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Austria (German Assets)

Volume 436: debated on Wednesday 30 April 1947

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will draw the attention of the Control Commission for Austria to the fact that 200 factories have now been taken over and are being operated by the U.S.S.R.; that the Soviet confiscations made under the head of German assets now amount to 25 per cent. of the whole national economy; and whether instructions will be given to our representative on the Allied Control Commission to take action in order to prevent the financial ruin of Austria

The hon. Member will be aware that the question of German assets in Austria was discussed at the recent meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers. Although no agreement could be reached, it was decided to set up a Commission of representatives of the four Powers to deal with all outstanding questions of the Austrian Treaty, and a committee of experts to examine the particular question of German assets under Article 35 and the related question of United Nations nationals' property under Article 42 on a basis of concrete facts. The hon. Member will appreciate that in these circumstances the issue of new instructions to the British Element of the Allied Commission is unnecessary.

Has the right hon. Gentleman had time to read a statement by the American Secretary of State to the effect that if these exactions continue it will be impossible for Austria to maintain her independent existence?

I think that I have made the position clear in Moscow. The difficulty about this matter is trying to settle it on the basis of a formula. I have tried to settle it on the basis of the actual facts.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the terms of reference of the committee of experts include the power to investigate the changes of ownership in individual property and the conditions under which ownership will change?

Yes, they can go in and have presented to them all the relevant facts. One principle I set out for is that I do not think that other United Nations nationals ought to suffer as a result of the depredations of Hitler.

Can the right hon Gentleman say what is the earliest date that the Foreign Ministers are likely to be able to receive the reports of these committees and come to some decision about Austria?

The decision was to do it without delay. Sometimes, when we fix a date, we are like the man who used to prophesy the end of the world; if it (lid not happen he altered the date.