, including the Communist Party. I say that so long as there are these lawful parties in France, transfer by bodies in this country to parties in France must be permitted for all or for none. Let us look at the criterion laid down by the right hon. Gentleman, when he says:I would approve contributions made for the purpose of strengthening the democratic forces in any country, and I would disapprove contributions made to organisations whose activities are hostile to that purpose."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1948: Vol. 458, c. 165.]I dare say that every hon. Member would adopt the same principle if he himself were to decide what was a desirable gift. The nature of his decision would differ in different cases, so that, if there had been an application to help Signor Nenni, it would have been granted on one day but turned down two days later.
I could give many other examples. One of the transfers, which was the subject of one of the Questions mentioned by my hon. Friend, was a transfer for the benefit of striking miners in France—or for the benefit of the families of striking miners. I imagine that a man is helped if his family is helped, because I think families still exist to that extent, even in the opinion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. The transfer was made for the benefit of the families of miners in France striking to defeat the Marshall plan. If any such transfers are to be allowed the right hon. and learned Gentleman may have been completely right to allow that one; but if some are not to be allowed, to choose to allow that particular one might well, I should have thought, embarrass the right hon. and learned Gentlemen in future negotiations with other Powers, and I am quite certain 497 that it will embarrass the Foreign Secretary.
Let me give another example. Suppose an individual or party in this country desired to send funds to General de Gaulle. For all I know, if this system is to continue that application may come. How would the right hon. and learned Gentleman deal with it? How would hon. Members opposite deal with it?
§ Mr. Strauss
I am delighted to receive an answer. The hon. Member opposite says he would turn it down. I am very glad to have a clear answer, because I am certain that helps the Chancellor of the Exchequer to realise exactly where he is leading us. Here are his back benchers saying that it is quite right for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to transfer moneys to those parties that they themselves like, or who, they imagine, rightly or wrongly, somewhat resemble themselves, but that it would be quite wrong to transfer moneys to a man considered to be extremely anti-democratic by some of them, on the ground that he was demanding a general election. Anyhow, whatever the view held about General de Gaulle, his party is perfectly legal in France.
I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he replies, will not give a hasty answer on whether a transfer to General de Gaulle will be permitted or refused, because I think he will wish to consult his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary before making any answer. It is quite clear, however, that, whichever answer he gives, he will lead the Government into an extremely difficult position. My guess is that the Chancellor, thinking that he can legitimately evade an answer by this method, will say: "I will consider that question on its merits when the application is made, but I will not disclose to the House tonight, when the matter can be debated, the principles on which I shall act."
Let us look at these principles. First: "Strengthening the democratic forces in any country." Democratic in what sense? In the sense in which the word is used and has been used by political thinkers in this country? Or in the sense in which it is invariably used behind the "Iron Curtain"? Hon. Members oppo- 498 site, if they have taken the least interest in foreign affairs, know that there is no other word to which such opposite meanings are attached in different parts of the world. In fact, I think, a principal cause of some of the difficulties in which the world finds itself is that in so many conferences on international affairs, when great differences have appeared between parties, instead of trying to resolve those difficulties, or to admit a difference, people have got down to the matter of finding a formula; that is to say, thinking out a form of words to which each party, to the knowledge of the other, attaches an opposite meaning, so that by subscribing to them they can pretend to agree while in fact continuing their quarrel. That is the method followed in agreement after agreement between countries like ourselves and those countries behind the "Iron Curtain" where the words "democratic elections" have been used and each party has attached an opposite meaning to them. By "democratic elections," we mean elections where the candidates of all parties are allowed to stand and the electors can decide between them, but the countries behind the "Iron Curtain" mean elections in which only the Communists are allowed to take part, or those who have been agreed with the Communists beforehand.
I wonder in what sense the right hon. and learned Gentleman was using the word "democratic" in the answer I have quoted to the House. I wonder whether he really thinks it right himself to decide, without any possibility of review, except, perhaps, that we could move a reduction in his salary if it were thought that he had not acted in a bona fide manner. I wonder whether he really thinks that to be a very satisfactory position, and does not think the better course would be to acknowledge that he has made a mistake. Whatever may be our opinion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, we all know that he works extremely hard, and for a man working so hard it is not dishonourable occasionally to make a blunder; if so, let him acknowledge that it is a blunder, and let him put the thing right.
My hon. Friend asked about publicity. I wonder what parties, if any, have been helped in Germany.
§ Mr. Strauss
I am assuming that the hon. and gallant Member is able to think. He will realise that this question can arise only since the exchange control arrangements have been in force. That is the subject of the Debate. I have never transferred any money to a political party abroad, and I have not the slightest intention of doing so. I am putting forward what I believe to be a serious argument, the argument that, apart altogether from the question of tyranny and interference with people's wishes, this is calculated to cause the greatest international tension and misunderstanding, if the right hon. and learned Gentleman is entitled at his own whim to decide which parties he will allow to receive these transfers and which parties he will forbid. I asked on another occasion whether Communist sympathies were required in either the giver or the recipient, or both. I got no answer, but I received the intimation from the right hon. and learned Gentleman's colleague to put that Question down. Why does the right hon. and learned Gentleman persist in a course of action that is obviously unwise, that is resented by persons of all parties, that cannot be justified, that will embarrass the Foreign Secretary, will lead the Government into difficulties and has nothing whatever to commend it?
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I wish to deal with this matter from the point of view of the gift made by Scottish miners to the wives and children of French miners who went on strike. It has been said that this gift was made to Communist strike funds, and two opinions have been adduced in support of that—one. by the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) who said, "Up the Reds" and the other by the "Glasgow Herald," the well-known anti-Socialist and anti-Communist paper. If the gift of the Scottish miners had been for Communist Party funds or Communist purposes I think the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) would have been entitled to object. Indeed, I have always been opposed to the Communist Party and I, too, would have protested if this money had been for the Communist Party funds. But the object of this gift was to help the wives and children of French miners who were on strike. I was glad the Chancellor did not treat 500 this matter as being another Communist stunt, but acted humanely and intelligently in deciding that the gift of the Scottish miners could justifiably be allowed.
I remember when the hon. Member for Farnham pleaded for necessitous people in India. I agreed with him that the starving women and children of that country should be treated considerately by people here. The £1,000 gift of the Scottish miners was to help fellow human beings who were suffering from hunger and distress. There is not a scrap of evidence that the money was handed over to Communist Party funds. The Communist Party does not need gifts of £1,000 for their organisation in France, or any where else——
§ Mr. Hughes
The hon. Member for Farnham has been actuated by prejudice in this matter, instead of dealing with it on its merits. Scottish miners have frequently made gifts of this kind. I would have no objection if they sent similar gifts to workers who were suffering in any other part of the world. Because miners on strike happen to be members of the Communist Party I see no reason why their wives and children should starve. I remember when our own miners and their families were helped by money gifts from the U.S.S.R. We should stand by the honourable tradition of this country that suffering people anywhere are entitled to humane consideration. This question should not be exploited purely for partisan motives.
