HC Deb 30 January 1941 vol 368 cc714-6W
Mr. Hely-Hutchinson

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is in a position to make any statement about the sending of remittances to enemy and enemy-occupied territories?

Sir K. Wood

Yes, Sir. It has until recently been possible to send remittances to British subjects in enemy and enemy-occupied territories through two channels. Subject to obtaining the consent of the Trading with the Enemy Branch, banks in this country have been empowered to make remittances on proof of the need of such a British subject. Simultaneously advances have been made to British subjects to relieve dis- tress by United States Consuls in enemy and enemy-occupied territories. There has inevitably been a risk of duplication of payment, and in view of the necessity of conserving our resources of foreign exchange and of preventing such resources accruing to the benefit of the enemy, it has been found necessary to review the whole position and, while making no change of principle, to deal with such transactions on a uniform system.

As from 1st January, 1941, therefore, permission to effect remittances through banks in this country has been withdrawn. Henceforward British subjects (including widows of British birth) detained in enemy or enemy-occupied territory who are willing to be repatriated when facilities exist and in the meantime need financial assistance may obtain advances on application made to the nearest United States Consul. The amount advanced is assessed by the Consul in relation to the circumstances of each particular case, but may not exceed the following monthly amounts per person:

Germany (including Czecho-Slovakia) £15
Italy and Italian possessions Lire 900
Unoccupied France £12 10s.
Countries in enemy occupation £10

The United States Consuls also have a discretion enabling them in exceptional circumstances to meet medical and other expenses. The limits referred to above are governed by the imperative need to avoid providing the enemy with foreign exchange, and it is not possible to obtain increases in the amounts solely on the ground that they do not maintain the customary standard of living of the recipients. Such advances are repayable in this country by or on behalf of the recipient, and can be made only to British subjects.

Any interested party in the United Kingdom who has reason to think that a British subject to whom the above applies may not be aware of these facilities may apply to the Trading with the Enemy Branch (Treasury and Board of Trade), 20, Kingsway, W.C.2, with a view to the case being taken up through the nearest United States Consul. Any such application must state the full name and last known address of the British subject, his or her relationship to the applicant, and the name and address of the applicant.

As regards British subjects who are civilian internees in enemy and enemy occupied territories, United States Consuls will have discretion to give monetary assistance to such extent as may be necessary to relieve hardship.

The changes described above necessarily affect the position of prisoners of war, to whom it has hitherto been possible to send remittances only through banks in this country. Up to the present the two banks who are official agents for the Army and Air Force hold a licence permitting them to remit up to £2 per month to any officer prisoner of war. It was always intended that there should be no discrimination between officers and other ranks, but the administrative arrangements in connection with other ranks had not been completed at the time when the matter came under review. If the arrangement were extended to cover other ranks as well as officers, it would involve payment to the enemy of a maximum amount of £1,000,000 a year in United States dollars, which would at the same time impair our own war effort and assist the enemy. It has been decided therefore that in future, permission to send remittances through banks in this country shall be withdrawn in the case of prisoners of war no less than in the case of other British subjects in enemy and enemy occupied territories. I am sure that all those interested will appreciate that this decision has only been reached for very strong reasons which will be understood by them and by the prisoners of war themselves.