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Germany

Volume 438: debated on Wednesday 4 June 1947

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Civil Claims

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will now make a statement on the constitution, procedure and personnel of the panel which is to consider, civil claims against the British authorities in the British zone of Germany.

As the answer is long, I will with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for what is evidently a satisfactory and decisive answer, may I ask if it indicates that this procedure will come into force pretty soon, because there are a number of cases pending?

Following is the answer:

The panel will consist of representatives of the Control Commission and of the British Army of the Rhine, with a German lawyer to advise on the German legal principles involved. It will be empowered to deal with claims for personal and material damage caused by watercraft, vehicles and aircraft of the occupying authorities, for injury to life, body or health through negligence, maltreatment or force, for violation of unrequisitioned property and for irregular demands for goods or services. Claims must be lodged with the burgomaster of the community where the alleged irregular action occurred within three months of the incident, or before 1st October, 1947, whichever is the later. Except for certain minor cases which will be sent direct to the appropriate German authorities, all admissible claims will be forwarded by the burgomaster to the claims panel for determination of all questions of responsibility in accordance with German law. Where it is found that responsibility attaches to a member or employee of the occupying authorities, the case will be transmitted to the appropriate German authority for the assessment of compensation and payment from German funds. The decision reached will in all cases be notified to the burgomaster from whom the claim was received.

British Property (Claims)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when British subjects, whose property in enemy countries was lost by enemy action, may expect to receive a report as the result of inquiries made by the property control section of the Allied Control Commission; whether the matter of proving their claims is receiving attention; and when they are likely to receive compensation in respect to claims which have been proved and admitted.

The Property Control Branch of the Allied Control Commission in Germany furnish to British subjects reports on their property in that country in cases where its location, identity and ownership have been brought to notice and are not in doubt or dispute. It is not able at present to undertake to report on property lost or destroyed by enemy action unless identifiable remnants exist or persons responsible for the property are known, nor is it at present able to trace property removed from its original location. With regard to the second and third parts of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald) on 29th April last.

Is my right hon. Friend in a position to say when those people who have their claims identified on identifiable property may hope to receive a settlement?

Food Collection (Farm Deliveries)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will consider a food policy, as practised in the Soviet zone, of limiting the requisitions from farms and peasant holdings to a percentage of the average production over a term of years and permitting the balance to be sold at free prices on the open market.

The question of farm collection and deliveries is under consideration at present. The German Executive Committee for Food and Agriculture have proposed a scheme of delivery quotas with premiums for good performance and penalties for insufficient deliveries. This scheme is now being examined by the Anglo-American bipartite authorities in the light of experience gained from different farm collection systems, including that in force in the Soviet zone of Germany.

Herring

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what immediate steps he is taking to utilise the herring glut for the relief of starvation in Germany; and whether the maximum use of the fishing fleet is being made for this purpose.

The British and American authorities in Germany, who are jointly responsible in this matter, have authorised the placing of orders for 25,000 tons of pickled herring and 20,000 tons of fresh herring. These were the maximum quantities which the United Kingdom herring industry estimated it could make available. There is now a possibility that these quantities can be increased and the matter is again under consideration in Germany.

Does my right hon. Friend mean that the shoals of herring at present off the East Coast are being caught for this purpose, or is it to be considered after the shoals have gone away?

No, Sir, I am not responsible for the catching of the herring. I am only responsible for their disposal after they are caught, and no one knows better than my hon. Friend that the last question put to me should be put to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

War Criminals (Executions)

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many Germans were hanged or shot in the British zone of Germany by the Control Commission during the year ended 31st December, 1946; and how many have been hanged or shot during the first four months of this year.

Sixty-eight Germans were hanged in 1946 under arrangements made by the Control Commission, and twenty-seven between 1st January and 29th May of this year. Executions by shooting are carried out by the military authorities.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether there is going to be any limit to the disgraceful scenes which were recently witnessed, when about 60 people were hanged after being kept in prison for more than a year after sentence?

Free Germans (Repatriation)

21 and 24.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) whether, when he reached agreement with the Soviet Government that the repatriation of all German prisoners of war would be completed by the end of 1948, he was given an assurance that the Free Germans under the command of General Paulus would be repatriated by this same date;

(2) whether, when he promised the Soviet Government that the Dienstgruppen in the British zone of Germany, of which the Soviet Government had complained would be disbanded at the end of the year, he received assurances that the Soviet Government has not been keeping, and will not keep, any of her ex-enemies under arms or give such people military training of any kind.

When the Allied Control Council in Berlin were preparing their report for the Council of Foreign Ministers, Marshal Sokolovsky stated that there were no Germans serving in the Soviet Armed Forces either in the Soviet zone of Germany or in the Soviet Union. This statement was repeated by Monsieur Molotov in the Council of Foreign Ministers in Moscow.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied with this assurance? Can he confirm whether the Free Germany Committee, which was said to have been disbanded in August, 1945, has in fact, been replaced by the Military Committee for the Renovation of Geramny? Will he say whether the maintenance of German armed forces in the U.S.S.R. would be wholly contrary to the Yalta and other agreements

If it was happening it would be, but I must take the word of other Foreign Ministers, as I expect them to take mine.

Letter Censorship

28.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the British censorship in Germany is opening letters addressed by Germans to Members of Parliament at the House of Commons; and whether this policy has his approval.

Yes, Sir. I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply made on 24th April by my right hon. Friend the former Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to a similar question by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. SkeffingtonLodge). At present I have nothing to add to that reply.

Does my right hon. Friend think it necessary to have these letters censored which at the present time involves an inordinate waste of time? Surely, as there is no security involved, it is really preposterous that the letters of Members of Parliament should be opened?

I was only recently made responsible for this administration, but I am looking into all these matters.

Will my right hon. Friend at least ensure that no further excision of letters takes place, as has been going on for some considerable time?

Is not the Foreign Secretary satisfied that Members of Parliament can cope with their own post without the interference of the censors? Is he aware that I recently had a letter censored from Germany, which was merely thanking me for a book which a German civilian had received?