§ Mr. Nicholson
I honour and respect the Scottish miners for their motive, but my point is that it should not be left to the Chancellor, or any Government Department, to decide on political grounds whether certain gifts should be made or not. I said it was inconsistent on the Chancellor's part to allow the money to go to so-called democratic forces and, from there, to the Communist Party.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am dealing with the particular case of the Scottish miners on its merits. It was due to humanitarian motives that permission was given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for this money to be sent, just as humanitarian 501 motives were adduced by hon. Members as the reason for supporting the starving Indians.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Baker White (Canterbury)
I want to deal with the particular point raised by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes)—the question of this donation of £1,000 from the Scottish miners to France. I readily admit that this donation was made with every sincerity. I am not influenced by the fact that Mr. Abe Moffatt, the President of the Scottish Miners, is a member of the Executive of the Communist Party of Great Britain. I am not influenced by the fact that several members of the Executive are also members of the Communist Party.
Permission was given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the transfer of the sum on the grounds that it would be used to relieve distress amongst the dependants of French miners, distress arising from the conditions of the strike in which they were then engaged. I have only normal channels through which I can make inquiries, but I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to make the same inquiries as I did through the normal diplomatic channels to the French Minister of the Interior, M. Moch, and see whether he gets the same answers as I did.
What happened to the £1,000? The background of the story is that the strike was organised by the C.G.T., which is a Communist-dominated body. Last December or January the C.G.T. organised a number of strikes and reduced itself to a state of penury with the result that it had a heavy overdraft on the bank. Both the C.G.T. and the Communist Party of France bank with the Banque Commerciale de l'Europe du Nord. Of the 100,000 shares of that bank 99,700 are held by two Soviet banks. The chairman is a naturalised Frenchman of Russian birth. The Communist Party of France has at that bank a heavy and long standing overdraft. The Communist Party Press overdraft rose from 17 million francs in June to 30 million francs in October. The Communist Party of France has two private accounts at that bank, one in the name of Oswald and the other in the name of Gusmar.
It was into that bank that the £1,000 donated by the Scottish miners, was paid, 502 and my information is that the £1,000 was used not for purposes of relief but to reduce the overdraft of the G.G.T. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has official channels through which to make his inquiries. There was a somewhat peculiar donation which was held to come from the Czechoslovak miners. It was a very considerable one. It was equal to one month's pay of every miner in Czechoslovakia. There was another donation which did not reach France. That was in gold carried in his pockets by a Roumanian who was stopped at the frontier by the Sureté.
My information is that, however sincere may have been the motives, that money from the Scottish miners was not used for the purpose for which it was donated, and I venture to suggest that when donations are made from this country to Communist-dominated organisations the right hon. and learned Gentleman should scrutinise them with greater care. My last word is this: I wonder what hon. Members opposite would have said if the Conservative Party had wished to donate £5,000 to a Right Wing body in Europe?
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Carmichael (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I want to take up the point about the Scottish miners. The hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Baker White) has deliberately shifted his ground. His objection was that the miners made a donation. In the beginning he said he had no interest in the Scottish Miners' Executive, yet he took pains to advise us that a number of its members were members of the Communist Party. The principle adopted by the Scottish miners is one that is well established in this country, and it is that of going to the aid of women and children when men are on strike. The principle is well established with Governments and even with local authorities. No matter what the conditions of a strike are, and no matter what the conduct of the strikers, we always go to the aid of their women and children. Public assistance authorities do so all over the country, even if the strike be regarded by most people as unconstitutional and dangerous to the country. I say, having no sympathy with the Communist Party, but knowing the Scottish miners, that they were prompted 503 to make the donation because of the desire to aid the women and children of the people in France.
§ Mr. Baker White
I thought I made it clear that I was not disputing the motives with which the money was given and that I was not prejudiced by the fact that the Communists have a certain influence in the Scottish Miners' Executive, but that I was only interested in what happened to the money when it got there.
§ Mr. Carmichael
The Adjournment Debate was demanded because of the action of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in permitting people to make the donation with good motives. I am sure that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is fully alive to his responsibilities and will be able to speak for himself. I am concerned about the £1,000. Apparently had there been no control order, some hon. Members would have raised no objection. My view is that this is an attempt to salve your own consciences, because for generations you have always engaged in this method of raising money at every opportunity to aid people on the Continent of Europe, if you felt that they were sympathetic to your point of view. The only objection is to the control order.
§ Mr. Carmichael
If I had authority I do not know that I would have attempted to discriminate between Left and Right. I do not know that I would have refused to allow the money to go. The only reason why the Conservative Party has made no open contribution to any of the bodies on the Continent of Europe is that they are too anxious to raise all the money they can so as to fight the General Election. We have evidence that they have sent any amount of money abroad in the past. You did not send your own money. You used the taxpayers' money when you intervened in Russia and spent many millions.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Bowles)
The hon. Member ought to address the Chair without putting all those imputations upon the character of its occupant.
§ Mr. Carmichael
I should address the Chair, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but the invitation was so encouraging that I could not resist it. However, I leave it at that. 504 The Tories are the last people to castigate anyone. It is a political move and nothing else. It is an attempt to make political capital. It is evidence of the bankruptcy of the Tory Party that this is the very best thing to which they can lay their hands. I can remember the General Strike, and some other hon. Members remember it, too, for it was the first time one or two of them took up hard work for a period. I remember that at that time the French miners sent over money to assist the wives and children of the Scottish miners. I remember that the German miners did likewise to aid the Scottish miners' wives and children. That was at a time when hon. Members on this side of the House were trying to make it very difficult for them to live.
It may be that the £1,000 was wasted in France. Maybe it was put to some ulterior use. I have no knowledge of that. All I am concerned about is that if the Chancellor was asked to make up his mind on the donation, it was right and proper that he should agree to the £1,000 going to France in order to aid the women and children there. That is the only issue which arises at this stage. I have only one regret, and that is that the miners of Scotland and the miners of Great Britain were unable to send much more to aid the French women and children at that time.
The argument is that the organisation was Communist dominated. I am getting a bit uneasy about this business of the Communist menace. We dare not raise our voices against certain people in many places now without being dubbed Communists. It may be that the Communists dominated the French trade union, but I am wise enough to know that there are certain forces at work which create a situation to bring the Communist movement to the front.
