Amendments of Foreign Compensation Act, 1950

Orders of the Day — Immigration Appeals [Money] – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd January 1969.

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7.40 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Whitlock Mr William Whitlock , Nottingham North

I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 3, line 30, at end insert: (4) An Order in Council under the said section 3 may confer power on the Foreign Compensation Commission to determine any question as to the construction or interpretation of any provision with respect to claims falling to be determined by them which is included in any Order made under that section after the passing of this Act; and any determination of the Commission by virtue of this subsection shall be included among the determinations to which section 4(4) of the Foreign Compensation Act, 1950 (determinations of the Commission not to be questioned in courts of law) applies.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

It will be for the convenience of the House to consider also Amendment No. 2, in page 3, line 31, leave out 'Foreign Compensation Act' and insert 'said Act of'.

Photo of Mr William Whitlock Mr William Whitlock , Nottingham North

The effect of this addition to this Bill would be to widen its subsidiary purpose of making certain amendments on points of detail to the Foreign Compensation Act, 1950.

The reason for the short notice is as follows. On 17th December, that is to say after the Bill had been reported out of Committee, the House of Lords—sitting in its judicial capacity—by a majority of three to two, delivered a judgment which, if the law remains unchanged, has serious implications for the future work of the Foreign Compensation Commission.

In the Government's view, the difficulty which has been shown to exist should be removed, as I hope to show, and this Bill, which happens by coincidence to be before the House, is the appropriate vehicle for doing it. I must make it clear at the outset that this Amendment would not affect the successful plaintiff in the case in question: the Amendment is not retrospective.

Hon. Members may remember that in setting up the Foreign Compensation Commission in 1950 Parliament provided, in Section 4(4) of the Foreign Compensation Act, 1950, that: The determination by the Commission of any application made to them under this Act shall not be called in question in any court of law. The provision was approved without controversy in this House, as well as in another place. Parliament reaffirmed the intention of the Act of 1950 when in 1958 the Foreign Compensation Commission was expressly excluded from certain sections of the Tribunals and Inquiries Act, 1958. In particular, the Commission was excluded from Section 11 whereby provisions similar to that in Section 4 (4) of the Foreign Compensation Act were deprived of substantial effect, in the light of the Franks Report on Administrative Tribunals. As the Tribunals and Inquires Bill was originally introduced into Parliament, it would have applied to the Commission. But, on reconsideration, it was amended in Committee so as to make a special exception excluding the Commission in view of its special character and, once again, in 1958 as in 1950, this was approved without controversy.

In the recent case of Anisminic Limited v. the Foreign Compensation Commission and Another, their Lordships held that the Courts were entitled to review the Commission's interpretation of the relevant Order, on the ground that the Commission had misconstrued it and had thereby exceeded its jurisdiction, with the result that its determination was a nullity and not protected from judicial review by Section 4 (4) of the Act of 1950.

In practice, however, the Commission cannot avoid interpreting the Orders under which it carries out the distributions entrusted to it. The judgment, therefore, would make it possible for the Commission's determinations, made in perfect good faith and after the most careful deliberation, to be challenged in a wide range of cases. This is contrary to what the Government believe to have been the intention of Parliament and would lead to unfortunate consequences.

The task of the Commission is to determine claims and arrange for the distribution on a rateable basis to successful claimants of what are nearly always finite "lump sums", such as the assets which are to be made available to successful claimants under Clause 1 of this Bill. These "lump sums" are received either in the form of cash from foreign Governments, or are raised by the disposal of foreign assets in this country—consequential upon an Agreement.

It cannot be judged with any degree of certainty what the share attributable to each succesful applicant will be until all applications, or at any rate those of any magnitude, have been disposed of. Consequently if there is to be a risk that determinations of the Commission may be challenged in the courts and perhaps taken, as was the Anisminic case, right up to the House of Lords, which as hon. Members know is a very lengthy business, the Commission will have to wait for substantial periods, until all risk of litigation has passed, before they can pay anything like a final dividend, or perhaps any worthwhile dividend at all, to successful claimants.

If the Commission were to take a different course and proceed to distribute the fund as expeditiously as in the past without regard to the risk of successful litigation, judgment might be given against the Commission after the relevant Fund had been exhausted. This would inevitably lead to the difficult problem of how to satisfy the judgment, and to pressure for the successful litigant to be paid out of public funds. But the source of compensation for the seizure of British property abroad should be the foreign Government concerned and not the British taxpayer.

In these circumstances, Her Majesty's Government have decided that the proper course is to ask the House to agree to the insertion into the Bill of this Amendment. I would invite the House's attention to two features of this Amendment.

First, as I made clear at the outset, it is in no sense retrospective. It would apply only to distributions begun in the future after the passing of this Act; it would not in any way affect the case of Anisminic Limited which the Foreign Compensation Commission will consider again in the light of the recent judgment.

Secondly, it would not prejudice the exercise of jurisdiction by the courts in the case of an alleged failure to observe the rules of natural justice, or a complaint, for instance, of some fundamental error of procedure. Nobody would wish to do that, though, in the case of a Tribunal manned by lawyers of such distinction as is the Foreign Compensation Commission, it is hard to conceive of an occasion arising for an action to be brought upon such grounds.

I am of course aware of the feeling in this House, and, I think I may add, in the legal profession, that generally speaking the citizen should not be precluded from having recourse to the courts in respect of a decision of a Tribunal in cases of the kind provided for in the Tribunals and Inquiries Act, 1958.

I must, however, point out that this Amendment will bear only on the Foreign Compensation Commission and that, as was recognised by Parliament in 1950 and again in 1958, the work of that Commission is of a special character. It operates on a somewhat different plane from tribunals which are constituted to decide the questions affecting the rights and privileges of subjects of the Crown. It is indeed a well-established principle that, until an Order under the Foreign Compensation Act is made, no individual claimant has any right to share in foreign compensation received by the Crown from a foreign government, the distribution of which lies essentially within the discretion of the Crown. This is recognised in the well-known case of Civilian War Claimants versus the King, in which the House of Lords in 1931 decided that an Article of the Treaty of Versailles about Germany's payment of compensation in respect of British claimants' losses in the First War did not give them a right to sue the Crown in our courts.

Moreover, as I have already explained, the Commission's operations in dividing up pro rata between successful claimants a finite compensation fund are such that there can be no finality until all the cases have been determined. This is a very real and practical consideration, which distinguishes the work of the Foreign Compensation Commission from that of other tribunals.

Moreover, the costs and incidental expenses of defending proceedings before the courts would have to come out of the Compensation Fund concerned and thereby reduce the dividend which can be paid to successful claimants. There are already safeguards for the claimant in the way in which the Commission operates. All its determinations are, for instance, provisional and subject to a thorough procedure of review.

I am moving this Amendment on practical grounds with an eye to the interests of claimants as a whole. In the case of the distribution envisaged by this Bill, the period since the claimants lost their property is already in most cases nearly 30 years. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has received many pathetic letters from people of small means badly in need of the modest sums which they hope will be awarded them in this distribution. Hon. Members will, I think, agree that it would not be right to impose a further substantial delay before the distribution could be completed, because, perhaps, a single claimant chose to take his case outside the existing review machinery and put it before the courts.

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

The hon. Gentleman was kind enough to write to me last week offering a brief explanation of the reasons which have led the Government, at what he acknowledged was a rather late stage, to decide to extend the purposes of the Bill. He has given us a fuller explanation now, for which, having read through the Amendment five or six times with a gradually dawning comprehension, I am extremely grateful, but which we would be wise to study carefully before committing ourselves either to its full acceptance or its rejection. Obviously there will be opportunities for further comment to be made in another place, but there are one or two matters which I would like to bring up now.

The first of them is a general point. It is to question the desirability of Governments yielding to the temptation to transform conveniently current Bills into vehicles for a new policy which has never been discussed until a few minutes before this House parts with the Bill. In spite of the hon. Gentleman's closing words, the matter before us has nothing to do with the Anglo-Soviet Agreement, which has been the kernel of our discussions up to date. Anisminio Ltd. was operating a long way from the Baltic—in the Sinai Peninsular.

I was not always able to resist the temptation which has overcome the hon. Gentleman, but even these personal precedents do not make it an admirable practice. These very late insertions make it difficult for the Opposition to offer any useful advice.

I hope that I understood the hon. Gentleman's explanation correctly. As I understand it, the Foreign Compensation Act, 1950, precludes the courts from calling into question a determination of the Commission. In that sense, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree, such a determination always was and is final. However, the recent judgment to which he referred has found that a determination of the Commission was a nullity and, therefore, did not exist. The Government's view, to which they are now seeking by the Amendment to give legislative effect, is that the judicial character of the Foreign Compensation Commission and the duties imposed on it should preclude not only an appeal against the determination itself, which I understand has always been the case, but also should preclude an appeal against the status of the determination.

My feeling is that we should try to aim at a balance. I am not wholly convinced at present that the Government's Amendment achieves that balance satisfactorily. The balance should be between preserving the substance of the Commission's decisions from the danger of subsequent appeal, which has been done in the past, and at the same time safeguarding the right of a claimant to question the validity of a decision which, in the present instance, in the majority opinion of noble Lords, was not a decision at all. I think that the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge the need of my noble Friends, my hon. Friends and myself to give the matter very careful thought. I am sure that he will agree and sympathise with our intention to return to the matter later, possibly in another place, if our anxieties remain.

8.0 p.m.

Photo of Sir John Foster Sir John Foster , Northwich

The Amendment seeks to overrule a decision of the House of Lords that where the Commission makes a mistake in interpreting the Order the result is a nullity. The Amendment is saying that if the Commission makes a mistake no one can challenge it. The hon. Gentleman says that the Amendment is justified because the House of Commons and the other place, both in 1950 and 1958, decided that no decision of the Foreign Compensation Commission should be queried.

