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Volume 466: debated on Monday 27 June 1949

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Political Parties


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is satisfied that the composition and policy of the Right German Party, which was recently allowed to contest local elections in Wolfsburg, Lower Saxony, are substantially different from those of the German Right Party which was recently banned by the British Control authorities on the grounds that it was opposed to the free development of democratic practices in Germany: and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The two parties are substantially different, the German Right Party being smaller and more local than the German Party. The right wing of the German Party has recently absorbed some members of the German Right Party in the Wolfsburg area, where the German Right Party was banned for undemocratic practices in and after the elections held there in November, 1948, and our authorities are watching the situation carefully. My right hon. Friend is satisfied, however, that there is at present no cause for further intervention.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the answer he gives reveals that he has completely misunderstood the question? He referred throughout to the German Party, and he will see that there is no reference to the German Party, which is an entirely different party from the one mentioned in my Question. It refers to the German Right Party and the Right German Party. Is he aware that both of these are purely local organisations, that they both consist substantially of the same people with substantially the same programme, that they are standing at the elections in Wolfsburg and that this is merely an invasion of Military Government rules?

If my hon. Friend studies my reply, he will see that we are not so far apart as he thinks. What I was taking him to mean by the Right German Party was the right wing of the German Party, and that is the correct way of interpreting his Question.

For the information of the House, would my hon. Friend say which is the right party?

Book (Distribution)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what action he proposes to take about the circulation in the British zone of Germany of the book entitled, "Hitler as War Lord," by General Heilder, which justifies Germany's invasion of Allied countries and the part played by the German army in the late war.

This pamphlet was recently published under American licence in the United States zone. There are no restrictions on the distribution of publications between the British and American zones, and my right hon. Friend does not think the circumstances warrant any departure from our normal practice.

Does my hon. Friend think that the purposes of our occupation in Germany are well served if we allow publication of a book which records as the only dissatisfaction with the Nazi regime the fact that Hitler was inefficient enough to lose the war, and which justifies the German invasion of Allied countries?

I agree with my hon. Friend that there are bad parts in this book, but we have gone into the matter carefully and we feel that on balance, suppression would do more harm than good.

Communications, Berlin


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the situation in Berlin, with special reference to traffic between the city and the three Western zones.

The settlement of the railway strike in Berlin, which was announced yesterday, will result in the resumption of rail traffic between Berlin and the Western zones as from 28th June. Road transport and inland water transport links between Berlin and the Western zones are already in operation. However, the arrangements for rail, road and canal communications are not at present satisfactory. They will, I hope, be improved and supplemented as a result of the agreement reached at the Council of Foreign Ministers on 20th June.

Could the Under-Secretary say what restrictions are holding up traffic?

It is difficult briefly to describe what they are, but I would be prepared to give further information if a Question is put down.

Berlin Air Lift (Cost)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is the cost of the Berlin air lift to date since its inception; and what proportion of the cost is borne by the British taxpayer.

The extra cost to the British taxpayer up to 15th June, 1949, was approximately £8,600,000. I regret that I have no information as to the costs borne by the United States Government. In terms of weight carried into Berlin, however, the British contribution has been about 23½ per cent. of the whole.

What steps are the Foreign Office taking to tell the German people of the wonderful actions we have taken to save them from starvation, which the Communists are trying to use as a weapon to destroy the German people?

Could my hon. Friend say what steps are being taken to ask France to take a share in the cost of the air lift?

War Pensions


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress has been made in assessing and paying pensions due for war service to ex-members of the German forces.

The only pensions for war service payable to former members of the German armed forces are disability pensions. Since August, 1947, when these were included in the Industrial Accident Insurance Scheme, nearly a million pensions have been reassessed and about 900,000 new claims considered. About 50,000 new claims are being received every month.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is intense hardship amongst many wounded and limbless members of the German armed forces and that many of them have no pensions at all, and are there no steps which can be taken in order to assist in this very serious situation?

Yes, Sir, I am aware of the hardship caused, but it is a question of what the German economy can bear.

Is the hon. Gentleman correct in referring to these as war pensions? Are they not the same very meagre compensation as is paid in all cases of hardship?

I am distinguishing between war pensions and long service pensions, which aroused some interest in the House recently.

Is not the distribution of the German income a matter for the Germans themselves?

In these Wehrmacht matters, we have occasionally had to issue regulations.

Gelsenberg Benzin Company


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on what grounds a licence was granted for the making of improvements to the factory of the Gelsenberg Benzin Company, operating in the British zone of Germany, when this establishment is one earmarked for destruction.

The licence granted was of a temporary and limited character for the reactivation of that part of the plant necessary to process 15,000 tons of natural oil per annum.

Is it true that 17 million marks have actually been expended on this particular factory and that it is now going to be pulled down?

That is the sum alleged by the Germans, but it seems a fantastically large sum for the work done.

Refugees' Bank Accounts


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether it is with his approval that pre-war German refugees from Nazi oppression now resident in this country have had their blocked savings in Germany reduced by 70 per cent. at the order of the Military Government.

This cancellation concerned that part of bank accounts in Western Germany which was blocked following the currency conversion of June, 1948, and was carried out by the three Occupying Powers as part of the currency reform operation. It was applied uniformly to all accounts and it would not have been possible to give preferential treatment to the accounts of any particular class of individuals.

Is not that answer misleading? Is it not true that these unfortunate people first of all lost 90 per cent. of their savings on the devaluation of the mark, and are they not now suffering loss of a further 70 per cent. of what is left? Surely we cannot agree to a monstrous injustice like that.

I can only say that undoubtedly cases of individual hardship occurred when this currency conversion took place, but it simply was not possible to make exceptions.

Icelandic Fish (Payment)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is now in a position to say whether the cargoes of two Icelandic trawlers which arrived off German ports during the week commencing 22nd May and which were in excess of the number the Icelandic Government have been requested to deliver and which went to fishmeal, have to be paid for by His Majesty's Government.

The question of the obligation for payment is still under consideration; I will communicate with the hon. Member as soon as a decision has been reached.

What kind of contract have we entered into which leaves any doubt whether we should pay for fish which we did not order, and fish which is bad?

The circumstances in which the fish was rejected were somewhat unusual. This is a legal question which is now being decided, and I cannot comment on it.

Will the Under-Secretary see that a copy of this contract is placed in the Library for hon. Members to see?