As the House is aware, the conversations which have been taking place in London are to be resumed in Paris at the beginning of January. In these circumstances, it would not be possible for me to refer to the discussions which have already taken place. There is, however, one subject, the question of European Allied Debts, which has been referred to in the Press, and as it may be regarded as, to a certain extent, a departure from our previous policy, I think it better to give, as far as I can recall them, the exact words used by me in connection with it. I said that it would not be right that the settlement should be fixed in such a way that we only, of all the Allied countries, would be virtually paying an indemnity. What did seem fair was to consider the whole amount that would be obtained from Germany and to say—as you are not getting all you expect from Germany—we must reduce our claim. For that reason, and I thought this was an important statement, if we saw some chance of a complete settlement with a prospect of finality, we would be willing to run a certain risk in the end of having to pay more to the United States of America than Great Britain would receive from the Allies and Germany combined. But I was sure that all would agree that it would be foolish to make such a concession if the whole question were going to be re-opened.
While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his statement, do I understand him to say that we are to have no statement on Government policy with regard to the question of German reparations apart from inter-Allied debts, and particularly as to whether there is a possibility of France applying sanctions before this House assembles again and without the possibility of discussion?
There is no doubt that questions on this subject will be put to me in the Debate on Thursday, when I shall do my best to answer them to whatever extent I can without endangering the success of the subsequent conferences.
Will the right hon. Gentleman, in fixing the date for opening the new Session, bear in mind the great desirability of making a statement to this House at the earliest possible moment?
If the hon. Member means that we should meet earlier, it is obvious that, if any situation arose in which it seemed essential that the House of Commons should be consulted, we should have to call the House together earlier, but the hon. Member knows that, apart from other questions, it is impossible to get the business for next Session arranged by the officials in the Departments unless there is a reasonable interval.