First, I query his premise. As the 1950 Act is drafted, the House of Lords has decided that Parliament did not do that. We must assume that Parliament intended to do what the House of Lords in that essential decision has said that it did. I am not very hopeful of this argument appealing to a House of Commons which passed an Order in Council deciding that Prince Frederick of Prussia had lost his case when he had won it, nor a House of Commons that decided that Burma h Oil had lost its case when it had won it. This is just another instance of the House of Commons deciding that where the Commission has made a mistake in its interpretation of an Order in Council that it has to stand.

I think that the House of Commons and the other place in 1950 and 1958 decided that what my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) calls the substance of the claim, the amount, cannot be queried except where the Foreign Compensation Commission makes a mistake about the interpretation of the Regulations and Order in Council under which it is operating.

The hon. Gentleman brings in aid what I may call several utilitarian arguments. He says that if the Foreign Compensation Commission's decisions are queried by claimants it will not be possible to arrive at a finite distribution. Literally speaking, that is true, because if we do not know whether Claimant A is entitled to £10,000 or £15,000, depending on the interpretation of the Order, it will not be possible to distribute that last £5,000 until the House of Lords, if the matter goes there, has made a decision.

I suggest that that can be quite easily overcome in a practical way. It is common ground that the Foreign Compensation Commission cannot give a finite dividend until all cases have been decided. When the last case is decided, it is quite easy for the Foreign Compensation Commission to take the number of cases, which will be very few indeed, because they have to rest on the claim that the Foreign Compensation Commission has misinterpreted and made an error in law about the regulations, and put down, if the Foreign Compensation Commission is right, that £X will be available for distribution. If it is wrong, and it loses every case on appeal, it will be £X minus £Y. However, the final dividend will not alter very much; it will not be a big sum.

It is theoretically true that if cases are taken as far as the House of Lords, until the House of Lords makes its final decision in the last case it will not be possible to give a finite dividend. But this objection is without substance.

The hon. Gentleman quite wrongly put his argument as though it applied only to the Latvian, etc., payments. I have disclosed my interest before. I have an interest in certain of the results which are governed by the Bill. If the hon. Gentleman had said that one result would be that possibly these people who have been waiting for 30 years will have to wait a little longer for their finite dividend, that would be all right. But the Bill affects a large number of claims to the Foreign Compensation Commission which have nothing to do with the Latvian bonds.

Does the House realise that the decision in the House of Lords which gave extra compensation to a claimant because he said the Foreign Compensation Commission had made such an error that the result was a nullity, would have lost his case if the Amendment had been in force? It has not been retrospective concerning Burmah Oil and Prince Frederick, and I respect the Government for that; but I do not respect whoever was responsible for the other two cases. It must be said that those on the other side voted against Prince Frederick without having heard the issue because they were outside the Chamber. But it is true that this claimant was only accorded his just desserts, because the Foreign Compensation Commission had made a grievous mistake. In future, anybody who suffers from such a mistake will have no claim in law at all, and this is a denial of natural justice.

A grave criticism of the English legislative system is that it is willing to entrust decisions to lawyers who may make any mistake they like and cannot be brought to appeal. That is a very bad principle because, unconsciously, the tribunal is less careful about its decisions. Also, it may have subconscious prejudices. All who practise in the courts—and here I appeal to the Solicitor-General—know that judges have unconscious prejudices. An advocate on one side could get the Foreign Compensation Commission to decide in May this year that black is white. It would not matter, because if the Amendment was passed the Commission would be immune. It is a fundamental principle of justice that no tribunal should be free to make this kind of mistake without being subject to appeal.

It is a different matter when it comes to quantum and matters of fact; for example, where people say a farm is worth so much and there is evidence on both sides. It is all right to say that a decision of the tribunal about a matter of fact of that kind is not subject to appeal. Of course, it would be subject to appeal if it had no evidence the other way and it thought of a sum itself. But here we have a tribunal which is free to make any mistake and, having made that mistake, it is not subject to appeal. What would be the feeling of an hon. Member if someone came to him and said, "I have a claim before the Foreign Compensation Commission. It is obviously right, but the Commission has decided against me. Because this Amendment was passed dealing with the Latvian, etc. claims. I have no redress."

The whole tendency throughout the world has been to allow people to query the decisions of tribunals. The United States has an excellent court of claims procedure which allows a litigant to criticise or bring to appeal administrative decisions. I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman has said that Parliament thought that this was a good principle in 1950 and again in 1958, but I query his premise that it thought that in this case there was no right of appeal—and the House of Lords, at least, has said that that view is right.

The House of Commons, once again following the Burmah Oil and Prince Frederick examples, is being asked to follow a course which is contrary to justice. We are to have this tribunal and whatever it says is to be right. It can go off its head provided it follows the procedure. It can make any decisions it likes about the interpretation of an Order in Council. It can put a "not" in and find justification for any interpretation of any wording. If we take Maxwell's Interpretation of Statutes we can put a "not" in and say that it means the opposite. A well 100 feet deep was held to be a building 60 feet high. There are hundreds of these decisions, and the Foreign Compensation Commission can do anything it likes in this respect.

The Commission naturally had its own methods of thinking. In the past I have thought some of its decisions to be wrong, but not wrong enough to try this method of attack and to say that its decision was so wrong that it made the case a nullity. It is surely wrong to ask the House to agree to an Amendment which will mean that a decision which, on any ordinary legal interpretation, is a nullity, shall none the less stand—in other words, to make nullities valid.

I appeal to hon. Members on both sides of the House, because I do not have much confidence in either side on this subject. This is an all-party appeal. I cannot believe that, with all that has gone on since the Burmah Oil case, it can be right to agree to the Amendment. If the Amendment is agreed to, I hope that the matter will be seriously debated in another place and a thorough examination will be made of what I consider to be the specious argument of the Government about the finite distribution.

It is a disingenuous argument to say that these people have been waiting for 30 years and we should not make them wait even longer; they will not have to wait any longer for the interim dividends. The waiting will arise in respect of the last, finite dividend. I suggest that it would be much better if the Amendment were not accepted.

8.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop , Tiverton

I agree entirely with what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northwich (Sir J. Foster) has said. I do not have the advantage of his legal training and experience, but I have had the advantage, if it can be so termed, of dealing with many constituency cases over some time. What appals me—and this is a feeling that the Amendment accentuates—is that there is no appeal from the maladministration of the Foreign Compensation Commission.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration states categorically that he has no authority to inquire into the maladministration of the Commission. I wrote and asked him, and that is what he replied. When my party was in office Ministers from the Foreign Office accepted responsibility for the maladministration of the Commission, and when we wrote to them about such maladministration they did something about it. We got detailed and intelligent answers to our letters. The present Government apparently do not accept responsibility for such maladministration; they just say that the Commission is an independent one and that we should deal with it. If the Government do not accept responsibility for this maladministration and the Parliamentary Commissioner, by law, is not allowed to investigate such maladministration, and the courts are not allowed to do so either, to whom may the injured citizen appeal?

Photo of Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop , Tiverton

On the contrary; the injured citizen can appeal—to the Foreign Compensation Commission, which then sits in judgment in its own case. Hon. Members will not be surprised to learn that that judgment is invariably that its own decisions are quite correct. What a travesty of justice! I wonder whether, when we passed the Parliamentary Commissioner Act, we realised that bodies of this kind were being put outside its scope.

That is not all; the Commission can appoint other bodies. It can delegate to them, de facto if not de jure its authority. It can appoint firms of assessors like Toplis and Harding to determine claims on its behalf, and will then take up any decision made by those firms.

Persons are not allowed to challenge the basis on which such private firms allocate their overheads between various claims. I have a constituent named Whitfield who has been grossly misused by Toplis and Harding and has no redress. His assets were first sequestrated in Egypt and then de-sequestrated. The Government make a small amount of compensation available to cover these eventualities but Toplis and Harding have swallowed up almost all of Mr. Whitfield's in administration charges. This cannot be challenged. This is not hypothetical injustice but real injustice. It has occurred and is still occurring, and there is no redress at all unless the courts of justice are allowed to provide it.

It is to prevent the citizen having that redress that the Government now invite the House to agree to this scandalous Amendment. It is scandalous, because it makes a body the appellate judge, and not just the judge in its own cause. That is scandalous if, at the same time, we deny the opportunity for any further appeal or redress, which is precisely what the Government are doing.

We can overlook some of the other rather shoddy things in this rather shoddy Bill, but this is a point that I would like to think the Government overlooked. I find it difficult to believe that this Government would willingly bring about this situation. Perhaps the well of my charity is too deep. Perhaps the Government did intend to bring this about. If they did, it brings nothing but discredit and contempt upon them.

Unfortunately, it is not the members of the Government who will suffer from this injustice. I do not know how many hon. or right hon. Members are present who have ever suffered an injustice of this kind, but judging from the almost empty benches opposite—there are only two backbenchers there—apparently the Government side is not interested in this sort of injustice. Why compound it? Why deny access to the courts? The hon. Gentleman was saying in effect, "It is more convenient to administer unjustly than to ensure that one administers justly. As it is more convenient, we will ask the House to approve this course. After all, if an appeal to the courts is allowed, they may do what is just and this might be administratively inconvenient. We do not want to suffer inconvenience, and therefore such an appeal should be denied." We should not allow this. We should not listen to a Minister asking us to embody this in a Bill lest, peradventure, there should be open to the citizen the redress which he should have.

