HL Deb 29 May 1922 vol 50 cc864-8

LORD LAMINGTON had given Notice to ask His Majesty's Government what has been and what is the present cost of the Reparation Commission in Paris, and what sum the pay and allowances of the British representative amount to; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, some little time ago my noble friend opposite, Lord Newton, introduced this subject to your Lordships' notice, when he referred to the number of Commissions and Committees that had settled down in the different ex-enemy cities. He then stated that one Commission, connected, I gather, with Germany alone, the Reparation Commission, consisted of 171 people, and cost Germany 32,000,000 marks a month. That debate took place in March, and those figures may have since been modified. It is to be hoped that some reduction both in expense and personnel has taken place, but should like to know whether those figures represent the cost of the whole of the Reparation Commission as regards Germany, or whether they include Reparation Commissions for Bulgaria, Hungary and Austria. Again, is the sum extracted from ex-enemy countries for paving for these Commissions deducted from the final settlement of the reparation, or is it in excess of that which is to be obtained from the ex-enemy countries? I hope the noble Lord who represents the Government will be able to answer these points, and also to say whether a final conclusion has been reached as to the amount of the reparation that is to be obtained.

In the course of the debate to which I referred, Lord Weardale remarked that all these experts have been unable to arrive at any definite conclusion as to the sums of money that are to be paid by our ex-enemies. I should like to know whether, to-day, there has been a final determined amount settled, or whether that amount, is again liable to fluctuation in the future, either by reason of the opinion of the experts themselves or as the result of one of the numerous conferences summoned to different parts of the country from time to time. I beg to move.


My Lords, I have, as stated by my noble friend opposite, brought the question of the excessive cost of these different Commissions before time House on various occasions, and I am only too glad to find that another member of this House takes an interest in the question. It appears to me that the question of the expense of the Reparation Commission is one that is well worthy of attention. The original decision was that the Reparation Commission should be paid at the rate of five million francs a month. In pre-war currency that would, of course, represent over £2,000,000 sterling, but that arrangement was modified, and I understand that the present system is that the Reparation Commission can ask for five million francs whenever they require the money.

I desire to give the House a few figures to show how the cost has mounted up. The cost of the Reparation Commission from April 1, 1919, to March 31, 1920, was 47,000,000 marks. In time following year the sum rose to 177,000000 marks. In 1921 it was 358,000,000 marks, and in the current year—namely, from March 31 to May 7–131,000,000 marks has been paid, or I presume it has been paid, because that is what has been claimed. In addition to the Reparation Commission there are Sub-Commissions, and it is very remarkable to note the extraordinary increase there has keen in the expenses of the Sub-Commissions. In 1919 the Sub-Commissions cost 7,000,000 marks, in 1920, 27,000,000 marks, in 1921, 236,00,000 marks, and for the present year—April 1 to May 7–112,000,000 marks has been paid. Now, in 1919, 5,000,000 francs were represented in German currency by 23,000,000 marks, in November, 1920, by 24,000,000 marks, and in January, 1922, by 75,000,000 marks.

Altogether, I calculate that something like 1,100,000,000 marks have been spent on time Reparation Commission in one way or another. Without desiring to express any particular sympathy with the Germans it is, in spite of the depreciated value of the mark, an enormous sum, and I should like to hear a convincing reason why so much money has been spent upon this particular Commission, when it is obvious that a sum of this character, or a portion of it, would have been so much better spent in restoring to some extent the devastated areas in France.


My Lords, I will endeavour to answer the Question which has been put on the Paper by my noble friend opposite. In his opening remarks I think he went a little further than the Question on the Paper, and if he wishes for further detailed information I must ask him for Notice of what is required. My noble friend is, no doubt, aware that the Reparation Commission is an international body the cost of which is not paid by the British taxpayer. There are no Papers in possession of His Majesty's Government. I am informed that the estimated annual cost of the Reparation Commission and of the Committee of Guarantees amounts to about £700,000. This sum covers the expenses of both the national delegations and the international organisation in relation to Germany, Austria and Hungary, and includes the costs of offices at Paris, Berlin, Essen, Wiesbaden and Budapest. It also includes the expenses of the work of disposing of German war material, a task accepted by the Commission in addition to its Treaty duties at the request of the Allied Governments.

In reply to the question regarding the past cost of the Reparation Commission I am not able to give exact information as to the cost of the Commission at various times since its institution, but I am informed that the present cost represents in terms of sterling a reduction of over 20 per cent. on the maximum cost of the Commission. As the work of the Commission decreases in certain directions reductions of staff are constantly carried out, and by this means it has been possible to effect the savings referred to. The British delegate to the Reparation Commission receives a salary of 100,000 gold marks per annum and an allowance equal to 20 per cent of his salary for additional expense of foreign residence and also an allowance of the same amount for official expenses. Accordingly, the salary and allowances of the delegate amount to 140,000 gold marks per annum. There are at the present rate of exchange, about 19 gold marks to the sovereign, and accordingly the sterling equivalent of the sum of 140,000 gold marks is about £7,100. The cost of the Reparation Commission is paid direct by the German Government, and no part of the expense falls upon the British taxpayer.


I thank my noble friend for the reply which he has given to me, but can he answer my question whether these expenses are a deduction from the final reparation settlement or in addition to the reparation settlement which may be eventually arrived at?


I cannot tell the noble Lord without notice of the Question.


I think I can tell the noble Lord that. It is in excess.


Then, in any case, it is a large sum—a700,000 a year for the British Commission only.


No, for the whole Commission.


It is a very considerable sum. Presumably, it means that in the end a very large sum goes to those who hold office under the Commission, and therefore the taxpayer, who might hope to get something out of the reparation, will be deprived of these very large sums of money.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.