I will leave it at that and will again say that I am happy in the knowledge that the Chancellor agreed to allow the £1,000 to go to the women and children of France. Knowing the goodness of the French and German people and the common people of the world—if we were in difficulties they would send it to us—I hope that if ever such a difficulty arises again, the miners and other workers in this country will take the opportunity of sending all that 505 it is possible to send to aid women and children during the period when their men are fighting against what they regard as unfair conditions.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Drayson (Skipton)
As the House may know, my main interest in this matter has been the past refusal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to permit an adequate sum of money to go to France to erect a memorial to commemorate the 49th (West Riding) Division. Some weeks ago when we heard that £1,000 had been permitted to go to the striking miners in France I asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he would reconsider the application from the 49th Division. I was very surprised at that time that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in spite of the action he had taken with the striking miners, was not prepared to give way.
A lot has been heard about the £1,000. I suggest that one of the influences brought to bear on the Chancellor in making this transfer of money was Mr. Arthur Horner. We all know the great influence that gentleman has with Members of the Cabinet. He is perhaps the real Minister of Fuel and Power in this country at the present time. Feeling that it was inadvisable that he should devote his skill and energies to causing a lack of output in the coal mines of this country, he thought he would go over to France and try to teach them a few lessons—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."]—about how they could disrupt Marshall Aid. It was to aid and abet him in that that the Chancellor allowed money to go to the striking miners and their families and, as has been pointed out this evening, it is highly improbable that one penny of that money has ever fulfilled the purpose for which it was intended. The Chancellor may delude himself, but he does not delude the people of this country when he makes the excuse in this House that it was to go over for charitable purposes. Of course, we learned later to the further amazement of the House that this £1,000 was not the only sum involved, but that £5,000 or £6,000 had been permitted to go to help the finances of a tottering Socialist newspaper.
We know that as far as the various war memorials are concerned, both the 49th Division and the 15th Scottish, the 506 Chancellor has given way. Bearing in mind the rising national indignation on this matter, about which the Chancellor smiles, he was wise to do so. If he had seen some of the letters I have received from all over the country from veterans of the 1914–18 war, as well as from those who fought in Scottish and North country Divisions during this last conflict, he would have changed his mind much earlier. It was said in those letters that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is completely out of touch with the feelings of the working-class people in this country at the present time. Words were used about him which it would be quite unparliamentary for me to repeat in this House tonight.
§ Mr. Drayson
With regard to the principle behind this matter, who is the Chancellor of the Exchequer to judge what are the forces most calculated to strengthen democracy in foreign countries? As many hon. Members have said, this is not a question which the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is politically minded, should be called upon to decide.
There is one other point in connection with the memorial, which I put in a supplementary question to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. I asked him if it was not monstrous that this money should have been allowed to go abroad to finance political parties, and he gave no reply. Evidently, however, the Chancellor disagrees with his Financial Secretary, because he has thought better of it and has allowed the money to go.
§ 9.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)
This is one of the most astounding Debates I have heard in the House since I came here. It is almost impossible to make up one's mind, after listening to the Opposition, whether the three hon. Members who have taken three different courses knew exactly why they were opposing this gift. [An HON. MEMBER: "Which gift?"] The gift from the Scottish miners to the starving women and children during the economic dispute in France. That is the gift.
One hon. Member definitely let the House know that he was against the 507 giving of this money, irrespective of whether the Chancellor had power to control its going to France. The hon. and learned Gentleman the junior Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) let the cat out of the bag. He was not concerned at all about the gift, the source from which it came or where it went. What he was concerned about was the control. He wanted the exchange control removed.
§ Mr. H. Strauss rose——
§ Mr. Scollan
Oh, yes, he did. We can read it tomorrow. He definitely made it plain that what he was against was the exchange control.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
Will the hon. Member permit me? I cannot think that he wishes to misrepresent me. I said that the problem arose on account of exchange control; that as long as we had exchange control these remittances must be governed by absolute rules; and that, if they were allowed to lawful political parties, they must be allowed to all or allowed to none.
§ Mr. Scollan
If the hon. and learned Member reads tomorrow's HANSARD he will see that, over and above what he has repeated, he said that there should be no hindrance for any section of the community here to transfer money to anybody abroad. Consequently, that means the removal of exchange control. He cannot retract from that.
Another hon. Member, on the other hand, opposed the sending of the gift from an entirely different angle. He was opposed to it, not because of the motives of the miners who sent the money, but because, according to a story he had received—I do not know whether at first hand or second hand—it was used for an entirely different purpose at the other end. So we have had three hon. Members opposite opposing the motives of the gift from the Scottish miners.
Let us take the first. I do not understand why an hon. Member should have the temerity to stand up and say he was opposed to its going, irrespective of need or anything else, for the simple reason that never in the whole industrial history of mining in Europe has there been a dispute of any kind without some political motive being attributed to the leaders of 508 the dispute by the owners of the industry for the purpose of trying to discredit the leaders amongst the men. That has happened for the last 100 years, not only here, but in France, in Germany and in every other country.
There may be a higher percentage of Communists amongst the miners in France than in Scotland. I do not know, but one thing I do know is that even that high percentage cannot bring out the whole industry unless the men have a real grievance. Everybody knows that the financial system in France was in such a parlous condition that one week's wages were practically worthless the following week.
The reason why the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities wants exchange control removed does not concern the £1,000 at all. He had better "come clean" about it. For the last two years have not the Opposition been harping on the right to get more money out of this country and into Europe and other foreign countries? If any country has any complaint about its being kept and frozen here it is America more than anybody else. If money had been allowed to go out of the country, and if the control had been taken off as hon. Members opposite wish, our paper money would have been as worthless as that of some other parts of the world. As a result the Labour Government would have been brought down, chaos would have arisen and our whole economic system would have been wrecked. What do the Opposition think they would have gained? I want to assure them they would have gained nothing. As a matter of fact, they were treading on very dangerous ground. In that way one can bring a nation to revolution, which is the one thing they do not want. The Opposition ought to be very grateful to hon. Members on this side of the House, for we have established that they can go to bed and rest content. Their property and bank books are quite safe. People on this side of the House go to the workers and say, "You must not go in for any revolutionary stuff. We will educate these people in the course of time to see the error of their ways." The hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities must not take it too seriously.
Everyone hoped that the £1,000 would go to the women and children in the 509 dispute. Someone has discovered a mare's nest and that it did not go there but to the C.G.T. and that the C.G.T. have three banking accounts. When the hon. and learned Member was addressing the House about banking accounts, I had the feeling that we were over at Church House. It sounded extremely like it. I wonder if any subscriptions came from abroad to Lord Woolton's Fund? A prominent figure gets up and says, "I want £1 million by subscription" and that is a tidy sum, but when Scottish miners send £1,000 to miners' women and children in France, everyone can read by whom and when it was subscribed. I wonder if the party opposite will publish an account and tell us who paid subscriptions to Lord Woolton's Fund?
