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Trade And Commerce

Volume 529: debated on Tuesday 29 June 1954

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East-West Trade


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement following the further consideration given to relaxations of restrictions on East-West trade.

My right hon. Friend regrets that he is not yet in a position to make a statement.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise that for a long time there has been widespread dissatisfaction and concern over this matter? Although he says he cannot yet make a statement, would it not be helpful if a statement were made as to how much longer it will be before these relaxations are introduced?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are just as anxious as he is that these discussions shall be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. A statement will be made at the earliest moment.

Is the Minister aware that his answer has been the same for many weeks? Can he give an assurance that a statement will be made before the Summer Recess?

The right hon. Gentleman will remember that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade said at the end of March that he expected that these discussions might last two or three months. The three months are not yet quite up. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that it is not unprecedented for international discussions to last a little longer than expected.

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can give an assurance that progress is not being held up by Her Majesty's Government.


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will issue an up-to-date list of the goods and articles for the export of which to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and to the Republic of China, respectively, licences may and may not be granted by his Department.

As regards the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics I would refer the hon. and learned Member to the answer which I gave to the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) on 3rd June.

The China embargo list was published in the OFFICIAL REPORT on 19th June, 1951. There have been minor changes and traders should continue to consult the Board of Trade or the Ministry of Supply, as may be appropriate, about particular goods. A list which gives a general indication of the kinds of goods for which normally an export licence for China would be granted was published in the Board of Trade Journal of 12th June last.

Will the Minister say whether it is the policy of his Department to expand these lists or not? Does he realise that the promotion of international trade with these countries may have an important, beneficial and far-reaching effect on world peace?

I think the hon. and learned Gentleman knows the Government's policy on this matter. So far as the embargo list in relation to the Soviet bloc goes, we are engaged in discussions with a view to reducing the size of the list. There are no discussions proceeding and no proposals to change the present list in relation to China.

Fungicide Imports


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will allow the import of S.R.406 into this country for the control of fungus diseases.

I understand that S.R.406 is available only from the United States of America and that it has not yet been proved in large-scale trials to be an effective fungicide under United Kingdom conditions. In order however, to enable its efficiency to be tested, import licences for limited quantities have been issued during the last 18 months and the Board of Trade are prepared to consider further applications for licences to import the material for experimental purposes.

Arms (Exports To South America)


asked the President of the Board of Trade the amount of arms exported in the last 12 months, to the most recent convenient date, to each country in South America.

As the answer contains a number of figures I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Would the right hon. Gentleman give the figures for Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala, in which we are interested?

I will give the hon. Gentleman the figures. There are 20 countries, but he mentioned three. These are the figures, in £ sterling for 1953: Guatemala, £386; Nicaragua, nothing; and Honduras, nothing. [Laughter.]

Would my right hon. Friend say whether any British weapons were used recently in the World Football Cup battle?

Would the Minister reply to his hon. Friends who are laughing about this Question and tell us why there has been a suggestion that British ships should be searched on their way to these countries, who made that suggestion, on what basis, and whether, in those circumstances, such a request should have been made?

Following are the figures:

Argentine Republic20,668
Costa Rica201
Dominican Republic
El Salvador5,456
Panama (including Canal Zone)2,227

Subsidised Horticultural Imports


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will publish a list of subsidised horticultural produce entering this country.

It is usually far from easy to establish whether particular goods are directly or indirectly subsidised. The Board of Trade has no full list of subsidised horticultural produce entering this market and would, I am afraid, find it extremely difficult to compile one.

Would the Minister get in touch with the National Farmers' Union and ascertain exactly what is happening about subsidised imports of horticultural produce, which are working unfairly towards producers here?

I should be glad to receive any representations which the National Farmers' Union care to make on this subject.

Will my right hon. Friend say whether his Department had any hand in the private arrangement whereby 20,000 tons of potatoes are to come from the Argentine—most extraordinary of all places—in exchange for Bedford lorries? Why should we wish to import potatoes from the Argentine under present circumstances?

I assure my hon. Friend that we have not been the buyers of these potatoes. As a matter of fact, I know nothing of that contract other than what I have read in the Press.

