HC Deb 30 November 1939 vol 355 cc262-3W
Sir R. Tasker

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether the custodians of enemy property have disbursed any German assets seized by the Government; whether discrimination is being exercised between one British subject and another in granting compensation for losses sustained through enemy action; and whether it is by the authority of the Treasury that merchant bankers have had their bills taken over by the Bank of England?

Sir J. Simon

German assets in this country have not been seized by the Government, but under the Trading with the Enemy (Custodian) Order, 1939, moneys which, but for the outbreak of the war would be payable to or for the benefit of enemies have to be paid to the custodian and a return made to him of property held in this country for the account of enemies. The Board of Trade have power to vest such property in the custodian and certain Orders vesting such property have been made.

The money paid to the custodian under the Order is placed to a special account at the Bank of England, but releases have been made in special cases where a setoff, a mistake, a pre-war assignment or frustration of contract has been established, or where Germans resident in this country, who returned to Germany just before the outbreak of the war, left behind them funds for the purpose of discharging their personal liabilities to British creditors.

The answer to the second part of the question is in the negative. I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to him on the 21st November.

The matter referred to in the third part of the question was the subject of an announcement by me in the Press on the 4th September. With a view to maintaining essential financial services, arrangements were made whereby funds provided by the Government would be advanced by the Bank of England in respect of prewar bills to approved acceptors whose bills were normally discounted in the London discount market. Such advances were subject to certain conditions and were repayable by the acceptors concerned.