I repeat: the Foreign Compensation Commission is judge and appeal court in its own cause. If the Government welsh on responsibility for their activities and the Parliamentary Commissioner is refused power to investigate them, and then a Minister asks us to remove the last stop remaining to the courts, the power to investigate maladministration, injustice and incompetence, we are condemning a small number of individuals. It is not a large number, but it does not matter if it is only one or even if the matter is hypothetical. The principle is exactly the same. It is this sort of woolly and shoddy proposition which is being offered to a House of Commons which takes far too little interest in these matters these days which calls from me the bitterest protest which I can summon up.

Photo of Mr William Whitlock Mr William Whitlock , Nottingham North

I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) for saying that the Opposition will study the Amendment thoroughly and that their main comments will be reserved for the debate in another place. When they do study the matter, I think that they will find that comments such as those made by the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) are totally unwarranted.

The right hon. Gentleman said that the Amendment has nothing to do with the Baltic claims. I readily agree. As I said in moving the Amendment, this arises from the fact that, for certain subsidiary purposes, making Amendments on points of detail to the Foreign Compensation Act, 1950, is inherent in this Bill. For that reason, we are making use on this occasion, since the judgment of the Lords comes at this time, when the Bill is going through the House, to amend the Bill.

I can understand the right hon. Gentleman's feeling that the Amendment has been tabled rather late in the day, and I have sympathy with him, but this is caused by circumstances beyond the Government's control. I agree also that we must preserve a balance between the ability of the Foreign Compensation Commission to carry out its work expeditiously and the right of judicial review. The predominant view of the judges who considered this case was that, where an inferior tribunal acted beyond its jurisdiction, no provision of this kind could oust the inherent power of the courts to intervene. If the tribunal went beyond its proper field, its decision was a nullity. It was admitted, further, that the distinction between a decision within the jurisdiction and an error going beyond jurisdiction was an extremely fine one.

The Government's view happens to coincide with those expressed by one of the judges in the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Russell, who said: In all mundane matters requiring decision or adjudication there must as a practical matter be an appropriate level at which a question must be finally resolved. In the particular field now under review, it does not seem to me in any way inappropriate that the Commission should be at that level; and that was the view of the Legislature when the Tribunals and Inquiries Act, 1958, was enacted. In substance the Executive is dealing broadly with matters not strictly matters of right, and the time-consuming precision of the ordinary judicial processes may well be out of place. In terms (now no doubt out-dated) of field artillery, a quadrant elevation to the nearest 25 yards is a work of supererogation if you are working off a one-inch map. Moreover, if it were to appear to the Executive that in a particular case injustice had been done, correction by Order in Council is available, subject only to approval by Parliament.

Photo of Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop , Tiverton

As someone who was a Gunner, may I tell the hon. Gentleman that quadrant elevation is always in terms of degrees rather than yards?

Photo of Mr William Whitlock Mr William Whitlock , Nottingham North

I was not a Gunner, but I assume from this quotation that Lord Justice Russell was.

The general power of the courts to supervise inferior tribunals continues, in spite of this Amendment. What the Amendment does is define more precisely the field which is remitted to the Foreign Compensation Commission. It may be thought that, in the particular case, the intervention of the courts by putting right a wrong decision served a useful purpose. The Government would not, of course, deny that, on fine points, the highest legal authorities might be at variance with the Commission on those rare occasions when the Department responsible for the Order in Council and the Government draftsmen, whose skills the House always so greatly admires, might have failed to make their intentions crystal clear.

But the interests of claimants as a whole require finality in these matters and what the claimants want is the speediest practicable distribution, together with the guarantee that their cases are decided in a judicial manner and by competent persons. Given the high standing of the members appointed by the Lord Chancellor to the Commission, it is appropriate that the final decision should be taken at that level. That was the intention embodied in the 1950 Act and the Tribunals and Inquiries Act, 1958, and the present Amendment gives effect more clearly to the intention which the House expressed on both those occasions.

Amendment agreed to. Further Amendment made: No. 2, in page 3, line 31, leave out "Foreign Compensation Act" and insert "said Act of".—[Mr. Whitlock.]

Photo of Mr William Whitlock Mr William Whitlock , Nottingham North

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

This short Bill, which in form is largely technical, was not amended in Committee, and apart from the addition to its subsidiary purposes which we have just made, the text that I am asking the House to pass today is identical with that before us on Second Reading.

The primary purpose of the Bill, I would remind the House, is to take action consequential on the Agreement concluded with the Soviet Government on 5th January, 1968 for the Settlement of Mutual Financial and Property Claims.

The Bill would enable assets in this country which formerly belonged to persons resident or carrying on business in the Baltic States and other territories ceded to the Soviet Union during or just after the war to be used for the payment of compensation for losses suffered by British persons and interests in those regions. These losses were in the main suffered nearly 30 years ago and, by passing the Bill, we should be taking a major step towards the day, for which the claimants have waited so long and so patiently, when compensation can at last be paid to them.

Our discussions in the House have been almost exclusively concerned with one broad question—whether disposing of the assets for the benefit of our claimants is legally and morally justified in the light of the unhappy history of the former Baltic States and of the situation obtaining in those territories today. I think, therefore, that the House will not wish me to traverse again today all the ground that I covered in moving the Second Reading of the Bill.

The problem dealt with by the Bill has a rather special history. The Baltic States were incorporated in the U.S.S.R., which we recognise as the de jacto Government of the three States, in August, 1940, but were under German occupation from 1941 to 1945. Before their incorporation, the Baltic States had in the summer of 1940 come under considerable Soviet pressure and ceased to a large extent to be free agents.

Some hon. Members, such as the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) may say that they had ceased altogether to be free. I will not quibble about this. The fact remains, however, that during this twilight period the three States continued to have a separate international existence. Their Governments continued to be recognised de jure by Her Majesty's Government and we continued to have diplomatic relations with them.

It was during this period that far-reaching nationalisation measures were put into force; all enterprises were taken over that employed more than 20 workers, or more than 10 workers if mechanical power were used in the concern. The United Kingdom Government of the day protested to the Baltic Governments against these measures.

The effect of these measures was twofold. Baltic companies owning assets in this country, mainly banks and other corporate bodies, were nationalised. At the same time, our foreign investment in the States—made up partly of holdings and interests in some of those same banks and companies—was lost. Other British property in the Baltic States was nationalised without compensation, including the homes and businesses of the members of the British community.

The laws then passed also purported to affect the Baltic external debt. Subsequently, the Baltic States were incorporated in the U.S.S.R. and the central banks were absorbed into the Soviet banking system.

In July, 1940, the Soviet State Bank attempted to secure possession of the gold held by the central banks in London. To safeguard British interests—and this was made clear at the time—the gold, together with other assets, was blocked by Her Majesty's Government in accordance with wartime powers. In retaliation against our action, the Soviet Government ceased to redeem the Lena and Tetiuhe Notes upon maturity.

When the Baltic States were overrun by the Germans in the following year, both the gold and other assets in this country came under the trading with the enemy legislation. The situation which confronted Her Majesty's Government at the end of the war, after the re-occupation of the area by the U.S.S.R. was this. The Soviet Government were claiming that, as a matter of municipal law in these areas, the Soviet-controlled enterprises had become the successors of the former Baltic concerns and the successors in title to the assets in this country.

The gold was claimed on the basis of purchase. The Soviet Government put forward claims against Her Majesty's Government to these assets. We, on the other hand, were claiming from the Soviet Government, as the sole, albeit de facto, Government of the area, compensation in respect of the British interests that had been dispossessed. Many years of diplomatic correspondence followed. But it was only in 1959 that agreement was reached between the then British Administration and the Soviet Government for the holding of negotiations to cover the various claims and counter-claims.

The Agreement of 5th January, 1968, which has led to this Bill, was the outcome of these negotiations. Of course, the responsibility for the Agreement must rest on the present Administration.

Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes

When did the negotiations start?

Photo of Mr William Whitlock Mr William Whitlock , Nottingham North

Attempts to resolve this matter have been going on since 1940, and I understand that an attempt at negotiations in this connection began in 1959.

As I was saying, the responsibility for the Agreement which has been reached must rest on the present Administration, but essentially it was in 1959 that the basic decision was taken to negotiate with the Soviet Government, the de facto Government of the area, about the assets situated in this country.

Photo of Mr Luke Teeling Mr Luke Teeling , Brighton, Pavilion

The hon. Gentleman has referred to 1959. He must be aware that, for many years before, we were frequently discussing with the Russian Government the possibility of dealing with the whole of the problem, which included the Czarist bonds and those with which we are here concerned. It was only in 1959 that suddenly the Russians said, "We will deal with these first".

Photo of Mr William Whitlock Mr William Whitlock , Nottingham North

The Bill is concerned with the Baltic assets. I would be out of order if I yielded to the blandishments of the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Sir W. Teeling) to consider the whole vexed problem of Czarist assets.

Title to these assets had formerly rested with interests in the Baltic States that had, as I have explained, in 1940 lost their identity and ceased to have a separate existence. The choice at that time was whether to proceed in this way, with the prospect of some sort of offsetting arrangement at the end of the road, or whether to leave the Baltic assets inviolate and, by the same token, to leave the British claimants unsatisfied, for an indefinite period, in the hope that one day the Baltic States would again emerge with which both sides of the question could be discussed.

This was the choice and I do not see how any British Government who combined a respect for international law with a sense of realism could have decided other than did the Government of the time; to enter into negotiations with the U.S.S.R. rather than postpone action until some date in the remote, indefinite future.

Once we had begun negotiations on this problem on the terms agreed in 1959 between the British Government of the day and the Soviet Government, the logical outcome was a settlement of some kind. This was reached in February, 1967 and the Bill follows from it.

In spite of the fears of some hon. Gentlemen opposite, there is nothing dishonourable or illegal in the Bill. I repeat that the Government are satisfied that the Bill does not offend against international law. As to the moral aspect, it is now surely our duty to see that some satisfaction is given to those longstanding claims by British people. But before doing so we have made the best arrangement we could with the only Government of the territories concerned, under which that Government have undertaken not to pursue their claim to the assets.

