HC Deb 19 July 1949 vol 467 cc1152-4
37. Mr. Thomas Reid

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how the debt of Britain to India of about £1,200,000,000 contracted during the war in the defence, inter alia, of the Commonwealth and Empire has been liquidated up to date; and if Great Britain alone by unrequited exports or otherwise has borne the cost of liquidation up to date.

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Douglas Jay)

Financial talks with the Government of India are at present in progress and we expect to make a statement when they are concluded.

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

Can the Economic Secretary say what is the proportion of this debt now liquidating, and whether it is true that out of the £1,200 million only some £200 million or £300 million now remains to be repaid?

Mr. Jay

No, Sir, that is not true. My right hon. and learned Friend thought it best to give the full details when these negotiations were complete.

Mr. Oliver Stanley

When the right hon. Gentleman talks about talks going on, does he mean a permanent settlement of this problem, or another interim release of some of these balances?

Mr. Jay

The talks are mainly devoted to another interim period.

Mr. Alfred Edwards

Are their accounts to be submitted on a contra account for services rendered during the same period? Have all these been taken into consideration?

Mr. Jay

If the hon. Gentleman is speaking of counter claims by the United Kingdom, some of these were settled under the agreement made last year.

Mr. Stokes

Will my hon. Friend ask his right hon. and learned Friend to consider sending to the Indian Government a bill for this amount for saving them from the Japanese?

Mr. Stanley

In view of the hon. Gentleman's reply to the last supplementary question, is it not a fact that we have been told on many occasions that any counter claim we have against the Indian Government in connection with the war effort has been reserved for the final talks, and is it really correct when the hon. Gentleman says that such counter claims have already been settled in last year's talks?

Mr. Jay

A most substantial counter claim on account of defence stores, pensions and other matters was settled in the agreement which was published in the White Paper last year.

Mr. Stanley

Is the Chancellor making no claim against this debt which has been incurred in the defence of India and for the effort we made in keeping India safe?

Mr. T. Reid

Has any request been made to the Governments of India, Ceylon, Pakistan or any other Government to assist in liquidating this debt, instead of leaving the whole charge to fall upon the unfortunate British taxpayer?

Mr. A. Edwards

I think the second answer by the Economic Secretary to the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) was different to the one he gave to me. Are there still counter claims to be considered?