§ Mr. Blackburn
(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the situation of the British zone of Berlin as a result of the Soviet denial of access thereto by road and rail.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bevin)
The present position, as the House will be aware, is that all rail traffic to and from Berlin has been stopped owing to an alleged technical disturbance on a stretch of line. Road transport from the West to Berlin which was banned some days ago is still suspended. Within Berlin the Soviet authorities have cut off the electricity supply on the ground of a shortage of current from the Soviet zone and sector to the Western sectors. Barge traffic both ways is almost at a standstill.
This has created a serious situation, since Berlin has drawn supplies from Western Germany. However, a certain amount of electricity is generated in the Western sectors, but the cuts which are necessary will cause inconvenience and interference with industry. The British Commandant has said that stocks of food are sufficient to render any immediate anxiety unnecessary.
There have been some organised demonstrations, apparently designed to overawe the City Council, but these have had no effect and I am glad to say that the Berlin authorities and population are displaying great calmness and show no sign of being intimidated by the measures which I have described.
As regards currency, the House will be aware that the first steps towards the introduction of a new and stable currency in the Western zones of Germany were taken last Sunday. The Soviet authorities took immediate steps to prevent this new currency being introduced into their zone and on these grounds imposed certain limitations on the passage of persons to Berlin. At the same time they stated that a new currency would be issued in Berlin as well as in their zone.
The authorities of the Western Powers requested that a meeting be held and they there stated that they were willing for the Soviet zone currency to be issued in Berlin provided that this issue was under Four-Power control. This condition is in 1708 accord with all the existing Four-Power agreements, but the Russians were unable to accept it, and insisted that the issue should be under their sole control. To have accepted this would have been tantamount to the abandonment of our rights in Berlin.
The Western Powers had no alternative, therefore, but to introduce a special currency into the Western sectors, distinguishable from the new currency in the Western zones. The German municipal authorities in Berlin have instructed the German authorities in each sector to obey the orders issued by each Allied sector Commandant. There are, therefore, or very shortly will be, two currencies in circulation in Berlin.
§ Mr. Blackburn
May I ask the Foreign Secretary whether it remains our intention to stay permanently in Berlin, and whether he will consult with the American and French authorities in order that all necessary steps may be taken to get food to Berlin, if need be?
§ Mr. Eden
May I ask the Foreign Secretary this question, which I hope will not embarrass him? It is important that we should have this clear. Have the Government, together with the other Allies concerned in this matter, made it absolutely clear to the Soviet Government through the normal diplomatic channels where we stand in respect to Berlin?
§ Mr. George Hicks
May I ask my right hon. Friend, in view of the present disturbed state in Berlin, if he is aware that he would receive the enthusiastic endorsement of this House, and I think of the country, if he took any steps whatsoever to see that the regulations are removed and facilities are provided in order that those people in Berlin for whom we are responsible, may be fed?
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson
Will the right hon. Gentleman take every opportunity of stressing, as he has done today, the fact that great calm prevails, both among the occupying authorities and the civil 1709 population in Berlin? Certainly, when I was there last week, the war of nerves was having a greater effect the further one got from Berlin.
§ Mr. Platts-Mills
While none of us wishes to embarrass the Foreign Secretary in any way, may I ask if this state of delicacy is not due to the introduction of the new currency; and, if the German people in our three zones in Berlin are dependent, as I think they are, on supplies coming from the Eastern sector and the Eastern zone, is it not quite obvious that, if we plant on them a currency which is their own, they will not be able to buy from their neighbours?
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
May I ask the Foreign Secretary whether there is any prospect of assimilating the new currency which we have introduced with the currency which it is reported the Russians are trying to introduce?
§ Mr. Ronald Chamberlain
Can my right hon. Friend say whether air communications with Berlin can be stepped up sufficiently to overcome the almost 1710 complete stoppage of road, rail and canal transport?
§ Air-Commodore Harvey
Could the Foreign Secretary say if British air transport is still operating between the British zone and Berlin?
§ Mr. Nicholson
Will the right hon. Gentleman contradict the mistake of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Platts Mills)?
§ Mr. Bevin
I understand that there is to be a debate next week. I will review the situation on Monday, but I do not want to be pressed for too many statements. I have other people to deal with, and, if I make too many statements, I reveal my mind to other people, and that makes it a little difficult.