HL Deb 20 July 1949 vol 164 cc190-1

2.43 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to ask the question which stands in my name on the Order Paper, I beg leave of the House to explain that I have taken this course because the time originally allotted to my Motion on this important subject has been entirely absorbed by Government Business.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask His Majesty's Government whether they have any statement to make on increased assistance to Greece.]


My Lords, noble Lords will be aware that financial considerations obliged His Majesty's Government to lay down the main burden assistance to Greece in May, 1947, what our assistance to that country had already cost us over £60,000,000 since the end of the war. Although the main burden was then assumed by the United States Government, His Majesty's Government have nevertheless continued to afford substantial aid to the Greeks is their struggle against the Communist-led and foreign-aided rebellion. We have retained British troops in Greece; our missions continue to advise and train the Greek Army, Navy and Air Force and police; and we continue to supply Greece with military equipment and aircraft against payment. In the past year we have supplied in this way a large amount of military stores, 74 Spitfires and 24 training and 12 transport aircraft.

Apart from this, our assistance to Greece in the economic field has also been substantial and we have granted her the sterling equivalent of 24,000,000 dollars' worth of drawing rights for the Marshall Year just ended. We have also made the Greek forces a gift of surplus stores of considerable value and we have now nearly completed delivery of the free gift of 22 Spitfires, which will arrive in time to make a valuable contribution to the present campaign against the rebels. I think noble Lords will agree that in our present economic situation we are not in a position to increase our material assistance to Greece, which, as I have shown, is being continued on a substantial scale. We have every sympathy with the plight of that unhappy people, and we have reason to hope that will the forces at present at their disposal, helped by increasing disillusion and dissension in the rebel ranks, they may be able to obtain such a measure of success this year as will enable them soon to recover that peace which has so long been denied them.


I thank the noble Lord for his full statement and I will revert to the subject on a more propitious occasion.


My Lords, arising out of the noble Lord's reply, may I ask what steps are being taken by His Majesty's Government to ensure that before any trade agreement is made with Yugoslavia, the children who were taken from Greece in the most horrible circumstances will be returned to that country? May I also ask whether the Government are aware of the appalling campaign led and paid for by Communists in this country, which is going on against Greece at the present time, and what steps they are going to take?


My Lords, I think those two questions do not arise out of the Question on the Order Paper.


My Lords, I am glad the noble Lord has been able to make this statement about Greece. I wish he had promised greater help to Greece, but I appreciate the economic difficulties to which he referred. I think we ought to express our admiration for the courage and tenacity of the Greek people and the Greek Army. They are fighting a battle for the freedom of the Atlantic democracies. It would be outside the scope of order to say any more, except to add that I hope the expectations set out in the last part of the answer will be fulfilled.