Hon. Members need feel no compunction about sending the Bill to another place and will not, I hope, feel it necessary to divide the House. As I have tried to show, it would set the seal on a course of action which has been followed for a number of years, and I have no hesitation in commending it to them.

8.40 p.m.

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

My hon. Friends and I tabled the Motion to enable us to have a debate on Third Reading because we remain seriously disquieted by certain aspects of the Anglo-Soviet Agreement and the Bill which gives it effect. I agree with the Under-Secretary that there is no need to go over at this late stage all the ground which was covered on Second Reading and in Committee, but as the months pass the Agreement appears—at any rate, to me—to be more and more grotesque.

The hon. Gentleman can rightly claim that negotiations had continued over a long period under previous Governments. But on Second Reading, he said this: Negotiations began in earnest in 1965 in London and continued for two years."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th November, 1968; Vol, 772, c. 1097.] I challenged the hon. Gentleman to produce any evidence to prove that a Conservative Government had in mind the kind of Agreement which was signed at the beginning of last year. There is no doubt that a just settlement of outstanding claims was and remains desirable in itself, but the whole House knows that this Agreement was reached for political reasons. There is not necessarily any harm in that, provided that it brought with it political gains, that it was a good bargain, and that it was a fair bargain.

One searches in vain now for the significant contribution which this understanding with Mr. Kosygin was expected to make towards the détente between East and West. There have been no political gains whatsoever. It is hard to see how the bargain can be described, from the British point of view, as either good or fair. Britain put forward claims of £15 million. The Soviet Union put forward claims of £10 million. To clinch the deal, we had to give the Russians a tip of £½ million. This grandiose generosity seems to be hideously discordant with the events which are going on in Czechoslovakia today.

We have also asked at other stages of the Bill whether it is justifiable for Her Majesty's Government to reach any agreement with the Soviet Union about the disposal of assets which belong neither to them nor to us, unless they are prepared to give an undertaking that they would both admit and meet a valid claim if the owners of those assets once again became free agents.

As the whole House is only too aware, I am not an international lawyer. I am generally wise enough to leave these complicated matters to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northwich (Sir J. Foster), who has an inimitable grasp of this subject: or to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish), who has made such a close study of these claims and who has pursued the matter with such persistence; or to my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion, (Sir W. Teeling), who I understand, may attempt to catch your eye later, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

If my hon. Friend does, I also understand that it will be one of the last speeches that he makes in the House. I assure him that we shall listen to him with immense interest, tinged with regret because we shall not have an opportunity to hear him here in future.

What I find difficult to understand is the Government's reluctance so far during the passage of the Bill to admit that the Agreement which is enshrined in the Bill cannot possibly contradict what I understand to be the requirements of international law, namely, that the submission of a valid claim at a future date could not validly be refused. My hon. Friends and I are not opposed to any agreement. As the Under-Secretary pointed out, a Conservative Government strove to secure one. But we do say with strong feeling that the Agreement to which the Bill gives effect was a bad one—a bad bargain for this country; one which was reached mainly for the sake of political advantage, which it has emphatically not secured; and one that is unfair to the Baltic States, whose only shortcoming has been that they were invaded by the Soviet Union, then overrun by Nazi Germany, then liberated by Russia, and that they remain so liberated today.

The Under-Secretary has told my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes in a letter that any future Government in the Baltic States would clearly not be precluded from making representations … for the return of the assets. I believe that in the circumstances it is essential that he goes a great deal further and admits that the obligations of international law, that any future Government of this country is bound to meet any valid claim from a future Government in the Baltic States, are in no way incompatible with the agreement that has been reached, or with this Bill.

The Government have seemed unwilling to make this admission. The Agreement that they have reached appears to me and to a number of my hon. Friends in a worse and worse light as the months go by, and it is for these reasons that I ask my hon. Friends to join me in registering disapproval by voting against the Third Reading of the Bill.

8.46 p.m.

Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes

First, may I take the opportunity of thanking the Under-Secretary of State for the very considerable trouble he has taken to answer a large number of questions that I have put to him, mostly in writing, since the Second Reading. Although he has not been able to resolve my serious misgivings about the Bill, he has shown great patience and forbearance, and I am most grateful to him.

Few if any Measures are passed without doubts and criticisms remaining in some quarters. However when we reach the Third Reading we can usually comfort ourselves with the knowledge that certain improvements have been made and a few points conceded or, at worst, careful scrutiny and vigorous debate have revealed some merit or justification that was not immediately clear to us at first sight.

I do not think that is so in the case of this Bill. The Foreign Compensation Bill has come through its stages unscathed. It has by no means improved on acquaintance. It remains, in words which have already been applied to it today, a shabby Measure. I think it is a furtive one, a hole-in-the-corner Bill, and unworthy of the Statute Book. My objections remain as strong as before. I snail refer to them briefly, as I have taken earlier opportunities to explain them in detail.

My objections are threefold. First, the Bill is yet another example of the way in which the present Government treat Parliament as a rubber stamp and flout proper democratic procedures. Secondly, I think the Bill places expediency above the law. Thirdly, it cheats the people of the Baltic States, including exiles in this country and abroad, of their title to their property. At the same time, it damages our reputation for fair dealing in the eyes of the world.

I propose to explain those objections briefly. First, how does the Bill flout the authority of Parliament? It does so in three ways, all of them serious. Discussions have continued off and on between the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom about the Baltic gold assets for almost 30 years, as the Under-Secretary told us—discussion, not negotiation. The Under-Secretary's reply to me that negotiations virtually started in 1959 was not completely accurate. Serious negotiations, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) said, started in 1965, not in 1959 when the Order in Council was passed. The full responsibility for this Measure, as the Under-Secretary accepted, rests entirely with Her Majesty's Government and not in any way with the Opposition.

During recent negotiations I have constantly sought and been given firm assurance that no agreement would take effect without Parliamentary approval. For instance, I was clearly told in writing by the Minister of State, Foreign Office, that the realisation of the Baltic assets was subject to Parliamentary authority. That was in his letter to me of 15th June, 1967, yet exactly two weeks later, without Parliament so much as being informed, let alone consulted, the gold was sold. I elicited this information through two Parliamentary Questions. On 28th November, 1967, I was told: The gold was sold earlier this year and the proceeds invested ".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th November, 1967; Vol. 755, c. 67.] On 6th December, 1967, I learned, also in reply to a Question, that the gold was sold on 29th June, 1967, two weeks after I had been given an assurance that it would not be sold without Parliamentary authority. That is scandalous. During two weeks in June, 1967 the Government changed their mind and broke their promise without informing Parliament.

Before the Anglo-Soviet Agreement of 5th January, 1968, was signed, the then Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs told the House: It is the case that legislation would be required before the process of distribution took place."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd October, 1967; Vol. 751, c. 1351.] I hope that the Minister is taking note of those exact words. I assure him that there is no special pleading in my speech.

It is true that in Clause 1(5) the Custodian of Enemy Property is given powers to repay into the Consolidated Fund, out of the Baltic assets, the sum of £500,000 already distributed to the Soviet Union. At first sight, this might appear to be the fulfilment of the undertaking given by the Under-Secretary. No doubt the Government argue, in their devious way, that the payment to the Soviet Union was not a direct distribution of the Baltic assets. But this transaction was included in page 33 of the Supplementary Civil Estimates for 1967–68, which were not published until 15th February last year, a whole month after the £500,000 was deposited in the Bank of England to the credit of the Soviet Union. That is equally scandalous. So both the letter and the spirit of the promise given by the Government have been totally ignored.

My third example of the short-circuiting of Parliament is that shortly after the Anglo-Soviet Agreement was signed I asked the then Foreign Secretary why the £500,000 promised to the Soviet Union had been handed over without Parliament being consulted. He replied: The Agreement will be subject in due course to Parliamentary approval. If Parliament turns it down, that will be that.'"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd January, 1968; Vol. 757, c. 210.] But that will be what? What happens if Parliament rejects the Bill now? Not only has the £500,000 been handed over to the Soviet Union, but now we have been told that it has been spent. What happens to the waiving of the debts on both sides if the Bill is defeated?

The fact is that the Agreement was ratified by the United Kingdom when the Prime Minister signed it. He fell for what I can only describe as a confidence trick and paid over to the Soviet Union £500,000 which did not belong to him or this country. This shady deal is put before Parliament as a fait accompli, a procedure which could conceivably be justified only by extreme urgency, and even then I doubt whether it could really be justified. But there was not the least urgency in this case. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northwich (Sir J. Foster) was right when he said earlier that there was no need for an Agreement at all, and there certainly was no urgency. The Agreement was part of a package deal, the main purpose of which was to set the wheels in motion for a Treaty of Friendship with the Soviet Union.

This Bill is only a rotten little bundle in the package—incidentally the only item in the package that has not dissolved into thin air. There is no sign whatever of the Treaty of Friendship that was to be Britain's reward. Very much the reverse, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) said in his excellent speech. This Agreement is hideously discordant with the terrible events today in Czechoslovakia, the death of Jan Palach, and other students trying to burn themselves to death. So much for the three positive ways in which the Bill represents the deliberate short-circuiting of Parliament, directly contrary to Government promises. I hope that when the Under-Secretary comes to reply there will be some explanation of why this has been done, although I very much doubt it.

My second major criticism is that this Measure places expediency above the law. The Under-Secretary summed it up when he tried to justify the Bill on Second Reading. He said: The Agreement with the Soviet Union and the measures to give effect to it which are now submitted to the House are to be judged by the criterion of what is practicable rather than by ideal standards of justice."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th November, 1968; Vol. 772, c. 1106.] This was the start of the Under-Secretary's peroration, read from a carefully prepared brief. The Under-Secretary has tried to wriggle out of this by saying that the context clearly shows that he referred only to the effect of the Agreement for British claimants.

