§ 2.57 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government (a) what amount of sterling remains in the blocked Egyptian account; (b) what is the total releases from the blocked account since 1st January. 1952; (c) whether negotiations for release included renunciation of employment thereof for the purchase of armaments.]
§ THE PAYMASTER GENERAL (THE EARL OF SELKIRK)
My Lords, it is not normally the practice of Her Majesty's Government to disclose details of our sterling liabilities to individual countries. As bankers for sterling, we could not properly do this without consulting the holder of the sterling. In this case, however, the Egyptian Minister of Finance stated on August 30 last that Egypt's blocked sterling balances amounted to £135 million. Since that date there has been a further release of 752 £5 million. The total releases to Egypt from blocked accounts since January 1, 1952, amount to £74 million. The negotiations leading up to the recent agreement on releases which was presented to Parliament on November 3 last, did not cover the use to which Egypt would put the funds released. Subsequent, however, to the agreement, the Egyptian Government made a declaration that it intends to devote a major part of future sterling releases to the development programme, and in particular to the development of the Aswam Dam project.
§ LORD BARNBY
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his reply. From it one gathers that no attempt was made to get any undertaking with regard to non-expenditure of this money on armaments—a matter which would cause such disquiet. Since Command Paper 9611, which dealt with this matter, named no total amount, would the noble Earl make recommendations in the proper quarter that consideration be given to publishing details of the blocked sterling balances remaining outstanding.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I certainly will take note of what the noble Lord has said. I have already explained the reason why it is not our practice to make statements disclosing details of these matters, and I wonder whether the noble Lord really wishes us to go back on that practice.