HC Deb 22 February 1949 vol 461 cc1692-3
67. Mr. Tom Brown

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what further applications have been received by his Department for permission to remit funds to the French miners' organisations; and whether the applications have been approved.

Sir S. Cripps

Yes, Sir. Since I approved the original application on behalf of the National Union of Mine Workers (Scottish Area) last December for a remittance of £1,000 there have been two further applications, one by the same body to remit £520 and the other by the Coventry Colliery Miners' Lodge to remit £13 10s. The former application was made early in December and the latter at the beginning of January and, after calling for and studying evidence that the first remittance had in fact been spent on the charitable objects for which it was intended, I have authorised the transmission of the sums in question.

I should like, however, to take this opportunity of making it clear that I would not be disposed to approve any further applications for the transmission to France of contributions to funds organised under Communist auspices, even though their purpose is to help miners suffering as a consequence of the strikes last December. As the House is aware, I am not in general prepared to approve contributions made to organisations whose activities are hostile to democracy. It is never easy in cases of this kind to draw the line between primarily charitable and primarily political donations. In my view, however, there is a real difference between remittances arising from the natural and laudable desire to send money to relieve the distress of foreign fellow workers during a widespread strike and any subsequent applications to remit funds after the strike is over. In the present instance with the great majority of French miners back in work, the need for charitable subventions from this country is much less evident and such remittances assume much more the guise of contributions designed to facilitate the activities of a Communist dominated organisation. I am therefore not prepared to look with favour upon them.

Mr. Gallacher

Is not the Minister aware that many hundreds of the miners who were on strike are in prison, and that their wives and children are in absolute destitution? Does he mean to say that a helping hand to these women and children is a Communist conspiracy? Is that what he has got down to?

Mr. Nicholson

Would it not be much better if the Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted his mistake in his declared intention of administering Exchange control on a political basis?

Sir S. Cripps

No, I certainly do not think it would be better. I have to exercise my discretion. I have done it, and I have told the House how I have done it.

Mr. Stanley

Although I agree largely with the answer of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, will he explain why, if he holds those views, he has sanctioned these last two payments?

Sir S. Cripps

Because they were asked for at the time of the strike. They had been held up owing to my inquiries whether the former payments had been properly disbursed. As they were asked for at the time the strike was on, it was reasonable, having satisfied myself with regard to the earlier payments, that these two should be allowed through.

Earl Winterton

Could the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether, among the charitable objects to which he referred, was the saving of a man's life from tubercular infection, as in the case of Mr. Heron?

Sir S. Cripps

I do not know. I have not had any details of such a case amongst the miners.

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