During the earlier stages of the Bill some of us accepted that. I have looked again at his words, and it is perfectly clear to me that the context of this is straightforward. I still find it difficult to put any interpretation on his words other than that he believed the Agreement and this Bill to be practicable rather than just. I believe that to be the case. It is practicable, although it is a pretty rotten Bill, and it is certainly not just. Whether it was practicable in the sense of making the best of a bad job, I very much doubt.

All laws leave an unhappy aftermath of legal and political problems. There are inevitably disputes about the ownership of property, the validity of treaties and such things as the recognition of new territorial boundaries. The illegal and forcible annexation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by the Soviet Union places Britain in all these quandaries. That is no justification at all for disregarding accepted principles of international law and using Baltic assets in settlement of Soviet debts to British subjects which the Soviet Union refuses to meet. Imagine the outcry in Parliament had this Bill been presented in 1940, immediately after the Soviet occupation, or shall I say in 1941, during the Nazi occupation.

Imagine the outcome. The legal or illegal position has not changed since then. It is exactly the same, yet now we are asked to agree that the passage of years makes what was a grave affront to three friendly countries, brutally thrashed by bullying neighbours both respectable and acceptable—merely the passage of years! It is neither respectable nor acceptable to me. We have given the Government repeated opportunities to make it clear to the Baltic States and the world that Britain would be ready to make full restitution of Baltic assets when these countries regain their independence, as we all hope they will.

We have asked for verbal assurances, we have suggested that a restitution Clause might be written into the Bill. In refusing to do either of these things it seems that the Government have tried to justify their policy by the hollow pretence, of which we heard echoes again today, that when certain events injurious to Britain took place in the Baltic States in 1940 the Baltic Governments were in some way responsible for those events. We are asked to believe that they were not really under Soviet duress, that they were to some extent responsible for their own actions.

The fact of the matter, as we argued at length in Committee—and what we said then was not denied—is that these countries were not free agents, after the Soviet Union had crossed their frontiers, in any sense of the word, and in his heart the Under-Secretary of State knows that that is true. They were puppet Governments under direct Soviet orders.

For the purpose of the Bill, three small friendly nations, at present robbed of their freedom—for which they continue to pray—are treated as enemy countries. By Clause 1(2) their property may come under an Order such as might be made: .. in relation to enemy property if a state of war existed. When I raised this point in correspondence with the Under-Secretary of State, he explained again that the Baltic States became technically enemy territory by reason of the German occupation in 1941. Of course they did—we all know that. This we fully understand and accept. But he went on to say, in his letter to me dated 6th January: The reason why successive Administrations in this country have declined to make an Order terminating the status of the Baltic States as 'enemy territory' has been the need—in the absence of a Money and Property Agreement (such as was concluded with other States after the war)—to ensure as far as possible that Soviet interests were not in a position to procure the return of the assets to the Soviet Union. If the Agreement had provided for a simple transfer of assets to the Soviet Union in return for an assurance that it would spend £500,000 on itself and use the rest in part payment of its debts to British subjects, it would have come to exactly the same thing as we are benig asked to ratify.

Far from protecting the Baltic assets from the clutch of the Soviet Union, all we are doing is acting as bankers for the Soviet Union, settling its debts on its behalf at its request. That is all it amounts to. Had the Government not given the firmest and clearest possible assurance that the Agreement with the Soviet Union and this Bill should not be regarded in any way as a step towards de jure, recognition of the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States, Baltic peoples in their own countries and in exile would have had cause to feel the gravest anxiety and mistrust.

My feelings, when I come to vote against the Bill, must be those of anger and shame. This is a thoroughly bad Bill. It is highly questionable on a number of legal grounds. It is morally indefensible. It is a bad Bill brought in by an unprincipled and weak Government, and I will be no party to it.

9.4 p.m.

Photo of Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker , Cheltenham

I shall not take up much time, following the excellent speeches of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) and of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish). Like a number of hon. Members on both sides, I have been involved personally since 1939 in the affairs of these countries and with a number of the individuals concerned in their governments and their own ordinary affairs. If we pass the Bill without any gesture, as though this were just a tidying-up operation, it will be much misunderstood in areas where these actions are still studied, despite the curtain which seeks to divide us from our friends in Eastern Europe.

This is a tidying-up operation with which, as such, I have considerable sympathy. When I was sitting in the hot seat now occupied by the Under-Secretary of State, it used to be put to me by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Sir W. Teeling) that we should take action on this matter. I therefore have no objection in principle to tidying up these Baltic balances, as I used to know them. There are, however, two provisos which should be taken into account.

The first is that the present is a thoroughly bad moment to do this. Who is to say that none of the countries mentioned in the Preamble to the Bill will ever be free again and will never be able to claim some of the assets which are to be distributed on their behalf? As was pointed out in Committee, things have happened in Eastern Europe during the past 200 years. Countries have gone under the surface and have emerged again. I for one would certainly not say that any of these countries will not one day be in the position to claim again these assets which the Government are proposing to distribute in the way set out in the Bill.

As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes, who has taken such a long-term interest in these affairs, has pointed out, there could not be a worse moment than the present. Whatever may have been the circumstances when the Prime Minister took the lead in reaching an agreement with Mr. Kosygin two years ago, the events of August, 1968, should surely have led the Government to delay a bit further, at least until we saw what was coming out from Central Europe. It will, I believe, be very much misunderstood there that we should choose this time and method of distributing the Baltic balances.

My second point, on which I got no reply from the Under-Secretary in Committee, concerns the £½ million. No explanation was given, although possibly I can guess the reason. Fairly rough things were said in Committee about the intervention in this matter of the Prime Minister, who appears to have tossed away £½ million of other people's money. I suppose that he did not mind doing it with other people's money—a typical Socialist gesture. He tossed it away for no apparent reason. I ask the Under-Secretary once again to explain how it comes about that the Prime Minister appears lightly to have tossed in, as a bribe—to use a simple word—this sum of money, which is not even British money, but is other people's money, to the Russians, to come to an agreement with them.

For these two reasons I hope that, when the Under-Secretary replies, he will explain why the Government press on at this moment and why the £½ million is being given away.

9.8 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop , Tiverton

I share the indignation which has been voiced at this shoddy Bill. The countries in question may temporarily be overrun by Russia. This has happened before in history. Poland has disappeared as a nation at various times in history and has re-emerged; and Lithuania was once one of the great military Powers of Europe.

Are we to assume that these States have ceased to exist for all time merely because the Government want to do, by the authority of Parliament, something which, if it were done by any citizen, he would be sent to prison for fraudulent conversion? If any citizen of this country, with money entrusted to him by a third party for a specific purpose—namely, to be safeguarded for him—did, without the owner's consent, what the Government are asking authority for themselves to do, he would be convicted of fraudulent conversion, embezzlement, or perhaps both.

One does not have to go far outside this country to learn of the contempt in which it is held because of the shoddy dealings of its Government. Here is another of them. Because these three little countries, each of whose independence is guaranteed by numerous treaties signed with the Soviet Union, are now at this time powerless to defend their own property, Great Britain—well, Britain, under this Administration—proceeds to hand out their assets which were deposited in this country purely and solely for one reason, to safeguard them, in case those countries were overrun by Russia or Germany. That eventuality happened. What now is done? The successors of the Administration which accepted that money in good faith are now handing it away to a third party in bad faith, and are asking Parliament to connive at this dishonourable act.

It is a shameful thing. I suppose that because the Government are getting so used to doing shameful things it no longer afflicts the consciences of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Ladies opposite; it no longer afflicts their consciences in the least. It is not less a shameful thing because of that.

Is it even a prudent thing to do? There are other people who entrust their money to the Bank of England. The Sheikh of Kuwait, potentates in the Persian Gulf, entrust their money to the Bank of England and entrust their gold to the Bank of England. What lesson are they to learn from the dishonourable way in which the Government hand out assets without the consent and against the wishes of the owners—hand out to third parties assets entrusted to them?

What lessons are other parties to learn? How can anyone else believe that his assets are safe in the keeping of the Bank of England, or can be entrusted to any organs under the control of a British Government who conduct themselves in this way? How can it be prudent to hand it to those who break a trust in this way?

How can it be prudent to do it when there are other people overseas who entrust their money to us? It could lead to a further devaluation. This we know. It is transparently obvious. We depend on holding the confidence of a large number of people overseas. I warn the Under-Secretary. There is no one senior to him in the Government who takes the trouble to be present in the House tonight while this shoddy deed is done. I warn the hon. Gentleman that the consequences of this fraudulent action will be with us for many a day, and are likely to last for longer than ten times the remaining life of this Government.

The Bill runs to only three pages. One might think that it would not be very hard, in a Bill which runs to only three pages, plus some definitions, to produce a long title which would state what is in the Bill. It does not even do that. The long title says: A Bill to make provision with respect to certain property (including the proceeds thereof and any income or other property accruing therefrom) of persons "— if the Under-Secretary will listen to this— formerly resident or carrying on business in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania … "property. … of persons formerly resident or carrying on business …." What does that conceal?

It conceals that the Government propose, as they later say, to authorise the disposal of the property of a Baltic State; not property of persons, not property of those carrying on business, but the property of the State. If they wanted to do that, why did they not include it in the long title of the Bill?

Was it because they were so ashamed of what they were doing that they hoped that those who read the long title of the Bill would not realise that they intended to dispose of the assets entrusted by those three Governments to the British Government and the Bank of England? Was it because they still preserve—how they can have the gall to do so I know not—diplomatic relations with the Governments of those three Baltic States? Was it because those three Baltic States still have diplomatic missions, recognised as such, in London? Was that why they did not dare to put in the long title an indication of the shameful breach of trust which later on in the Bill they intended to authorise?

