HC Deb 02 February 1977 vol 925 cc525-7
2. Mr. Ian Lloyd

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what criteria he employs in giving general guidance to British banks operating in foreign countries as to the policy which such banks, particularly when they are operated as local companies in which local capital is invested, should apply to the investments which they make in the Government securities of the country concerned.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Edward Rowlands)

My right hon. Friend does not give general guidance on the policy to be adoped by British banks operating in foreign countries.

Mr. Lloyd

May I direct the attention of the Minister of State to three specific issues raised by his recent action in connection with Barclays Bank? First, are we to conclude from this that the policy hitherto shown by Her Majesty's Government towards multinationals that they should obey the laws of the country in which they operate is to have a specific exception in the case of Southern Africa? Secondly, and perhaps more important, is the Minister aware that the countries in which Barclays Bank operates have recently been illustrated on a page of the The Times? Are these countries now to be graded in some order of moral reprehensibility? If so, will he tell the House what that order is? As there is no such order at the moment, perhaps he will say by what authority he called the general manager of Barclays Bank to the Foreign Office and ticked him off. Finally, and perhaps most important of all—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long".]—

Mr. Speaker

I was, in any case, about to ask the Minister to reply to one out of the three.

Mr. Rowlands

The answer is "No" to virtually all that the hon. Gentleman asked. He misrepresents completely the nature of my meeting with Mr. Dolling, who came to discuss with me his bank's policy which was reflected in the statement that he made.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Is my hon. Friend aware that, in a statement which I have obtained from South Africa, Mr. Dolling is reported to have said that there was nothing that he and his colleagues could do to affect the daily decisions of Barclays Bank in South Africa? In other words, although the bank ticked off the South African subsidiary for doing what it has done, it now says "We can do nothing to interfere with it, although we are the holding company." Is not the bank holding up the Foreign Office to ridicule?

Mr. Rowlands

There is no question of ridicule, even though my hon Friend uses terms like that. Mr. Dolling said that it was the bank's policy to do everything possible to ensure that such action would not recur.