HC Deb 19 June 1950 vol 476 cc861-2
59. Mr. Baldwin

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether a new payments agreement has yet been concluded between this country and Germany whereby ex-prisoners of war may now draw their credit balances in this country where many of them have set up a home.

Mr. Ernest Davies

No, Sir. Negotiations concerning trade and payments relations with Germany have been taking place in London and have not yet been concluded. I am, therefore, not yet in a position to say what facilities will be available for private transfers of money from Germany to this country from which ex-prisoners-of-war might benefit.

Mr. Baldwin

Does the Minister consider it fair that these credit balances, which are wages due for work done in this country, should not be paid to these men, so that they can spend them in this country?

Mr. Davies

There was, as the hon. Gentleman is aware, an arrangement during the war whereby payments made to German prisoners-of-war in this country were credited in marks in Germany, and arrangements have been made for prisoners-of-war who remain in this country to receive payments in marks, either when they are visiting their own country or to their relatives in that country. As yet, we have not been able to make an arrangement for payment in sterling. This is a matter for the German Exchange Control, and an arrangement, it is hoped, will ultimately be reached.

Mr. Driberg

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is considerable hardship in cases in which these men have no surviving relatives in Germany and no homes to go back to, and can he say whether this particular point is being discussed, among others, in the negotiations to which he referred?

Mr. Davies

Yes, Sir, this is under consideration, because the Government recognise the desirability of some liberalisation of the present arrangement for private transfers, particularly in cases of hardship.

Mr. Pickthorn

Can the House be told how much would be involved in the whole of this; and, secondly, in view of the fact that never before was there so complete a strategic victory which produced so little peace, and never before did victory mean that one side lost half its country, does His Majesty's Government think it right that those Germans who cannot decently be expected to go back to East Germany should be deprived of these small sums?

Mr. Davies

The answer to the first part of the supplementary question is, roughly, £250,000. The second part of the supplementary question I do not consider relevant.