§ Mr. MOLTENO
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) whether it will be necessary to obtain the authority of the House of Commons for the acceptance of the liability for commercial bills and Russian Treasury Bills by the Treasury; if not, under what authority it has been done; and whether there is any precedent for the gift to private persons of many millions of public money; and (2) what is the total amount of commercial bills and Russian Treasury Bills which he has agreed that the Treasury should take over; what is the nature of the arrangement upon which the bills are taken over; and whether the Russian banks as well as the Russian Government remain liable for the bills?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The Exchequer Bonds which it is proposed to issue in exchange for the bills to be taken over by His Majesty's Government will be issued under the War Loan Acts in exchange for a cash payment from the Vote of Credit. As the payment from the Vote of Credit is within the terms of that Vote, no special Parliamentary authority is required for the transaction. The action which is being 821W taken follows the precedent set at the beginning of the War in regard to assistance to holders and acceptors of pre-moratorium bills. The total amount of the commercial bills involved is £7,515,000, and of the Russian Treasury Bills £10,000,000.
As regards the arrangements under which these bills are to be taken over, I beg to refer to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Ecclesall, on Thursday last, and to the official announcement by the Bank of England which appeared in the Press this morning. The liabilities of the Russian Government and of the Russian banks will remain unaffected.