§ Mr. Scollan
This House ought to be big enough to give their blessing to the miners and to the Scottish miners especially—the English miners did not send anything, by the way. The matter came before the Chancellor, who is now condemned because he allowed the money to go. Suppose the Chancellor had said that the money was not to go, hon. Members might have accused him of political bias, but that is not the point. The whole of the French people, irrespective of whether they were for the strike, or against the strike, knew that this was a charitable gift to people in need. Consequently, he has earned the friendship of the French people for this country. That is a very valuable asset.
§ Mr. Baker White
Would it not be much more practicable to have handed £1,000 to the French Red Cross, who were already doing relief work in the coalfields?
§ Mr. Scollan
Obviously, if the Scottish miners said to the Chancellor, "We want to give £1,000 to the French miners," it would have been very bad if the Chancellor took it from them and gave it to the Red Cross in France. He had to decide either to send it to the people to whom the miners wanted it sent, or to refuse to send it. Taking the long view, apart from any prejudices in regard to Communist power in the French trade unions, no sensible person in France would for one moment condemn the Chancellor for allowing that money to 510 go. He has earned and cemented the friendship of the working class in France with the working class in Scotland.
There is another aspect of the matter. Suppose that he had refused to allow the money to be sent. Some of these days we shall have to raise the question of the Treaty of Union and the right of the Scottish people to send to whom they like. The Chancellor had better remember that when the Scots signed the Treaty of Union in 1707, they did not hand over all their powers and right to somebody else. They retained certain privileges and powers and some of these fine days they may challenge some of the things which are done by others and which they are not allowed to do. [Interruption.] I hope they will. Scotland could cut the Gordian knot tomorrow and live independently without any charity from anyone. That is more than England can say. I am not pleading Scottish nationalism. What I am saying is for the benefit of the Englishmen who do not know better. If they did, they would not indulge in these cheap sneers, which are made in ignorance and nothing else. In this matter, the Scottish miners plus the Chancellor of the Exchequer have done more to cement friendship with France than anything which has been done in the last 100 years.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
I do not want to speak at much length—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear"] If hon. Gentlemen cannot be polite about it I will do so. Especially I do not want to talk at great length about the gift from the Scottish miners, but I think I may properly ask one or two questions on that point. I do not think it, as many or most speakers have thought it, to he a very important part of the case, but since most or many speakers have thought it so, I think it courteous to refer to the matter.
I wish to ask one or two questions. Into which category, from the Chancellor of the Exchequer's point of view, did it come, because we have had speeches, but not all the relevant speeches, on the assumption that this was a purely charitable gift? I am quite prepared to think that it was wholly humanitarian, though, indeed not for the whole of humanity but 511 only for that part of humanity which is female or below grown up age—that it was a purely charitable gift for women and children. Was it upon that basis that the Chancellor of the Exchequer allowed the money to go, or was it on the basis that the C.G.T. is one of the forces—I have forgotten what were the words of the right hon. and learned Gentleman—that they were one of the democratic forces in France? I speak at the moment only of the case of the miners' gift. I wish to know in which class it was. About half the argument has been on the one assumption and half on the other. The Chancellor must know which it was. He has told us how much money has gone in the different categories. It must have been totted up for him by one of the clerks in the Treasury. Can he tell us into which category this money came? That seems to me to be a perfectly fair question and I hope that we shall get an exact answer to it. There cannot be any difficulty at all in giving the answer.
I wish to go back to some of the words used by the Chancellor himself. He said that when it came to organisations for political purposes, if there was no exchange difficulty—and I suppose by that he meant if the country of destination was a soft currency country, because, of course, there is exchange difficulty, ex hypothesi there is exchange difficulty, everywhere all the time; that is the point of exchange control. Will the Chancellor correct me if I am arguing on a false assumption? My assumption is that when he says "if there is no exchange difficulty," he means that the country of destination is a soft currency country.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Stafford Cripps) indicated assent.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
Thank you. The next point is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us that, broadly speaking, he would approve contributions for strengthening democratic forces, but would disapprove contributions for other organisations. What I want to know is what modifications or exceptions are covered by the words "broadly speaking"? This is a considered answer by the Chancellor. He says that when he is asked to allow money to go abroad he does it, he allows it to go, when it is for democratic purposes, but does not 512 allow it—if the Chancellor of the Exchequer continues to mutter and shake his head it really is not fair. The words of his which I am using are words which were considered words, and he is going to have a full opportunity to answer tonight, and it is not fair for him to indicate dissent in that sort of way unless he will correct. He certainly does say that he does approve of contributions for the purpose of strengthening democratic forces and "would disapprove"—which might be taken to mean he has never as yet disapproved but would—and I would like him to answer that question—has he yet disapproved suggested contributions for political purposes, because they were the wrong political purposes? Does "would" mean that? I think again that that is a perfectly clear matter, and the answer must be simple, and I think that the House is entitled to the answer.
I come again to the Chancellor's words yesterday. He began by saying:I accept full personal responsibility for all decisions taken by the Treasury."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th December, 1948; Vol. 459, c. 270.]I should like him to tell us what that means. He is the Chancellor of the Exchequer: that is only a short way of saying that he is the man who, parliamentarily speaking, has full responsibility for what happens in the Treasury. I cannot understand what he means by saying that he accepts full personal responsibility. Again these are considered words. By saying that he accepts full personal responsibility he, in fact, rather tends to whittle down his responsibility—[Interruption]—oh yes, certainly, because the implication—and if hon. Gentlemen will read the supplementary questions and answers they will see that the implication was emphasised—the implication quite definitely is that whoever has done it he must take the responsibility.
This is a matter where the Cabinet is entitled to know how it is managed and how the decision is taken. Are instructions given to Treasury clerks—the right hon. Gentleman tells us it was a matter of ordinary administrative routine "in the ordinary course of administration some cases may be decided in one way and some in another," that might mean that some cases may be decided "Yes" and some "No." Obviously, I should 513 think, it did not mean that. The only other thing it could mean is that some cases may be decided by one Treasury clerk and some cases by another. The question I wish to put is this. What precautions are taken to ensure that either or both of them have the same degree of information about these matters as is contained in the Foreign Office? Because if it were constitutionally proper that any Minister should use the administration of exchange control for political purposes, if it were possible that any Minister should take personal responsibility for that, I cannot see how it could be the Chancellor. It seems to me that it would clearly be the Foreign Secretary's business.
