§ 2.35 p.m.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they have made to the Burmese Government about their refusal to grant exit permits to the partners in A. Scott & Company.]
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (LORD WALSTON)
My Lords, A. Scott and Company owned a mineral water factory in Rangoon which was taken over and subsequently auctioned on December 4, 1964, in part satisfaction of income tax liabilities claimed by the Burmese authorities. The four British partners are being prevented from leaving Burma principally because they have no funds to meet the remaining tax liability, and there may also be a court case pending against them in respect of certain alleged business irregularities. Against two of the partners there is also a longstanding court case concerning alleged foreign exchange offences some years ago.
Her Majesty's Government are not in a position to judge either the merits of these court proceedings or the equity of the tax assessments. Her Majesty's Ambassador at Rangoon has, however, now followed up earlier representations to the Burmese authorities with a personal appeal to the Burmese Foreign Minister to allow these businessmen to leave. I myself have been personally assured by the Burmese Ambassador that he has requested his Government to ensure that the cases of these business- 1158 men are dealt with as speedily and as sympathetically as possible.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his Answer to my Question, so far as it goes. But is he aware that the penal taxation which these four British subjects are expected to pay has made them absolutely destitute? They have not the smallest chance of being able to pay off this taxation and, as he knows, they are unable to leave the country. May I put down a further Question in a week or so to find out from the noble Lord what has happened? It is really a disgraceful thing that four British subjects should be put in this position. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will make very strong representations in this matter.
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, I should be most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, if he would put down a further Question. In the meantime, I assure him that both Her Majesty's Ambassador and I myself, personally, are pursuing this matter as best we can.