HC Deb 06 December 1960 vol 631 cc1068-70

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

91. Mr. HIRST

To ask the Lord Privy Seal whether he will make a statement about the settlement of claims for property and other assets of British nationals taken over by the Egyptian Government.

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Edward Heath)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I will now answer Question No. 91.

An Order in Council has been laid before the House today which makes certain technical amendments to the Foreign Compensation (Egypt) (Interim Distribution) Order, 1959, and sets out a new scale for the payment of compensation to those claimants whose property was taken over by the Egyptian Government or sequestrated by them. This Order supersedes the scale laid down in the 1959 Order and provides for increased payments to those whose claims exceed £10,000.

Under the new Order compensation will be paid at the following rates:

  • 70 per cent. on the first £5,000 of each claim;
  • 50 per cent. on the next £45,000 of each claim;
  • 25 per cent. on the next £450,000 of each claim;
  • 20 per cent. on all amounts over £500,000.
This new scale will benefit the middle and larger claimants who, under the original scale, received a much smaller percentage than those with claims below £10,000.

Mr. Hirst

I thank my right hon. Friend for that statement. It was absolutely right that small claimants should receive a substantial payment under the first Order, but is he aware that there was a strong feeling that the larger claimants—for example, the Bradford Dyers' Association—which received only 5½ per cent. under the earlier Order, were unjustly treated? Is he also aware that the new Order will go a long way to correct that position, that I welcome it, and hope that in due course a further payment will be made?

Mr. Warbey

Can the Minister say when people who have had their property desequestrated for over a year will receive the money which is due to them?

Mr. Heath

I am not clear whether the hon. Gentleman is referring to any moneys which they wish to bring out of Egypt, or whether it is the claim which they wish to make on the Foreign Compensation Commission.

As regards the latter, as soon as the claim for any damage or loss they have suffered through sequestration has been assessed and accepted by the Commission, it will be paid on the terms I have just announced.

Mr. Warbey

And the former?

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I, too, welcome my right hon. Friend's statement. When this payment is made, what percentage of the total claim will still be unfulfilled?

Mr. Heath

I cannot give a precise percentage, or even a nearly accurate one, because the assessments on the Egyptianisation claims are not yet completed and the claims for losses on desequestration are only just beginning to come in. It is not possible at this stage for me to give my hon. Friend a worth-while figure.

Mr. Manuel

In the light of what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the latest compensation payment, will he tell the House what the extent of the total bill now is arising out of the mistake of the Suez incident?

Mr. Heath

It is not yet possible to estimate the total bill for these claims—partly because the assessments of the Egyptianisation claims are not yet completed, through no fault of either the Foreign Compensation Commission or the claimants, and partly because the process of desequestration is still continuing.

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