28 DECEMBER 1945, Page 2

Reparations and the Ruhr

No one will derive much gratification from the reparations settle- ment announced last week. The history of reparations after the last war inspires no confidence that anyone can benefit by impoverish- ing a defeated enemy ; the losses inflicted on everyone by the war are total losses and cannot be remedied by anything that can be got out of Germany. Britain's share of reparations is to consist of 28 per cent. of a general quota covering all available assets except for a special quota covering industrial machinery, merchant ships and internal transport craft ; of this industrial quota Britain will receive 27.8 per cent. Britain's share is therefore over one quarter of the total reparations which are to be paid ; and the arrangements for payment at least have the merit that they affect tangible assets which can be quickly removed, so that Germany will not, as after the last war, be left with debts running far into the future and with no means of paying them. How Germany is to survive after she has been stripped of her industrial equipment is a question which no one as yet has seriously considered. It is perfectly possible that once reparations have been exacted from her it will once more be necessary for her conquerors to come to her aid in order to assist her to live ; it is possible also that once again she will create political sympathy out of the destitution into which she may fall. The reparations agreement, therefore, inspires more doubts than satis- faction. There is greater satisfaction to be obtained from the announcement that the British control authorities are now to take over direct responsibility for all collieries and colliery property in the British zone, which includes the Ruhr coalfield. So long as the Ruhr coal remained in the hands of its previous owners, there could be no guarantee that they would not again use it to the ruin both of the Germans and of her neighbours. The extinction of the Ruhr coal owners as an industrial and political group is a real contribution to the peace of Europe.