§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What progress has been made in dealing with pre-1932 claims for Soviet compensation.
§ Baroness Young
The negotiations with the Soviet Union which began over 60 years ago about pre-1939 British financial and property claims and Soviet claims in respect of British involvement in the intervention in Russia from 1918 to 1921 have been brought to a successful conclusion. The Soviet Foreign Minister and my right honourable and learned friend signed an agreement on the subject this morning. It sets the seal upon many attempts made by successive Adminis-trations over the years to secure a settlement of these claims. Copies of the agreement have, earlier today, been laid and placed in the Library and Printed Paper Office of the House.
The agreement sets out in detail the provisions for a mutual waiver of claims by both governments. It also provides that each government shall have full title to the assets remaining in its territory under the terms of the agreement and be solely responsible for settling claims of its own nationals. Finally, it provides for the release to the Soviet Government of a sum of money amounting to £2.65 million in diplomatic and certain miscellaneous official bank accounts held in London. These were essentially embassy and diplomatic accounts which enjoy a special status under international law.
We understand that the remaining moneys in banks in the United Kingdom which will become available for distribution to British claimants under the terms of the agreement exceed £45 million. The Government have waived their entitlement to a share of this money in respect of their own claims and it will be distributed to the original private British claimants, both corporate and individual, and to their heirs and successors as well was to the British holders of bonds issued or guaranteed by the Russian Government prior to 7th November 1917 who acquired these bonds on or before Monday, 14th July 1986.
An Order in Council will be made and laid before Parliament in due course providing for the distribution of this fund. We intend the distribution to be as rapid as possible. We hope it may be completed in its entirety within three years. We have decided that, apart from British bond holders the distribution will be limited to the original British claims. These original claims were registered over a period of more than 30 years.
A cut-off date of Monday, 14th July has been set for British bond holders. This has been done in order to avoid speculation in the bonds or their transfer from foreign to British hands. The Stock Exchange therefore suspended all dealings in these Russian bonds at the 896WA start of their normal operations today. British bond holders who wish to share in this distribution will be required to make a formal statutory declaration that they had acquired the bonds on or before Monday, 14th July. We have it in mind, subject to the approval of the House, to set a closing date of 31st December 1986 for the presentation of bonds by British bond holders. We propose to allow other applicants a somewhat longer period in which to apply to share in the distribution but the closing date for such applica-ions will not be later than the middle of 1987.