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Argentine Meat Agreement (Payments)

Volume 463: debated on Tuesday 22 March 1949

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57.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer at what date the sums set out in Article IV (a) of the Andes Agreement were transferred by His Majesty's Government to the Argentine Government.

Is the whole sum transferred under this article? Does not it mean that we paid in advance for all the meat due from the Argentine; and would the hon. Gentleman correct what was said by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, who said we had only paid for the meat that had been delivered.

The arrangement was clearly set out in the White Paper. If the meat was not delivered then, if we wished, we could ask for the money to be returned.

There is no point of Order. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has risen to put a Supplementary on Question 57. It is perfectly true that I had called the next Question, but the time for it has now elapsed.

It is clear from what the hon. Gentleman has said that, according to the Agreement, the money had to be paid in advance. The question is whether the right hon. Lady was right in saying that we had only in fact paid for what we had received, or whether we had carried out the Agreement and paid it all in advance. We all want the answer to that question.

If my right hon. Friend said that we should receive all the meat for which we paid, she was perfectly correct, because we are receiving it.

The hon. Gentleman will keep on misunderstanding the question. What the right hon. Lady said was that we had only paid for what we had received, whereas the Agreement was that we should pay in advance for everything which was covered by the Agreement. I understand that the hon. Gentleman now says that we did in fact pay in advance for all that was covered by the Agreement. Therefore, the right hon. Lady was wrong, and that is what we want corrected.

Mr. Speaker, might I press the hon. Gentleman. What is involved here on the figures—

On a point of Order. Would it not be in Order for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to press the right hon. Lady instead of my hon. Friend?

Mr. Speaker, might I repeat the point on which we want to press the hon. Gentleman. It is one of importance to everybody because it involves a sum of at least £25 million—that is, 25 per cent. of the £100 million which is involved, let alone the advance payment of £10 million. Therefore, this is a matter of great importance to everyone in this House. Cannot the hon. Gentleman answer the question and say whether it is right or wrong?

Mr. Speaker, what remedy has this House got when hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Ladies, who after all are responsible Members of the Government, give us contradictory statements? How can we get any reply out of them? Is it not really up to the Prime Minister, who is present, to pay some attention to this problem and at least to try to get the hon. Gentleman to give a reply?

Every Minister is entitled to say, "I will not answer." That is all part of the rules. I cannot do anything. It is up to the Minister concerned. The House must take it or leave it: we cannot do anything else.

I beg to Give notice that in view of the deliberate misstatement of fact by the Government I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.