HC Deb 12 June 1956 vol 554 cc223-4
24. Mr. Pargiter

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the value of the gold deposited in this country by the Czech Government and subsequently handed over to the Hitler Government of Germany; what restitution is now being made to Czechoslovakia; and what repayment is being demanded from the present German Government.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

I assume that the hon. Member is referring to gold which was held by the Bank of England to the order of the Bank for International Settlements, and dealt with in 1939 in accordance with the latter's instructions. After the war, the Czechoslovak Government claimed that as a result of this transaction about 23,000 kilograms of Czechoslovak monetary gold—worth about £6 million at 1939 values—came into the possession of the Reichsbank. As a signatory of the Paris Reparation Agreement of January, 1946, Czechoslovakia accepted the method of restitution of monetary gold laid down in Part III of the Agreement, and has since presented claims on this basis to the Tripartite Gold Commission. The last part of the Question does not therefore arise.

Mr. Pargiter

Surely, having regard to our responsibility in this matter originally, whatever the expediency at the time, does not the Chancellor think that some restitution ought to be made somehow to the Czech people?

Mr. Macmillan

Since that time, there has been an agreement, made in 1946. Negotiations are now going on as a result of that agreement, and I think I would prefer, in accordance with practice, not to make a statement while the negotiations are going on.

25. Mr. Pargiter

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the amount of the debt incurred by Czechoslovakia to this country for the maintenance and equipment of Czech forces who fought with us; and whether, in view of our failure to enforce reparations on our former enemies, he will now forgive this debt.

Mr. H. Macmillan

Nearly £201 million, of which £6½ million was written off as mutual aid. In September, 1949, as part of a comprehensive settlement covering outstanding claims between the two Governments, the Czechoslovak Government undertook to repay the balance of about £14 million over the period 1949 to 1965. I see no reason why the obligation to pay this sum should be waived.

Mr. Pargiter

Having regard to the fact that, generally speaking, we have been, shall we say, fairly generous to our former enemies, should we not be a little more generous to these people, who were fighting with us, in connection with debts which they incurred in this country due to the fact that we were equipping forces which were fighting with us?

Mr. Macmillan

Of course, we try to be generous, but this agreement was freely made in 1949, four years after the war. There is a period of sixteen years for payment, and I think it would be reasonable to expect that this obligation should be continued.

Mr. Pargiter

It is scarcely a question of the period, but rather one of principle.

Mr. Macmillan

The question of principle is that the Czechoslovak Government agreed to pay, and I have no doubt that they will carry out their promise.