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there is undoubtedly a considerable element of subsidy in many of the horticultural products coming into this country? As the purpose of the recent increases in horticultural tariffs was to protect the home grower does he not agree that this element of subsidy is largely vitiating the effect of those increased tariffs?

Before the right hon. Gentleman replies to that question, is he aware that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) is one of the most ardent supporters of setting the people free?

I shall not answer the right hon. Gentleman's question, but I shall answer the question of my hon Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). We are aware that there are elements of export subsidy in a number of horticultural imports into this country, and, in principle, we are opposed to export subsidies.

Light Industry, Midlothian


asked the President of the Board of Trade if his attention has been called to the last Report of the Census of Population in the county of Midlothian and if his Department will vow steer light industry to the county

I have seen this Report. The Government will certainly bear in mind the position in the developing coalfield area of Midlothian, but the hon. Member will appreciate that there are other areas, particularly Development Areas, where the immediate needs are greater.

Is the Minister aware that since that Report was published in 1951, the Midlothian County Council and the small burghs have built a large number of houses in order to rehouse redundant miners and their families from Lanarkshire, and that no attempt has been made to provide alternative industry for the women? Is he also aware that this policy has discouraged the transfer of miners from Lanarkshire and militates against the production of coal in Scotland?

I think that the hon. Member will agree that the unemployment rate in this area is less than that in Scotland as a whole. I assure him that we shall consider sympathetically applications for industrial development certificates in suitable cases.

Middle East Markets (Personal Visits)


asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to encourage the implementation of paragraph 86 of the Report of the United Kingdom Trade Mission to Iraq, Kuwait, the Lebanon, Syria and Saudi Arabia, which states that directors and senior officers of companies should pay extended visits to Middle Eastern countries in order to secure the confidence of the people who matter.

In his foreword to the Mission's Report, my right hon. Friend invited special attention to the recommendation that in the markets of the Middle East there is no substitute for knowledge acquired by personal visits. He feels confident that firms interested in these markets will bear in mind the importance of visits by their directors or other senior executives.

There is the closest cooperation between my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade in all good causes.

Is there the slightest evidence that any of these visits to the Middle East, in order to bump up exports, are in any way stopped by the Inland Revenue officials?

Will the Minister say whom he regards, in the terms of the Question, as the "people who matter?"

Imported Machinery (Duty)


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the lifting of certain restrictions on the importation of dollar machinery, he will use his powers, where applications to import machinery are granted, to permit such machinery to be imported duty free.

My right hon. Friend has under consideration the question of duty-free licensing of imports of machinery, including machinery from dollar sources, in the light of the report of the committee which was set up to consider this subject. He hopes to be able to publish the report and make a statement before the House rises for the Summer Recess.

Does the Minister not think that since the announcement he made on 21st June that the whole purpose of the restriction on the importation of dollar machinery was to reduce cost, it is an anomaly that even now he should grant applications to import this dollar machinery and not waive the duty?

We are at cross-purposes. The import policy is quite distinct from the policy of duty-free licensing, and as regards the latter we must clearly await the report and my right hon. Friend's announcement on that report.

Will the Minister bear in mind the beneficial effect which the removal of duty would have on the export trade?

All these matters will be taken very much into consideration before my right hon. Friend makes his announcement.

New Factories, Wales


asked the President of the Board of Trade the latest figures for approvals of new factories and extensions in Wales and Monmouthshire; how these figures compare with Scotland and England, respectively; and whether, on a percentage basis, this shows an improvement or decline in the relative position of Wales as compared with recent years.

Since the answer contains a table of figures I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Can my hon. and learned Friend say whether Wales is holding its position in this matter?

I hope that my hon. Friend will study the figures. He will understand that for this year we have the figures for the first quarter only, which is a short period on which to base an annual estimate.

Following are the figures:

The figures, which are based on estimates of value made by applicants for industrial development certificates, are as follow:

195219531st Quarter, 1954
Wales and Monmouthshire1·520·8*1·5
England (excl. Mon.)43·364·226·6
Great Britain51·491·129·68
Wales as per cent, of Great Britain (value basis) per cent. 2·9per cent. 22·8per cent. 5·0

* This figure includes two very large steel projects.

Canadian Apples


asked the President of the Board of Trade what consultations he had with apple growers during his recent visit to Canada; and whether the supply of Canadian apples to British domestic consumers will be resumed in the near future as the result of his talks.

