HL Deb 15 July 1942 vol 123 cc897-8

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Latham I beg to ask the question standing in his name.

[The question was as follows:

To ask His Majesty's Government, whether, in view of the statement of the Minister of Economic Warfare on the 4th of June that "the Paymaster-General is at work mainly on domestic problems, but there are one or two problems which cannot be described as strictly domestic which he is also tackling," they can state who is responsible for the work of international reconstruction; whether it is being coordinated through a single Ministry, and if so, which.]


My Lords, it is the case that a large part of the activities of the Paymaster-General have so far been in the domestic field. This, I think your Lordships will agree, is only natural, seeing that the necessary data are more easily accessible here than in the international field. They will inevitably remain so until we can foresee a little more clearly than at present the form in which the many oversea problems calling for solution arc likely to present themselves when the time for settlement arrives. Having regard to the great importance and extreme complexity of the problems involved, a Cabinet Committee, whose Chairman is now the Paymaster-General, was appointed some time ago to formulate practical schemes for both internal and external reconstruction. The Committee have been instructed to prepare schemes, inter alia, for a post-war European and world system with particular regard to economic factors and ways and means of establishing a durable international order.

The attribution of these duties to this Committee, however, does not, of course, affect the general responsibility of the Foreign Office for the foreign policy, present and future, of the United Kingdom Government. On the other hand, it is obvious that questions of external policy may, in certain cases, give rise to issues which closely affect other Ministers such, for instance, as the President of the Board of Trade. The task of the Committee over which my right honourable friend presides is therefore to organize and coordinate the work which is now being carried on by various Departments of State. While it would not be true, therefore, to say that any single Ministry has the sole responsibility for co-ordinating all plans for the post-war external policy of this country, it remains true that the Minister ultimately answerable to His Majesty's Government for this policy is the Foreign Secretary, and that his Department are responsible for giving him all the assistance in their power in the discharge of this duty.