I am happy to inform the House that an Anglo-French Financial Agreement was signed in Paris yesterday by Monsieur Pleven, the French Minister of Finance, and myself. The text is being issued as a Command Paper and copies are now available in the Vote Office. The object of the Agreement is to develop to the maximum commercial exchanges between the franc area and the sterling area and to facilitate current settlement, especially commercial payments, between the two areas, and also to reach a final settlement of the various financial claims which have arisen between the two Governments since the beginning of the war. The Agreement provides for a method of settlement of any deficit in the current transactions between the sterling area and the franc area as on 28th February, 1946, partly by payment in gold and partly by other means. It provides for the settlement of general monetary relations between the two areas and for their regulation by the technical provisions set out in the Annexe to the Agreement and for the method of dealing with sterling arising out of transactions prior to the coming into force of the Agreement. Provision is made for the mutual waiver of a number of claims by one Government against the other arising out of the prosecution of the war, including those in connection with the transfer to His Majesty's Government in June, 1940, of the Munition Contracts in course of execution in the United States of America for the account of the French Government. His Majesty's Government undertake to make available to the French Government free of cost goods and services to a total value of £45 million. These goods will include the property of His Majesty's Government produced or acquired for war purposes and will be used to a large extent to meet French civilian needs. The French Government undertake to refund to His Majesty's Government the dollar payments paid by His Majesty's Government in connection with the transfer of the French Munition Contracts in the United States of America in June, 1940. The Agreement provides also for the exchange of information on the lines already announced.
While expressing great satisfaction at the conclusion of this Agreement, which I think everyone will regard as desirable, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether there is any truth in the report in one of the newspapers that as a result of the Agreement we are to import into this country large quantities of French wine? Is that the intention? Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that we are much more concerned about the exchange of necessary goods than of luxuries?
I can assure my hon. Friend that while the Agreement will facilitate commercial transactions on both sides there is no provision in it to specify particular classes of goods.