Let us have an answer from the Under-Secretary. The hon. Gentleman, of course, was not the originator of the Bill. We all know who was the originator; not the Under-Secretary, but the Prime Minister, because he wanted to feel nice and warm when Mr. Kosygin visited this country. He wanted to give something away in order to produce a smile on Mr. Kosygin's face. What better, thought the Prime Minister, to give away than the property of somebody else who has not authorised it and who is powerless to stop him. What a miserable fraud. This is what has been done and I say again, loud and clear, that we will have no part in it and will oppose it.

9.18 p.m.

Photo of Sir John Foster Sir John Foster , Northwich

The occupation of these three countries by the Soviets is not recognised by this country, the nationalisation of the central banks is not recognised and the Government of the Soviet Republic are not recognised as the de jure Government of any of these three Republics. None of the assets which are to be distributed are in Soviet territory. So that if the Government wish to distribute the assets held in this country to the British claimants, there is nothing to stop them. They do not have to pay the Soviet Government £500,000.

How does the Under-Secretary justify the payment of £500,000? He says that it is to avoid any possible international claims. If the occupation is not recognised, if nationalisation is not recognised and the Government are not recognised, there is no possibility of an international claim. The Under-Secretary may answer me by saying that it was envisaged by preceding Conservative Governments that there would be an agreement with the Soviet Government. If that was envisaged, they were wrong. If they envisage making an agreement about Czarist assets in this country they will be equally wrong. There is no point in a burglar agreeing that he will not bring a claim against the person whose house he burgled and that therefore property missed by the burglar can be distributed.

There was then an attempt to say that, if we pleased the Soviets by this bribe or tip of £500,000, they might be disposed to enter into a friendship agreement with this country. But that is not worth anything. Certainly, it is not worth £500,000.

I was disappointed to hear the right hon. Gentleman trying to say that there were only two alternatives, the first being an agreement with the Soviet Government and the other sitting on the gold and not distributing it to the claimants. But there is another alternative in the shape of either an agreement with the Soviet Government or a distribution to the claimants. It was quite wrong of the hon. Gentleman to lead us to believe that that was the only alternative. If he looks at the Third Reading speech, he will see that he said that that was the only alternative. It is not, and anyone would think this Government very mis- led to dip into the assets under their control which the Soviet Government cannot get and which the Soviet Government can make no claim upon, take £500,000 out of it and hand it over in order to get an agreement which is worthless, which has no effect and which gives nothing to this country and which says that the Soviet Government give up all claims on this country, when there are no claims which could be enforced. One could give money to a lot of people in return for their saying that they will not make claims on us. If they have no claims, it is easy for them to pocket the money and say that they will not make any.

If the hon. Gentleman is right and an agreement was envisaged, it means that successive British Governments have been wrong in assuming that it is necessary to come to an agreement with a Government who are not recognised as the Government of these countries and whose actions were not recognised. It means that we have arrived at the unwise position where Her Majesty's Government have to give up £500,000 in order to get a worthless agreement.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will deal with this point. It was made both in Committee and on Second Reading, and it cannot be right for him to set out two alternatives when there is another obvious one. What makes it worse is that the £500,000 was already paid out to the Russian Government before the House of Commons could step in and say, if it felt so minded, that it approved of the agreement and would like a safeguard in it, or that it approved of it without a safeguard. In the event, the House was deprived of the opportunity of saying that it did not approve of giving the Russians any money and that it wanted no part of any agreement but, instead, that the money should be distributed to British claimants who have been out of their money for 30 years.

That was an obvious alternative, and I ask the House to vote against the Bill on the ground that the Government need not have paid £500,000 to the Russian Government.

Several Hon. Members:

Several Hon. Members rose

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Before I call the next speaker, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman concerned will not mind my informing hon. Members that he is about to make what he told me earlier today would be his swansong on a matter to which he has devoted himself. Sir William Teeling.

9.24 p.m.

Photo of Mr Luke Teeling Mr Luke Teeling , Brighton, Pavilion

Mr. Speaker, I am put in a very embarrassing position, because I am not leaving the House for the next few weeks, and it is always possible that God may give me some ideas and that you, Mr. Speaker, may let me catch your eye again.

A little more embarrassing has been the charming way in which my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) made some very kind remarks about me, because I find myself disagreeing with him about the Bill. However, he knew about that before he said what he did.

It is again very embarrassing, having been 25 years in the House of Commons, spending most of that time fighting a Labour Government, if I could, and the rest of the time often fighting a Conservative Government if I disagreed with what they were doing, to find that tonight I am not entirely out of sympathy with what the Labour Government are doing, and I am not willing to fight very hard, even beside my great friend from my neighbouring constituency, the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish), who has put forward some strong and good arguments. So, also, has my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker). During those years since the war, when we were discussing the Baltic bonds problems, many times I have been to see him at the Foreign Office leading delegations to discuss this problem. But in those earlier days it was not called the question of the Baltic bonds; we were supposed to be claiming to be paid for all that was owed to us by the Soviet Government going back to Czarist days.

Then, suddenly—perhaps not even suddenly—we got different invitations to go to Moscow, and, one after the other, Under-Secretaries called us quickly into the Foreign Office—indeed, one was no less a person than the present Leader of the Opposition—to discuss what Russia might put forward and what we should claim for debts we thought we were owed. They included not only the Baltic bonds in those days, but the Lena goldfields and matters like that, which have already been mentioned.

Up to just before 1959, the supposed date of this opening discussion with Russia about the Baltic bonds, we had to discuss everything together. Then suddenly Russia said, "We will now discuss the Baltic bonds and leave the others behind." Many of us were very worried, but we were assured at that time that there was no doubt that the other problems, such as the Czarist bonds, would be discussed the moment that these Baltic bonds were cleared.

I am sure that I should be out of order if I discussed the Czarist bonds. Therefore, I suggest that some Members of Parliament, when they have a little spare time occasionally, should read Volume 701 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, 1964–65. It is not all that far back. It will be seen that the whole matter was discussed. Not only the Baltic bonds and the Czarist bonds, but many others—Hungarian, Rumanian, and so on—they were discussed not only by myself, but by the gentleman who knew a lot about Russia, from what we have heard recently, Commander Courtney. He also spoke about Russian bonds. The right hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. George Thomson) replied. I think that he probably even knew more than the hon. Gentleman opposite on this subject. He was fighting battles very hard for all these different causes.

I hope and believe that before we close tonight the hon. Gentleman will assure us that once this Baltic question is settled the Government's promise will be maintained and they will go on to deal with the next problems, namely, the Czarist debts. In the meantime, I should like to point out why I do not agree with my hon. Friends so much tonight. Many people over these years have contacted me, and committees connected with me, on this subject and have pointed out how much they have lost, how unhappy they are and how poor many of them are. There is a great deal of money which should go to very poor people connected with this problem.

To my mind, we are arguing just a bit too much in the air on the question whether we should hand over £500,000 to the Russians and, at the same time, whether we should be dealing with this matter in not a detailed way, but in such an airy-fairy way. We should realise that there are practical questions to be dealt with, and that there are people who badly need this money. The practical reasons are the only ones that should be considered.

There is no question that when Mr. Kosygin came to London nothing much was agreed with him, but this matter was very quickly settled—within two days. Russia does not look upon Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as separate nations that will one day regain their independence. They may. But they did not always have independence. Well before the First World War they were all part of Russia, as was Finland. Finland broke away. In my earlier days here we have had two hon. Members who came from Finland—Mr. Zilliacus and Sir Patrick Donner. They were both Finns, and were Members of our Parliament.

Both Finland and the Baltic States originally belonged to Russia. According to Russia the Baltic States still belong to her. That is why she has always wanted to put these problems together and keep them together. We must try to put ourselves into the minds of the Russians if we are to have discussions and arrive at agreements with them. We have to think of the financial questions of trade with Russia and friendship with Russia. We should not forget that when Lord Thomson went to Russia he asked Mr. Khrushchev whether he would make financial agreements with us, but Mr. Khrushchev said, "We cannot, as long as you have these Baltic and Czarist points to be dealt with". It was made quite clear that Russia seriously thinks of these problems together.

I am not sure that much of what has been said here tonight will help us in our future relations with Russia. I am not particularly anxious to be friendly with Russia; I never have been. But as I am leaving this House I should like to put forward the view that we must try, sometimes, to be a little more practical, and to realise what many parts of the world, including many Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians living in this country realise—that these people and Britons, too, want their money to be distributed now.

9.32 p.m.

Photo of Mr Gordon Campbell Mr Gordon Campbell , Moray and Nairnshire

I shall be brief because the case has been well put by my right hon. and hon. Friends and I explained my general views on the Bill in the Second Reading debate on 7th November.

The Minister has gone through the history again. The main facts are that the United Kingdom has not recognised de jure the Soviet annexation of the three Baltic States; nor has she recognised that the Baltic gold that was held in this country belongs to the Soviet Union. Furthermore, the fact that the gold at one time came into the possession of the Custodian of Enemy Property is an accident of history.

Having, after nearly 30 years, decided to dispose of the gold, the Government need not have arranged for this to be part of a one-sided agreement with the Soviet Union. The assets could have been disposed of and distributed to the British claimants without these complications, provided that there was at the same time a clear understanding that the legal rights of the owners of the gold were protected. The gold had been held in trust by the Bank of England for the central banks of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, and my objection is that no assurance has been given while the Bill has been going through the House that the legal interests of the owners of the gold are protected. This throws doubt upon the expression, "Safe as the Bank of England." It has the effect of tarnishing Britain's reputation at a time when it is in need of some burnishing.