I think that the questions which I have put are peculiarly plain. I do not think there can be any difficulty about answering any of them, and I hope that we may have an answer to them.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ Major Bruce (Portsmouth, North)
The burden of the case of the Opposition, as I have heard it, seems to be that my right hon. and learned Friend, in exercising his power under an Act which was already on the Statute Book when this Government came into office, has exercised unfair discrimination in permitting a sum to be sent abroad which was subscribed from private sources and was intended for specified sources at the other end. That has been the burden of the Opposition's case this evening. The first thing I would say is that I do not think it lies in the mouth of the Opposition to make any case of, or even to mention in this House the word, "discrimination." I do not want to go too far back into history because very often it is a little embarrassing to right hon. Gentlemen opposite, but I should like to give an instance in which the Conservative administration did possess certain powers which entitled it, if it desired, to make discriminatory decisions. Within a fortnight of the beginning of the last war, 40,000 tons of steel left the Port of London for the Port of Hamburg. At the same time, it was forbidden to send potatoes into Republican Spain. If that was not discrimination, I do not know what is.
What the Opposition do not seem to understand is that to aid suffering anywhere in the world where we have the 514 power to exert our influence is in itself to aid the forces of democracy. That is the first thing which, I think, they do not understand. I say straight away that if the Tory-sponsored British Housewives' League wished to send money abroad to distressed families of Junkers in Germany affected by the Currency Reform, who are in definite need of it, half-starved and in dire distress, I should be the first to support the right of the British Housewives' League to send that money abroad to relieve distress on the part of a specific body. However, I do not think that is likely to happen. I should have thought that the best safeguard in all these matters today is that in fact they are not secret——
§ Major Bruce
In this country the accounts of the trade union movement and the accounts of the Labour Party are made public. There is no secret at all about the transfer of any sums anywhere by the Labour Party and the trade union movement. What do we find about the Conservative Party? I am not suggesting that the Conservative Party itself would wish to send any funds abroad—it has other uses for them here but for the party opposite, which covers its accounts in a shroud of mystery, to accuse the Government of exercising any secret discrimination is, I think, about the last word in absurdity.
§ Mr. Nicholson
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that we are not just referring to contributions of the Labour Party but to anyone who applies to send funds for public purposes abroad? We say that is shrouded in secrecy, and that it should not be.
§ Major Bruce
I have made my position quite clear to the House. I repeat again that if the Tory-sponsored Housewives' League wish to send a sum of money abroad to relieve genuine suffering and distress I, for my part, would be perfectly willing to support that effort. I see that hon. Gentlemen opposite merely regard that possibility as academic, and I can quite see why, because, of course, these matters have never attracted the support of hon. Members opposite anyway. I repeat that I do not think there is anything in the least bit sinister in this, and if there is made to my right hon. and learned Friend, within the 515 exercise of the powers which he already possesses, an application for the transfer of funds abroad from a bona fide source here to a bona fide destination at the other end, I cannot think why it should not be left to his discrimination, always bearing in mind that he is likely to have to account to the House, as he is now doing in this case.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham
I am glad that the Chancellor has changed his mind with regard to the war memorial. I think that his decision was wrong in the first instance, and I am glad that he is big enough to have realised his mistake and to have changed his mind. I am also glad that he agreed that the £1,000 should go to relieve the distress caused to strikers' wives and children; but as he gave his permission for that money to go for charitable purposes he has a certain responsibility, in view of the allegations made in the Debate, to find out from those who sponsored the gift whether it was used for the purpose for which it was intended. I do not know whether he has taken steps to find out whether the money was devoted to relieving the distress of the wives and children, but I should be glad if, in replying, he would say that he is prepared to take up this particular question with the Scottish Miners' Federation.
It is also a fact that money has been sent to political parties in France, and to certain French newspapers. Personally, I think it is a great pity that citizens of one country should interfere in the politics of other countries to the extent of subsidising political parties or political newspapers. It is one of the things about which we complain with regard to Russia and the International Communist Party. If we in this country sanction that in any form, in the sacred name of democracy, in which we believe, then it is quite illogical for us to turn to any Communist country and say, "It is wrong for you to subsidise Communist Parties in countries other than your own." We must at least give the Communists credit for being as sincere about their Communism as we are about our democracy. Therefore, I hope that one result of this Debate will be that in future we shall hesitate before continuing along that very dangerous path, which I 516 believe to be one of the contributory causes of the disturbed state of the world today.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Benn Levy (Eton and Slough)
I had not intended to take part in this Debate, but as I listened to the arguments of hon. Members opposite I felt constrained to lend for a few minutes my support to their efforts to demonstrate that they really have not the vestige of a case.
The hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) opened the batting. Everybody likes him. We recognise in him, if I may quote his leader's phrase, a certain honest simplicity. However, the fact that he has lent himself, as the spearhead, to this petty and foolish attempt on painfully partisan lines to discredit the Government is an indication only of the danger, even to people such as him self, of keeping bad company. [Laughter.] Nobody will doubt what is in the mind of the hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Birch), a fact which reveals, unfortunately, a certain familiarity with the mind of the hon. Member.
The argument advanced by the hon. Member for Farnham was that this action of the Chancellor's was counter to all historical British tradition, which was completely against the practice of discriminating; and that this country never discriminated in connection with the political affairs of other countries. When my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) recalled one historical precedent to the contrary, namely, the funds sent to the Royalists during the French Revolution, he was met with a certain amount of shallow laughter. But there are more recent cases. When my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) cited the case of Greece, which so far has provoked no dissent or criticism from hon. Members opposite——
§ Mr. Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
The hon. Member must have been listening to the Debate. He must know it was 517 pointed out from this side that in the case of financial assistance to Greece the sending of funds from this country by the Government was debated two years running in this House on the Foreign Office Estimates, and that the transfer of funds for political purposes, which we are now discussing, would never have come to light but for Parliamentary Questions.
§ Mr. Levy
I am perfectly aware that the sending of funds to Greece was debated and was agreed to, but the fact that it was agreed to and the funds were sent, contradicts the proposition put forward by Members opposite, namely, that funds were never sent to one side or another in any other country. That was answered by the argument that we were sending them to a Government, while presumably the opposition were all rebels. That I could accept, but this did not prevent us sending funds to rebels against a Government in 1921–22 in Russia. Members opposite cannot have it both ways.
A more serious argument was advanced, mainly by the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss), who was echoed, substantially, in his pedantic little way by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn). That argument took exception to the statement by my right hon. and learned Friend that the funds were being confined to democratic purposes. I have waited for and have not heard any reason why on earth that is a bad principle. Am I to understand that Members opposite support the sending of funds abroad for anti-democratic purposes? If there is anyone who secretly hankers after that, let him get up and declare it now.
§ Mr. Levy
I heard no dissent from my side, nor was the Chancellor's statement criticised on our side. The only argument in this connection raised by Members opposite was that it has become extremely difficult to know what the word "democratic" means. I entirely agree with the hon. and learned Member that it has been a part of Communist Party policy to appropriate the word "democratic" and thus to debase its meaning, just as Members opposite have similarly 518 attempted of late to appropriate and thus to debase the word "freedom," These valuable and fundamental concepts can easily be perverted, but it is surely perfectly reasonable for my right hon. and learned Friend to say that what we, the House, consider to be democratic purposes shall be the criterion.
The hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to be asking for an iron-clad uniformity, but with these kinds of regulations there can never be an absolute iron-clad uniformity, any more than in such matters as granting compassionate leave. Individual cases must be judged on their merits. It is quite puerile for the hon. and learned Member to imagine that by anticipating that that would be the Chancellor's reply, he could forestall it. That must be his reply. The uniformity of treatment must be modified by a certain amount of latitude for the granting of exceptions, and that is precisely what has happened here. As has been said already tonight, this Debate is really no more than a demonstration by the Opposition of how hard put to it they are to find a stick with which to beat the Government.
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)
I always listen with pleasure and some internal questioning to the speeches of the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Levy), with half of whose constituency I was once connected. Curiously enough, I have heard the hon. Member only in his capacity as a legislator; I have never heard him elsewhere in his other artistic activity. Whenever I listen to him in this House I always wonder, first, when it is that I shall ever be granted the opportunity of listening to him in another capacity elsewhere and then I think that even should that opportunity be given to me, I shall never in future, as I never have in the past, take advantage of it I could only think that this evening the hon. Member was playing in the House a part of a play which he had in contemplation for the future.
In this Debate we have roamed over a very wide field. One hon. Member referred to the Act of Union of 1707, and the question of the French Royalists at the time of the French Revolution was raised. I want to return to the very short and simple point which is the main purpose of this Debate. Much has been said 519 about the gift of £1,000 to French miners I, personally, am not so much concerned with that particular part of the case as with the other, with which I shall deal later. As I understand the matter, that gift was permitted by the Chancellor on the ground that it was a charitable donation, and that he was in the habit of limiting the amount of charitable donations of that kind to a certain quota.
I agree with the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) that the real cause of complaint, if there is any there, is what steps the Chancellor has taken to see that the money he permitted to be transferred as a charitable gift was, in fact, devoted to that purpose? I do not think it enough that the intention of the donor at this end should be charitable; I think it is the duty of the Chancellor also to satisfy himself that the intention of the donee in the use of that money is according to the principles which he laid down.
§ Mr. Mitchison (Kettering)
Is there not some practical difficulty in ensuring that gifts sent abroad for charitable purposes are applied, when they are under the control of a foreign Government, for those purposes?
§ Mr. Stanley
I should not have thought it would have been difficult in this case for the Chancellor, working closely, as he must have been, with the French Government, to ensure that this money was expended in the way in which the miners who subscribed towards it intended, and for the purpose for which he permitted the gift to be made.
Part of the case to which I want to draw attention, because as I understand that was the part which gave rise to this Debate on the Adjournment, is that which deals not with the subscription to the French miners, which was granted on charitable grounds, but the subscriptions to the other two French organisations, one a paper and the other a trade union, which was approved by the right hon. and learned Gentleman on political grounds. Of course, it is quite plain that the whole of the difficulty in this case arose because of exchange control. If there had been no exchange control no complaints could have been made with regard to these donations approved by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or with regard to other donations which either have been or 520 might have been disapproved of by him. In passing, I take it he would not allow a transfer from the Communist Party in this country to the Communist Party in France, but before exchange control that would have been perfectly legal and no exception could have been taken to it.
Therefore, all the talk of what was done in the past, whether at the time of the French Revolution or the Union with Scotland, is really irrelevant. I freely admit it was and has been for a long time the custom of associations in this country of one kind or another to subscribe in particular circumstances or in particular cases to similar organisations having similar objectives in other countries. There has never been anything wrong about it.
Now we get the new situation of exchange control, and, if my recollection serves me, at the time when the Measure was passed by this Government to take the place of the control which, during the war, was exercised by regulation, we admitted that it was still necessary to have exchange control. We did point out at the time, however, that exchange control might impose a very considerable amount of hardship upon people. It is something which has got to be worked with great patience and tolerance, and above all it has got to be worked without any suspicion whatever of discrimination. Everybody must feel, when his application is turned down, that it has nothing to do with him personally, or with his opinions, or with the man to whom he happened to go to make the application, but that it is in accordance with a rule which is not varied on the ground of privilege or anything else.
It seems to me that as soon as the Chancellor of the Exchequer laid down his principle with regard to permitting these transfers for political purposes, he inevitably tended towards discrimination. When he says, "I am not going to allow this to be transferred," or, "I am going to allow it," discrimination must, in fact, occur. The right hon. and learned Gentleman would admit that. I do not mean discrimination in a bad sense, for I am sure he would try his best to be fair, but what he thinks fair is what somebody else with all sincerity would think most unfair. The right hon. and learned Gentleman presumably would refuse the Communist Party leave to transfer 521 money to the Communist party elsewhere. He would say that it was because they were not assisting democracy; but hon. Members behind him would say, on the contrary, that they are the people who are really assisting democracy, and, therefore, are the people who should first be entitled to this benefit. Equally, on the other side, an hon. Friend of mine asked what would happen if an application were made to subscribe to the party of General de Gaulle. The immediate answer by the hon. Member for Western Renfrew (Mr. Scollan) was that, of course, it would be stopped.
§ Mr. Stanley
That shows. I do not know what the present Chancellor would do, but if the hon. Member for Western Renfrew were Chancellor of the Exchequer, we know that he would stop it.
§ Mr. Stanley
I am talking now—the hon. Member must try to follow the argument—about the political case and not about the charitable case. It is true that General de Gaulle may not be starving, nor was Le Populaire and Force Ouvrière. We see at once the difficulties into which we get. Whether or not permission is to be given to send money to de Gaulle and his party depends entirely upon the personal opinion of the one who has to decide. Some would say that, in the long run, General de Gaulle is the best bulwark in France against Communism. Others would say that he is undemocratic and, therefore, is not entitled to assistance.
The same is true with regard to Communists. What would happen if an application had been made by a considerable number of hon. Members opposite who sympathise with him to send money to the help of Signor Nenni? They said, in fact, that he was standing strongly for democracy, although the right hon. and learned Gentleman had accused him of standing with the Communists, and, presumably, against democracy. I am only citing these in- stances to show how, once we get away from some purely objective test, the decision depends upon the point of view of the one particular man who gives the authority.
522 That brings me to the second point. In this sort of case, when the decision depends just upon the opinion of one man, who is the one man who gives the decision? The Chancellor said that he takes responsibility for all the decisions, and quite properly so. In fact, he does, but he did not say that he took all the decisions. Reading his answer, I thought it was clear that some decisions had been taken without reference to him at all. In other words, some unknown person, not the Chancellor of the Exchequer, may be called upon to give his opinion as to whether Signor Nenni is a democrat or not and whether General de Gaulle is a democrat or not. He may be called upon to give an opinion whether some well-known "fellow traveller" in this country is to be regarded as a true democrat.
