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Tariff Truce

Volume 244: debated on Tuesday 4 November 1930

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asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will state, since the 24th March, 1930, what additional countries have signed the final Act resulting from the recent International Commercial Convention discussed at Geneva?

The final Act of the Preliminary Conference with a view to concerted economic action which was signed at. Geneva by 17 countries on the 24th March last, remained open for signature to the 15th April, 1930. During that period it was signed by Czechoslovakia.

May I ask whether the position of His Majesty's Government has changed towards this conference as there are so few additional signatories forth-coming?

No. Later questions will, I think, give the hon. Member additional information regarding the number of countries which have ratified the Convention and the next steps that are to be taken.


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has any statement to make concerning the operations of the tariff truce; and whether any of the British Dominions have now signified their acceptance of the same, or if he is taking any further steps to secure the reduction of tariff?

As regards the first and third parts of the question, the Com- mercial Convention concluded at Geneva in March last has up to the present been ratified by eight countries; the United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Latvia, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. The Questionnaire attached to Article 1 of the Protocol regarding the programme for future negotiations has been circulated to all the Governments represented at that Conference, the great majority of whom have now sent their replies to the Secretariat of the League of Nations. These replies were studied at a meeting of the Economic Committee of the League, held last week. In accordance with Article 13 of the Commercial Convention a meeting has been arranged for 17th November, to consider the bringing into force of the Convention and at this meeting the replies to the Questionnaire will also be considered with a view to framing a programme for a further Conference at which the possibility of securing reduction in tariffs will be examined. The answer to the second part of the question is in the negative.

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his full answer, does he not consider that the attitude of the Dominions in this matter is much more important than the attitude of any foreign country, and will he, in view of the new situation which has developed, give notice in February to denounce the Truce until such time as the Dominions have been consulted?

I cannot give any such undertaking. I do not disguise for a moment the importance of any representations that the Dominions may make, but that does not preclude us from doing our best to secure a downward movement in European tariffs.

Is it the policy of His Majesty's Government to refuse any opportunity that is open to them; to close the doors?

On the contrary. I did my best to explain yesterday afternoon the attitude we adopted in that matter. It is not a question of closing doors at all

Has the right hon. Gentleman explained this dangerous and futile course to the Imperial Conference?


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the Government have been successful in arranging a tariff truce with the Dominions?

Does not my right hon. Friend feel that it is more urgently desirable to have a tariff truce with the Dominions than with foreign countries?

We had better await the outcome of the proceedings of the economic side of the Imperial Conference.


asked the President of the Board of Trade if the ratification of the Tariff Truce by the Government at Geneva will be submitted to Parliament for endorsement?

The Commercial Convention has been ratified by His Majesty the King in respect of the United Kingdom. No question of endorsement arises. I would point out that the Convention was laid before Parliament before ratification and was fully debated in this House.

Then this House has nothing further to say or do in connection with this Treaty until next year, when we can denounce it?

Not at all. Hon. Members opposite can avail themselves of the opportunity of debate, and I should hope that that opportunity will be used to support this movement.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that a wholly new situation has been created by the Imperial Conference?

No, Sir. That is where I quite differ from the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think that any new situation has been created. As I have pointed out before, there is no prejudice whatever in this Treaty to any decision which might be taken on the economic side of the Imperial Conference.

Is the right hon. Gentleman still prepared to go on and ignore the desires and wishes of our Dominions?