As regards the Custodian of Enemy Property, I recollect that, before the Italian peace treaty came into effect in September, 1947, much Italian property was held by the Custodian, but I do not know of any Italian bodies or individuals who have been penalised in this way as a result.

The Government's argument against making a general statement of the kind which I and my right hon. Friend have asked for has been that they cannot cater for a hypothetical situation and that they cannot commit a future Government. I believe that a general statement would not run into these difficulties. I recognise that there is at least one problem. This arises from the possibility of the Soviet Union at a future date deciding, for no doubt other reasons, to set up puppet Governments in puppet independent Baltic States. If that happened, I could see that those Governments might then claim a spurious independence and try to claim the gold, but this is a situation which I am sure everyone in the House would recognise as being quite artificial and which need not be within the terms of a statement of the kind which I think that the Government should make. We would not regard such puppet Governments or States as genuine successors of the original owners.

Therefore, I still ask the Government to make a general statement that the genuine owners' or legal successors' interests will be protected and that such owners or successors, in States which we regarded as independent, could make, not a claim against the gold itself, which, of course, would no longer be there because it has been disposed of, but a claim which could be recognised for the value which the gold would then have attained. Surely they could find a way of making such a statement. Besides manifestly doing justice to the situation, this could lend hear: to peoples in many States, including Czechoslovakia, who have to put up with present conditions and who must live on hope for the future.

9.38 p.m.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. The hon. Member needs leave of the House to speak again.

Photo of Mr William Whitlock Mr William Whitlock , Nottingham North

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and by leave of the House, I should like to speak again.

It is the custom of the House to congratulate an hon. Member who has made a maiden speech. I have never had that pleasure, but on this occasion I hope I shall be forgiven for congratulating the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Sir W. Teeling) on what you, Mr. Speaker, have described as his "swansong". Many of us in the House best get to know our colleagues not within the confines of this building but on delegations to other countries. It was on a Commonwealth Parliamentary delegation that I first got to know the hon. Member, and from that time on I have held him in very high regard and affection. That regard has been heightened tonight, because he is the only hon. Member to have spoken who has supported me.

You, Mr. Speaker, as with hon. Members who make maiden speeches, have allowed the hon. Member a great deal of licence. You allowed him to talk about the Czarist assets—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. I would not allow the Minister the same licence.

Photo of Mr William Whitlock Mr William Whitlock , Nottingham North

That is exactly what I anticipated, Mr. Speaker.

The hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion has given us some homework to do. When he is looking back on the speeches which he and others have made on this subject, I hope that one day he will be able to see what has been going on in Parliament and agree that we, too, have done our homework in this matter.

I will not go once again over all the points which have been raised on Second Reading and in Committee about the agreement which was reached, the need for an agreement—which the hon. and learned Member for Northwich (Sir J. Foster) disputes—and the need to have what was called the tip when £500,000 was allegedly tossed away. If hon. Members read the OFFICIAL REPORT of our Committee proceedings in columns 45 to 48, they will see that all these matters were dealt with.

When hon. Members talk about the respective British and Russian claims, they should accept that the figure of £15 million for British claims represents simply the sum of the value put on those claims by the individual claimants themselves. To be frank—I pointed this out on Second Reading—some of those claims would perhaps not stand impartial scrutiny or might be described as, naturally, somewhat inflated.

The Soviet side did not recognise the existence of liabilities up to £15 million and accepted liabilities of less than £3 million. The Soviet claim, amounting to £10 million, does not mean that there are assets of that amount in the control of Her Majesty's Government and available for distribution to claimants here.

As I pointed out, if independent Governments were in a position to make claims in those three States, they would also be in a position to accept obligations. We would then be able to respond by restating our claims which, if these figures are correct, would be bigger than theirs. When Her Majesty's Government blocked the Baltic assets, it was made clear that the action was being taken to protect British interests which were under attack by nationalisation measures and that we fully reserved all our rights in respect of the assets which were within our jurisdiction.

One of the basic assumptions of the 1959 decision to try again by the then Administration and to come to an understanding with the U.S.S.R. was that the assets under the control of the Crown and within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom would inevitably be part of the settlement. I understand that it is the view of the right hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) and some of his hon. Friends that it was right to negotiate with the Soviet Union. He said on Second Reading: I do not deny the case for agreement in the circumstances which have arisen over the years and in the situation which now obtains in Eastern Europe"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th November, 1968; Vol. 772, c. 1110–11.] I am not sure whether the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) shares his view. Certainly the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop), in some intemperate language, managed to make it clear that he did not approve of our coming to an agreement with the Russians.

Photo of Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop , Tiverton

I did not say anything about the tightness or wrong-ness of our coming to an agreement with the Russians. I devoted almost the whole of my speech to the ethics of giving away something entrusted to us by one party to another party without the consent of the first party. I did not allude to the ethics of reaching an agreement of any sort with the Russians.

Photo of Mr William Whitlock Mr William Whitlock , Nottingham North

I am glad to have the position made clear.

We appreciate and respect the zeal and tenacity with which the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes defends in this House the interests of the peoples of the former Baltic States. Perhaps he will tell us whether, in his opinion, the right course for the Government to have taken in 1959 would have been to leave everything, both the Baltic assets and the British claims, indefinitely frozen.

We should bear in mind that the peoples of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—for whom we feel the greatest sympathy in their powerlessness to affect the course of events that has overtaken them since 1940—would not be one jot or tittle better off for such a decision and will, by the same token, in no way suffer from the action which this Bill is designed to authorise.

Against this background, I should like to look a little more closely at the suspicions which have been expressed over the present Measure which brings to a conclusion the line of action initiated nearly 10 years ago. It has been said that what we are proposing to do is something in some way illegal and immoral and that in some sense Britain is the trustee of the former Baltic States and is acting in breach of trust. It has been said that we are taking the gold from them when they have lost their freedom and are disabled. It is suggested that even though we may have been right to negotiate with the Soviet Government and to conclude an agreement we should make some sort of guarantee of eventual restitution to the Baltic States if their freedom was to be regained.

If hon. Members look at the OFFICIAL REPORT of the proceedings in Committee they will see that I said: nothing contained in or done under the Bill would preclude any independent Baltic republic at some time in the future from submitting a claim to the British Government of the day in respect of the property in question if it considered that it had such a claim."—[OFFICIAL REPORT,Standing Committee A, 19th November, 1968, c. 23.] The approach of the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes in particular has been very eloquent and moved in emotive language but it does not, I fear, pay much attention to the realities of the situation. Whether we like it or not, the three independent Baltic States have as such disappeared. The fact that we have recognised the Soviet Government as the de facto but not de jure Government of the region which formerly comprised the Baltic States does not mean that there exist any competing de jure Governments at the present time.

Our treaties with the independent Baltic States ceased to be operative when the Baltic States were incorporated into the Soviet Union because from that time there have been no independent Governments with whom the treaties could operate. Similarly neither the central banks nor the corporate bodies to whom in the main the assets formerly belonged any longer exist. They cannot be the rightful owners of the assets if they do not exist. The gold, as hon. Members know, was a good many years ago the subject of a vesting order made under the trading with the enemy legislation vesting the legal title to it in the Custodian of Enemy Property with power to sell—a power which has been exercised.

All that the Bill before us today aims to do is to enable the Custodian to hand over these assets and the proceeds of the sale of the gold to the Foreign Compensation Commission for distribution to the claimants.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Chigwell

The hon. Gentleman is discussing the distribution of these assets which had been realised. Will he explain before he reaches the end of his speech why the assets including the gold were realised and distributed without Parliamentary approval despite the written undertaking given to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) by the Under-Secretary's right hon. Friend in a letter which I hold in my hand? Is it not a case that the gold was sold in June, 1967, without Parliamentary approval? Is this not most damaging? Will the Under-Secretary be sure to deal with this point?

Photo of Mr William Whitlock Mr William Whitlock , Nottingham North

The hon. Member says that he was given an assurance that the gold would not be sold without Parliamentary approval. He must be mistaken. I know of no such assurance and I would gladly investigate the complaint—[Interruption.] I am not going to listen to some sentences in a letter taken entirely out of context. The gold was sold under the power vested in the Custodian of Enemy Property. Contrary to what the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) says, there has been no distribution of the assets.

These British claimants were deprived of their rights either by the action of the Baltic States at the time when they were still in diplomatic relations with us or by measures taken by the Soviet Government. These claimants remain uncompensated. In all these circumstances we have no doubt of our legal or of our moral entitlement to take and dispose of the Baltic assets for the purpose of this Bill.

It is no more than the last step in a process which began many years ago. The Agreement which we made with the Soviet Government preserves the principle that we do not recognise Soviet title to any part of the assets; and it remains our position that the incorporation of the Baltic States into the U.S.S.R. has not been recognised de jure by Her Majesty's Government.

As a last resort, it has been urged by the Opposition that the British Government ought to give some guarantee of eventual restitution to the Baltic States. It is, I think, on this point alone that I and the right hon. Member for Bridlington part company. He appreciates that to do so would be to bind a future British Government. But we can none of us foresee the circumstances in which we might be called upon to honour such a guarantee.

We do not know when, whether, or what sort of independent nations will emerge in the Baltic States and be accorded recognition by Her Majesty's Government. Hon. Members are familiar with the criteria by which we are normally guided in deciding to accord recognition. These criteria turn primarily on the question whether as a matter of fact a Government can be said to have established effective control.

But it does not follow that such States, even though recognised, would automatically step into the shoes of their immediate or more remote predecessors in regard to these assets. They might not be regarded as the successors or the reversioners of the pre-war Republican Governments that no longer exist, or take shape within the same boundaries. They might be regarded as completely new Governments, succeeding within their new borders to the present Soviet Government.