I believe this position to be thoroughly bad for the proper administration of exchange control. It is submitting that administration to a quite unnecessary strain and suspicion. I suggest that it would be far better—I am dealing solely with the case of these political decisions —to say firmly, either that we shall allow permission to all, or that we shall not allow it to any. It may not really matter very much which we do. The hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) said that if this were stopped, it might be the end of this country and that it might lead to the death of democracy. If democracy is going to die because we may not send a total of £6,000 to Socialist parties in France, I am afraid that democracy is hardly worth keeping alive——
§ It being Ten o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Snow.]
§ Mr. Stanley
That really is sheer hyperbole. Democracy is neither going to be saved by the gift of these sums nor will it be killed by their absence. There is, therefore, a great deal to be said for saying that if there is exchange control, if people are not allowed to send money freely, if even charities have to be cut down and if personal conveniences have always to be over-ruled, we should have the rule that 523 no subscription should be made to political parties of any kind. I, personally, think that would be best; but the other alternative is to say that, subject to some financial restrictions dictated by the state of our exchange at the time and the availability of francs, all parties might send money as and when they wanted to. Just as I do not think that the stopping of the sending of funds to democratic parties would be likely to influence the future fate of democracy, so I do not think that allowing the Communist Party in this country to send a limited sum of money to the Communist Party in France will mean the victory of Communism in that country.
Either of those two things—permits for all or permits for none—would be fair, and demonstrably fair. There would then be none of this necessity for an application of a personal test, a test that only exists in the mind of the man who has to apply it. I most strongly urge that, for the sake of the acceptance of and acquiescence in all the stringencies and harships of exchange control, and for the sake of doing away with any possible chance of discrimination between one citizen and another or one set of citizens and another, the right hon. and learned Gentleman should tell us tonight that he intends in future to adopt either one or the other of those alternatives which alone I believe to be fair.
§ 10.3 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Stafford Cripps)
I am extremely glad that we have had the opportunity of this Debate, and that it has not been curtailed as Debates on the Adjournment so often are, because it is a matter which is of great interest and it is also a matter which is of considerable difficulty. I would like, in the first place, just to say one or two general words on exchange control. Exchange control, of course, is operated under the Act of 1947, which expressly gave to the Treasury the power to decide, not on a given set of reasons or on a given set of cases but absolutely freely as regards any case in their own discretion, whether or not exchange should be permitted for that particular purpose. Of course, it has been necessary, as a result of that, gradually to work out a whole series of rules by which this discretion is to be applied.
524 The great mass of cases pass through the banks and go to the Bank of England and never come anywhere near the Treasury at all—99 per cent. of them probably, or something of that kind. They are just the ordinary business deals, and everything else of that kind, which go through automatically within certain types of case. However, there are, of course, always the border line cases. A good illustration of the way border line cases arise is the different views which have been expressed in this House tonight as regards the Scottish miners' case. Some people have referred to it as a political case and others as a charitable case. I will deal with it later. Quite obviously, we get in any of these sorts of applications a fairly large field of border line cases as to which individual decision must be given.
That is the only way in which they can be decided, and I am most unfortunate in that I am the person responsible for giving that individual decision. I should have been happy if the House had put the onus on somebody else, but they did not; they put it on the Chancellor of the Exchequer and, since qui tacit per affirm tacit per se. for everything that is done in individual cases or in any other cases I take, and must take, responsibility. It is quite obvious, on the other hand, that every single case I cannot decide myself; if I did, I should be able to do very little of the other business of my office. Therefore, it is only when in the ordinary course of administration cases which are regarded as difficult cases come before those who deal with them normally that they bring them up to me; and so I deal with the margin of the difficult cases that occur. The House can imagine that some of those that have to be decided are marginal, and most difficult, cases.
Broadly speaking, individuals—individuals apart from business transactions—are only allowed to make remitances abroad in personal hardship cases, that is to say, only to close relatives if they are ill or if they want to travel for some special reason; or they may be entitled to make a monthly remittance in certain cases where a person abroad is particularly dependent and unable to move, and so on. Of course, every one of those is a case that has to be judged on the hardship involved. One cannot lay down 525 a rule as to what hardship is; one can only deal with it on the case as it arises. There is a mass of medical cases, and for that purpose there is a medical tribunal to which these cases are referred to decide whether a particular kind of illness can be cured in this country, or whether that person must go to a certain country, and matters of that kind. All the way through, however, it is essentially a matter of discretion once one gets outside the ordinary procedure.
The next type of case is the charitable organisation. The House knows that before the war and, indeed, to some extent during the war, there was a mass of charitable organisations in this country which remitted money all over the world, particularly in the case of the medical missions and other such bodies. Something had to be done as regards regulating what they should be allowed to transmit in future. In many cases the demands were greater than they had ever been before the war and yet in many cases—hard currency cases and others—it was obviously necessary to make some regulation. What we did there was to give them a ration. The ordinary charity had a ration and if some new charity started up, they received a new ration just as in many other rationed matters and commodities.
We have had since then to make a distinction between hard currency cases and soft currency cases because we were able to do more for the soft currency cases than in the hard, and we did not want to keep them all back at the rate of the hard currency possibilities when it was not necessary as regards the soft currency countries. Here again there were special cases also, very much borderline cases, of charitable transactions by non-charitable organisations. The Scottish miners are a typical case—people who have been accustomed to send moneys abroad for certain kinds of charitable purposes in the past but who are not regular charities and organised as such. Those cases have to be dealt with, each one on its merits, to see whether it is properly within the definition of a charitable gift, and whether it is something which can be remitted to the country in question in view of the hardness or the softness of the currency in that country.
526 The matter of the Scottish miners was considered. As I said in reply to the original Question about this matter, I had an assurance of the purpose for which it was required. The application is described as being:for the purpose of purchasing food and clothing for the miners and their dependants.On that understanding, that the gift was for bona fide charitable purposes, I decided to allow it. So there was no question, as the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) will see, as to the purpose of the allowance.
§ Sir S. Cripps
It was described as being for the miners and their wives and families, for the purely charitable purposes of supplying clothing and food. This being a custom of long standing amongst miners I decided it would be wrong, in the case of a very soft currency country like France, to refuse permission. As a result I granted it and I think that most hon. Members will agree that that was the right thing to do.
The next question raised by the right hon. Gentleman is a very difficult one: how am I to assure that it gets to the right donees? As regards these charitable organisations, it is quite impossible ever to be assured of that at all. All I can do is to take their word for the purpose they mention and give them the power to transmit. I do not know to whom they transmit. How am I to ascertain, for instance, whether money transmitted to a mission in China is really used for the propagation of the Gospel? It is quite impossible for me to do so. I cannot follow these things. I must take the word of the transmitting authority. If I find subsequently that they have deceived me, that is a very good reason for stopping any further transmissions. But I cannot investigate all these cases, which run into hundreds, and even thousands. We could not possibly start investigating in Central Africa or, indeed, all over the world, the purposes for which they were being used. Although it would be nice to be able to check up these cases, it is not a practical form of procedure.
