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Sterling Convertible Agreements

Volume 436: debated on Thursday 24 April 1947

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57 and 58.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) with what countries His Majesty's Government have concluded agreements of convertibility of sterling and what is the estimated total of sterling to be converted during the financial year 1947–48 under such agreements;

(2) if it is the policy of His Majesty's Government to ensure that any agreements for the convertibility of sterling include an arrangement that credit balances of currency held by this country of the currency concerned are equally convertible.

Agreements have been concluded with the Argentine, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy, and we have a working arrangement on similar lines with Canada. As I explained in my reply to the hon. and gallant Member the day before yesterday, no estimate can be given of the amounts involved, since they depend not only on our own transactions with the countries concerned, but also upon their transactions with other countries, in so far as these are settled in sterling. As regards the credit balances of other countries, I would refer him to my answer the day before yesterday to my hon. Friend the Member for Spen Valley (Mr. Sharp).

Is not the Chancellor of the Exchequer slightly apprehensive of what his colleague has said? Here we are, with very strained resources, and apparently His Majesty's Government do not know what these agreements are to cost this country. Surely there must be some estimate as to what additional liability is to be put on our foreign exchange?

I am sorry to have to repeat myself. The point really is that this depends on multilateral trading arrangements, including the movement of invisible items, as I explained in reply to a similar Question just now. I do not want to give an estimate that cannot be sustained by argument. This is a case where no estimate can be given. Of course, we are watching the movement of events very carefully.