HC Deb 13 February 1945 vol 408 cc56-9W
Mr. H. Nicolson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that the appeals being issued by private organisations or others for money or goods destined for the relief of civilians in Allied countries and the adoption of towns in liberated areas by British cities may, in certain circumstances, conflict with existing arrangements for relief abroad or with domestic regulations in this country; and whether he has considered means whereby the sympathy felt for Allied countries can find expression without the risk of such a conflict.

Mr. Law

A number of inquiries have been received from organisations wishing to promote appeals for the benefit of the Allied peoples of Europe after their liberation. His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom recognise and appreciate in such activities a sign of the sympathy and admiration felt by the people of this country for our Allies. It is, however, important that the necessary procedure should be correctly understood, both by the sponsors of appeals and by contributors to them, in view of certain important limitations imposed by present circumstances. Such appeals in most cases come under the provisions of the War Charities Act, 1940, and it is therefore important that all persons wishing to organise appeals should make themselves acquainted with the provisions of that Act.

Further, in regard to collections of money, it should be kept in mind that money collected in this country may not ordinarily be transferred abroad, and will therefore in all but the most exceptional cases have to be spent on the purchase of goods in this country. On the other hand, goods of the kinds most commonly required are all, to varying degrees, in short supply, and in the case of a number of the principal commodities all that is available for export from the United Kingdom for relief purposes is already destined or export through the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration or through the National Governments concerned. Facilities to buy such goods in this country for export abroad as relief can as a rule be given only to the purchasing agencies of Allied Governments concerned or to U.N.R.R.A. as the case may be. It will not therefore normally be possible in present circumstances for private organisations to buy such goods on their own account (except occasionally in the special case of certain supplies required by teams of British voluntary societies working in liberated countries under the auspices of the Council of British Societies for Relief Abroad and under agreed arrangements). They should instead offer to place their funds at the disposal of the authorised representatives of an Allied Government or of U.N.R.R.A. to expend on their behalf in consultation with the appropriate supply department of His Majesty's Government (the Ministry of Food in the case of foodstuffs, soap and most vitamin preparations, the Ministry of Production in the case of any other commodities).

As regards collections of goods—that is to say of articles which an individual or a society is able to spare from among those in his or its possession—it is essential that the appropriate department of His Majesty's Government (as shown above) should be consulted before any appeal is issued, since otherwise rationing and other regulations may unwittingly be infringed. Subject to this, however, collections of certain kinds of goods, such as spare garments, may serve a very useful purpose in time of shortage, by producing supplies which only voluntary effort can make accessible. Goods so collected would have to be placed at the disposal of an Allied Government or of U.N.R.R.A. on whom it would fall to arrange with the military authorities (or other authorities controlling shipment to the country in question) for the transport of the, goods to their destination. The approval of the Allied agency concerned should therefore of course be secured before any appeal is launched.

Present difficulties of supply and transport greatly diminish the usefulness of any funds collected on the understanding that they will be used to buy goods of a closely specified kind, or for the benefit of particular groups or places within a country, as opposed to that country as a whole. It is possible for instance that goods of a particular variety may not be obtainable for export from the United Kingdom or that goods whose destination is too closely specified may be unacceptable because they cannot be transported to their destination or distributed without injustice to the needs of others. Funds or goods offered to Allied authorities should therefore preferably be offered subject to as few conditions as possible, and as a general contribution to- the long process of repairing damage and relieving distress among the nations concerned. If, however, it is in any case proposed to collect for a closely specified object it is essential in fairness to the contributors that the sponsors of the appeal should first approach the Allied authorities concerned or U.N.R.R.A. and ascertain whether, after consultation with the appropriate shipping authorities and with the appropriate supply department of His Majesty's Government, they are able to accept the proceeds on the conditions intended.

I understand that several city and municipal authorities in this country have expressed the wish to revive the practice followed after the last war of "adopting" towns in liberated Europe with the object of providing food and clothing for their inhabitants, and, if necessary, contributing to the repair of their damaged buildings. His Majesty's Government warmly sympathise with the generous motives which have inspired such gestures. They welcome the establishment of close relations between individual British and Allied towns as a valuable means of preserving and consolidating our friendship with our European Allies. They consider, however, that the actual procedure of adoption, although practicable and mutually beneficial after the last war, is scarcely appropriate and might well raise false hopes, in the very different circumstances obtaining to-day, when, as explained, difficulties of supply and transport impose such severe restrictions on arrangements for direct and immediate material aid from one town to another.

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