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Trading With The Enemy (Swiss Firms)

Volume 393: debated on Tuesday 9 November 1943

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asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare whether he will give the reasons for the blacklisting of the firm of Sulzer Brothers, of Winterhus; how many other Swiss firms have been blacklisted; and whether he will give an assurance that after the war assistance given to the enemy by firms in neutral countries will, so far as British trade is concerned, be taken into account in international dealings?

His Majesty's Government of course realise that in present circumstances it is impossible Mr many Swiss manufacturers to avoid a certain volume of trade with Germany and other Axis countries. We are bound, however, to take a serious view in cases where deliveries to the Axis substantially increase and are greatly in excess of normal trade. Firms in any neutral countries which choose to reinforce in this manner the Axis war effort have in our view no legitimate cause for complaint if they find themselves placed on the British Statutory List and the United States Proclaimed List. As a general rule, however, we are prepared to refrain from such action if the firm concerned is prepared to enter into an undertaking regarding its future dealings with the Axis, and a large number of neutral firms have signed such undertakings.Since the beginning of the war the firm of Sulzer Brothers has exported to Axis countries various forms of machinery. My Noble Friend accepts their statement, which was made some weeks ago in a letter to His Majesty's Consul-General at Zurich and which has recently been publicly repeated in Switzerland, that they refrained from exporting arms or munitions or submarine diesel engines. There are, however, many other forms of manufacture of hardly less value to the Axis. In the summer of this year there was a very heavy increase indeed in Sulzer Brothers' deliveries to the Axis of certain types of machinery, particularly marine diesel engines. In these circumstances the firm were invited to sign an undertaking that they would confine their deliveries to Axis countries to their normal pre-war volume of trade. This they refused to do. We had therefore no option but to include their name in the Statutory List.The total number of names in Switzerland now on the Statutory List is 1,164. As regards the third part of the Question, I can hardly give an assurance in the precise form suggested. But I should like to make it clear that firms and traders in European neutral countries should not too hastily assume that, when the Armistice is signed, we will at once forget those who have elected to assist our enemies.