Now we come to the most difficult case of all, that of political organisations or trade unions. All these are spoken of 527 as if they were political organisations. There was only one application by a political organisation. It was sent not to a political organisation, but to some company which ran a paper in Paris. The other was from a trade union as a loan to another trade union and was not necessarily political at all. Those sorts of cases are obviously ones of great difficulty and it is quite clear that, whatever is done about them, one must arrive at a political decision. I have got to say either "Yes" or "No." If I say "Yes," it is obvious that people regard it as a political decision. If I say "No," then, equally, a lot of people would think that that was a political decision. I have not the slightest doubt— I am not saying this in the least offensively—that if it had been a Conservative organisation which proposed to send money to some Conservative organisation abroad and I had refused, I should have been accused of taking a political view. That would be quite natural.
The right hon. Gentleman says we must have either all or none. That is where the difficulty arises. Theoretically, as a matter of ease for the Chancellor, it would be much easier to say "all" or "none." Let us examine those two propositions. First, "all." The right hon. Gentleman will realise that if I said "all" there would be nothing to stop, for example, the Soviet Government transmitting £1 million from this country to the Communist Party of France.
§ Mr. Stanley
I did say that it should be subject, of course, to financial limits imposed by the state of the balance of payments just as, in the case of charities, we impose financial limits.
§ Sir S. Cripps
In the case of France, if we take a country separately and do not regard the principle as something applicable to all exchanges, there would be no difficulty at present. As the right hon. Gentleman knows we are lending, or giving, France £70 million of sterling this year. There is no difficulty, therefore, about transmission as far as the currency aspect is concerned. To put it on a smaller level, however, we should have to say that those sums could and should be transmitted.
I think that that is being wholly unrealistic as regards the state of affairs in Europe today. Although it may be that 528 the purpose of exchange control certainly is not to exercise political control, I think, on the other hand, that in a political situation of that sort we must not allow ourselves to encourage it by allowing the use of exchange control for encouraging it. Therefore we must, I think, take an attitude. If a cold war is going on all over Europe or, indeed, all over the world, we have got to take up an attitude on this question one way or the other.
What is the only sensible attitude to take? It is not a party attitude by any means, but there are certain general principles with which everyone in this House agrees and which we are in fact all, by different political methods and parties, striving to maintain: those are the permanence and maintenance of political democracy in Europe. I think it absolute madness not to allow people who wish to encourage right forces in any other country in Europe to do so. Why stop them? Because we are afraid the Communists may do it too? Is that a good reason for stopping the people we consider desirable being helped by people in this country?
We cannot take up the old position of laissez faire on a matter of this kind. We are in a very difficult situation in the world. There are great forces aligned against one another which are fighting out a cold war in Europe today. I certainly think people in this country ought to be encouraged to help the right side and not to encourage the wrong side. That is all I have done. I know it is an awkward onus on me and that I may make mistakes, but necessity in this situation must override my personal comfort or discomfort. I would far rather say "none" because then I would be perfectly safe and no one could accuse me of discrimination, favouritism, or anything else, but I do not believe that is right in the circumstances of Europe today.
Therefore, I hope the House will feel, whatever their views may be of whether I have arrived at a sound judgment on this, that at least I have tried to act on what I believe to be sound, honest principles. I am sorry that the hon. Member-for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) accused me of different sorts of principles, because he has absolutely no basis for that whatever. I very much resent and regret what he said in his speech when opening the 529 case. One can perfectly well argue this on principle, without accusing people of dishonesty.
§ Mr. Nicholson rose——
§ Mr. Nicholson
I will certainly withdraw any implication of personal dishonour on the right hon. and learned Gentleman, if I ever made one. But I think as a statesman he has not been acting in an honourable way. There was some secrecy and there are differences of opinion in this House. I do not accuse him of being personally dishonest, but I do not think it is an honourable course for a member of the Cabinet.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I do not know what the distinction is between personal honesty and honesty as a statesman. I do not recognise any distinction. The hon. Member said that we sought to conceal this. Nothing of the sort. He cannot have read through the answers. He complained that no answer had been given which stated how many of these cases there had been. It was stated perfectly clearly. It was stated on 2nd December and, I believe, the hon. Member for Skipton (Mr. Drayson) asked again on 7th December if the Chancellor would:give the total number of the political organisations in Europe to which he has already allowed money to be sent.The answer was:As far as I am aware, the only remittances to political organisations in Europe, other than normal fees and subscriptions by affiliated bodies to International Organisations, are those given in reply to the hon. Member's Question of 2nd December, 1948."—OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th December; Vol. 459, c. 26.]
§ Mr. Nicholson
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has challenged me. Has he got HANSARD of 30th November? I asked a Question of the number of charities and so on to which payments in sterling had been authorised, and in a written answer it was stated:It would not be proper to disclose the details of individual applications, except with the consent of the bodies concerned. Since 1st January, 1948, 27 charities and political or quasi-political organisations have been authorised to remit £43,931 to France."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 165.]Is that the answer to the Question I asked?
§ Sir S. Cripps
Of course it is. The only authorisation asked for is to remit. People send requests through their banks to the Bank of England to get an authorisation to remit £1,000 for France, or wherever it may be. The authorisation that is given is to remit £1,000. The answer was perfectly clear.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I thought that the hon. Member understood about exchange control. I am afraid that I thought that when he asked what authorisations had been given he meant authorisations to remit, because there are no others than can be given. He really must not accuse us of dishonesty because he apparently put the wrong question.
I think that I have covered the whole ground on the points that have been raised. I hope that I have made it clear to the House that I stand completely unrepentant as regards anything that I have done. I have changed my mind in regard to the case of the memorials for the reason, if the House wishes to know what the reason was, that we are reexamining the position in the light of the intra-European payments scheme, which means that we shall have to make some differentiation, which we have not been able to make in the past, between different countries so far as exchange control is concerned. It is a difficult and complicated matter to work out. We are examining it now to see what can be done as regards trying to ease up in respect of countries where the position has been made much easier as a result of the intra-European payments scheme. In anticipation of what I hope possibly may be able to be done, I agreed to this arrangement as regards the memorials. I am glad that I have been able to do it, and I very much hope that some people have been comforted by the thought that these memorials can be erected in the future. Apart from that, I am completely unrepentant. I feel that this is the only policy, though a difficult policy, to pursue, and I shall continue to pursue it.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-two Minutes past Ten o'Clock.