We do not know what sort of attitude such independent Governments might adopt towards the period between 1940 and the date of their independence. They might be States under Soviet influence or, at any rate, regarded by the Soviets as within what they are now calling the "Socialist Commonwealth". Certainly, it would be quite wrong for me today to make a commitment which would bind Her Majesty's Government at that time in what are wholly hypothetical and unforeseeable circumstances.

Hon. Members opposite have made some play with the fact that many treaties to which Her Majesty's Government have become party inevitably relate to future circumstances, the shape of which cannot be fully foreseen at the time of signing or acceding to them. This I accept. But the giving of a binding undertaking in present circumstances would encompass hypothetical circumstances of quite a different order from any that might apply in an international agreement with an existing Government.

An international agreement is concluded with a Government whose status and position on an issue are known to us; but an undertaking for the restitution of the Baltic assets would involve unknown factors of a kind that I have just outlined. We should, as it were, be issuing a blank cheque, but with the difference that it was the payees' names that were blank. That would not be a prudent course.

Hon. Members opposite moved an Amendment to the Bill in Committee which would have had the effect of enabling a future State to sue in our courts for the return of property formerly belonging to Baltic persons and now to be distributed to the British claimants. This would be an inappropriate procedure. If such States came into existence at some future date and considered that they had a case for the return of the value of the assets that we are proposing to distribute, the appropriate course for them to take would be to present a claim to the British Government through the diplomatic channel. In addressing themselves to any such claim I am sure that the British Government of the day would keep well in mind all the sad history of the Baltic peoples, about which the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes in particular has spoken, and that the British Government would be predisposed to take as sympathetic a view as, in all the circumstances of the case, they felt to be warranted. Further than that I cannot possibly go today and I hope that the House will not expect me to do so.

9.55 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Chigwell

Mr. Biggs-Davison rose

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. It is unusual to continue the debate after the winding up speech. However, I have no power to prevent the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Chigwell

I came to the House with a speech which I had intended to make, and I abandoned that speech because my right hon. and hon. Friends had marshalled the case against the Bill so admirably that I did not think it right to weary the House myself.

I simply asked the Under-Secretary to clear up one point. This was something most damaging to the reputation of Her Majesty's Government. I wanted the Under-Secretary to have a chance of replying to the very serious allegation made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish). When I put the point to the Under-Secretary and said that I had a letter in my hand which established that the Government had the intention of seeking Parliamentary approval before realising and distributing the assets, he brushed it aside and suggested that I would quote something out of context in an attempt to mislead the House.

I will now quote to the Under-Secretary certain words. If he is not satisfied I will read the entire letter. The words to which I would draw his attention are contained in a letter from the office of the Minister of State, dated 15th June, 1967. The Minister of State is now the Minister without Portfolio. The right hon. Gentleman said in this letter to my hon. and gallant Friend: It is our intention, subject to Parliamentary authority, to make arrangements to realise the assets (including the gold) remaining in the country and distribute them to those whose claims are, as a result of this agreement, no longer to be pursued. I will go on if the hon. Gentleman wishes or I will read the entire letter, but I do not think he will feel it is necessary.

Then, again, I think he said something to the effect that it had not been distributed. At any rate it has been realised. In an answer given to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes by the Board of Trade on 6th December, 1967, I read the words: The gold was sold on 29th June, 1967."—[OFFICIAL FLEPORT, 6th December, 1967; Vol. 755.] This seems to me clearly without the Parliamentary authority which the right hon. Gent leman the Minister of State gave my hon. and gallant Friend an undertaking would be obtained. This is most damaging to the reputation of Her Majesty's Government and of our country

quite apart from the moral and political argument which has been adduced in this debate.

The House is entitled to a reply. We on this side of the House are unlikely to win this Division, but I hope very much that when this Bill reaches another place justice will be done.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 161, Noes 115.

Division No. 49.AYES10.0 p.m.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Alldritt, WalterGregory, ArnoldNewens, Stan
Anderson, DonaldGrey, Charles (Durham)Ogden, Eric
Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)O'Matley, Brian
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)Griffiths, Eddle (Brightside)Orme, Stanley
Atkinson, Neman (Tottenham)Griffiths, Will (Exchange)Owen, Will (Morpeth)
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Hamilton, James (Bothwell)Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Baxter, WilliamHannan, WilliamPannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Beaney, AlanHarper, JosephPardoe, John
Bessell, PeterHarrison, Walter (Wakefield)Park, Trevor
Bidwell, SydneyHaseldine, NormanParker, John (Dagenham)
Bishop, E. S.Hazell, BertPearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Blackburn, F.Heffer, Eric S.Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Boardman, H. (Leigh)Henig, StanleyPerry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Booth, AlbertHobden, DennisPerry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M.Horner, JohnPrice, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Brown, Bob (N'ctle-upon-Tyne, W.)Houghton, Rt. Hn. DouglasProbert, Arthur
Buchan, NormanHowarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)Rankin, John
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)Howell, Denis (Small Heath)Rees, Merlyn
Butter, Herbert (Hackney, C.)Hoy, JamesRoberts, Albert (Normanton)
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. JamesHughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)Rose, Paul
Carter-Jones, LewisHunter, AdamRowlands. E.
Coe, DenisHynd, JohnShaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Coleman, DonaloJohnston, Russell (Inverness)Short, Rt. Hn. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Concannon, J. DJones, Dan (Burnley)Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Crawshaw, RichardJones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Cullen, Mrs. AliceJones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)Silverman, Julius
Dalyell, TamJudd, FrankSlater, Joseph
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)Kelley, RichardSmall, William
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)Kenyon, CliffordSpriggs, Leslie
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)Lawson, GeorgeSteel, David (Roxburgh)
Davies, Harold (Leek)Leadbitter, TedSteele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W)
Davies, Ifor (Gower)Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)Swain, Thomas
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Loughlin, CharlesTaverne, Dick
Delargy, HughLubbock, EricThomas, Rt. Hn. George
Dell, EdmundLyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)Tinn, James
Dempsey, JamesMcCann, JohnUrwin, T. W.
Dewar, DonaldMacColl, JamesVarley, Eric G.
Dobson, RayMacdonald, A. H.Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Doig, PeterMcGuire, MichaelWatkins, David (Consett)
Dunn, James A.Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty)Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Dunnett, JackMackintosh, John P.White, Mrs. Eirene
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)Maclennan, RobertWhitlock, William
Eadie, AlexMacMlllan, Malcolm (Western Isles)Wilkins, W. A.
Edwards, Robert (Bilston)McNamara, J. KevinWilley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Edwards, William (Merioneth)MacPherson, MalcolmWilliams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Ellis, JohnMahon. Peter (Preston, S.)Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Ennals, DavidMallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)Manuel, ArchieWilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)Mapp, CharlesWinstanlcy, Dr. M. P.
Fernyhough, E.Mason, Rt. Hn. RoyWoof, Robert
Finch, HaroldMendelson, John
Fletcher, Raymord (Ilkeston)Millan, BruceTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Galpern, Sir MyerMiller, Dr. M. S.Mr. Neil McBride and
Ginsburg, DavidMorgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)Mr. Alan Fitch.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Balniel, LordBoardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Beamish, Col. Sir TuftonBossom, Sir Clive
Astor, JohnBerry, Hn. AnthonyBrinton, Sir Tatton
Awdry, DanielBiggs-Davison, JohnBuchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)
Buck, Antony (Colchester)Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir KeithPowell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Bullus, Sir EricKaberry, Sir DonaldRamsden, Rt. Hn. James
Burden, F. A.Kimball, MarcusRees-Davies, w. R.
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)Kirk, PeterRodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Carr, Rt. Hn. RobertKnight, Mrs. JillRossi. Hugh (Hornsey)
Costain, A. PLane, DavidRussell, Sir Ronald
Currie, G. B. H.Langford-Holt, Sir JohnScott-Hopkins, James
Deedes, Rt. Un. w. P. (Ashford)Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Sharples, Richard
Douglas-Parker, DouglasLoveys, W. H.Silvester, Frederick
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)McAdden, Sir StephenSmith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Eltiott. R. W.(N 'c'tle-upon-Tyne. N.)Mac Arthur, IanSmith, John (London & W'minster)
Errington, Sir EricMcMaster, StanleyStainton, Keith
Eyre, ReginaldMcNair-Wilson. PatrickTaylor, Edward M.(G'gow. Cathcart)
Fortescue, TimMaddan, MartinTaylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Foster, Sir JohnMaginnis, John E.Temple, John M.
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)Maude, AngusThatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Clover, Sir DouglasMawby, RayTurton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Goodhart, PhilipMaxwell-Hyslop, R. J.van Straubenzee, W. R.
Cower, RaymondMaydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.Waddington, David
Grant, AnthonyMills, Peter (Torrington)Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Grant-Ferris, R.Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)Wall, Patrick
Grieve, PercyMonro, HectorWard, Dame Irene
Gurden, HaroldMorgan, Geraint (Denbigh)Wells, John (Maidstone)
Halt-Davis, A. G. F.Morrison, Charles (Devizes)Whitelaw Rt. Hn. William
Harvey, Sir Arthur VereMott-Radclyffe, Sir CharlesWilliams, Donald (Dudley)
Hawkins, PaulMunro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughWilson Geoffrey (Truro)
Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir LionelMurton, OscarWood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Heseltine, MichaelNabarro, Sir GeraldWright, Esmond
Hiley, JosephNoble, Rt. Hn. MichaelWylie, N. R.
Holland, PhilipOnslow, CranleyYounger Hn George
Howell, David (Guildford)Osbom, John (Hallam)younger, Hn. George
Hutchison, Michael ClarkPage, Graham (Crosby)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Iremonger, T. L.Percival, Ian
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Pink, R. BonnerMr. Timothy Kitson and
Jopling, MichaelPounder, RaftonMr. Bernard Weatherill.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.