HC Deb 19 June 1950 vol 476 cc858-9
53. Mr. Peter Smithers

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to what extent his Department was consulted by the Ministry of Food as to the advisability of chartering the Soviet vessel "Dmitry Donskoy" to load sugar in the Dominican Republic for shipment to Liverpool.

Mr. Ernest Davies

The Foreign Office was not consulted; nor is it usual practice for other Departments to consult them about the chartering of foreign vessels.

Mr. Smithers

But did not the hon. Gentleman assure me in a recent Debate that his Department is finally responsible for the activities even of other Departments in foreign territories; and does he not agree that where the matter is highly political his Department ought to be consulted so as to avoid undesirable consequences?

Mr. Davies

Certainly we are responsible for the activities of other Departments overseas in foreign territories, but this is not a question of a foreign territory. This was a question of chartering ships by the Ministry of Food in this country on an ordinary commercial basis, and that is the responsibility of the Ministry of Food.

Mr. Smithers

Does the Under-Secretary not realise that the Minister of Food himself denies any responsibility for the political consequences in foreign countries of an action of this sort? Surely some Department must have an eye upon our interests in that matter.

Mr. Davies

This was entirely a question of chartering ships for commercial purposes which the Ministry of Food undertook, and as far as the Foreign Office was concerned there was no reason why we should be consulted in the matter.

Captain Crookshank

In view of what has happened, will the Under-Secretary now get in touch with the Minister of Food and point out the undesirability of continuing this practice?

Mr. Chetwynd

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that a little earlier this afternoon the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Peter Smithers) was pressing the Minister of Food to get as much sugar as he could from any source possible?