While my right hon. Friend was in Canada he received deputations from first, the Nova Scotia and the Ontario apple growers and, later, the British Columbia growers, and he was glad to have this opportunity of hearing at first hand of conditions in those industries and of the importance of the United Kingdom market to them. He told them that he was sorry that he could give no undertaking when we should be able to afford to import apples from North America.

Will my right hon. Friend see that the President bears in mind the interests of the home growers of apples, and remind our Canadian friends that we cannot buy more from them unless they buy a good deal more from us, as the trade balance is very much against us?

I should like to remind my hon. Friend that we are anxious to remove the restrictions on the dollar imports of manufactured goods, foodstuffs and the few remaining raw materials at the earliest possible moment.

Imported Artificial Silk Staple Fibre (Drawback)

24 and 25.

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) on what date drawback ceased to apply to imported artificial silk fibres used in the manufacture in this country of articles for export;

(2) whether, in view of the need for encouraging export trade, he will take steps to reintroduce a drawback on imported artificial silk fibres, which are subject to import duties and are used in the manufacture of articles for export.

I assume that the hon. Member is referring to artificial silk staple fibre. The drawback scheme for artificial silk staple fibre used in the manufacture of articles for export came to an end on the 31st December, 1951, in respect of all subsequent imports.

On the question of reintroduction of the drawback, I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 23rd February to the Question asked by the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall).

Can the right hon. Gentleman state the reasons for discontinuing this drawback, which, when available, helped to minimise the harmful effect of this duty upon manufacturers making goods for export? Does he appreciate that while this drawback is not available, the indirect consequence of this duty is to cause considerable loss of valuable export trade?

I have had no evidence that it does amount to any significant handicap, but if the hon. Gentleman has any information which he cares to send to me to the effect that it does, I shall, of course, be glad to receive it.

Has the right hon. Gentleman not received representations from the Rayon Merchants' Association, in Manchester, quite recently on this subject?

The representations which we have had, and which have not been many, have not led us to believe that the effect is at all significant as a handicap to our export trade.

Hire Purchase And Credit Sale Order


asked the President of the Board of Trade on what grounds it is necessary to maintain in force the Hire Purchase and Credit Sale Agreements (Control) Order, Statutory Instrument, 1952, No. 121, which affects a wide range of household goods; and if he will now take steps to rescind the Order.

My right hon. Friend is examining the scope of this Order, but I cannot yet make a statement.

Will the Minister bear in mind that this Order has now served its original purpose, which was to conserve certain materials, that it continues to discriminate unfairly against the poorer sections of the community, and that there is a considerable demand that it should now be rescinded?

Exports To Canada


asked the President of the Board of Trade what opportunities there are for expanding our exports to Canada of heavy engineering products.

The capital development schemes projected or already being undertaken in Canada provide many and varied opportunities for our heavy engineering products and I am confident that British industry will do all it can to win an increasing share of this valuable trade.

Is the Minister aware that, although our exports of motor cars compared with last year have increased to sterling countries and to many European countries, such as Sweden, they have drastically declined in respect of Canada? Can he say what the President of the Board of Trade did about that when he was in Canada?

My right hon. Friend had many interesting and valuable discussions while he was there, and, in all the circumstances, I think that our exports to dollar markets during the past 12 months have held up not too badly; but as regards the future, I believe that there are very great opportunities, and that there is much evidence that many of our exporters are beginning to get well-established in that very important market.

Is the Minister aware of the appreciation of the Canadian people from coast to coast resulting from the recent visit of the President of the Board of Trade, and can he tell the House if the President will make a comprehensive statement on the result of his travels in the near future?

I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that my right hon. Friend found his visit of the very greatest value and interest.

Cannot the right hon. Gentleman answer the last part of that supplementary question? Is it the intention of the President of the Board of Trade to make a statement to the House?

I am not sure. I should rather doubt whether my right hon. Friend would make a comprehensive statement to the House.

I shall be very glad to consult my right hon. Friend on the point. I know that he will be very anxious to impart to the House all specific information on points of interest to hon. Members.


asked the President of the Board of Trade what opportunities there are for expanding our exports to Canada of pedigree livestock.

There is a potential market in Canada for pedigree livestock from this country, especially for bulls, cows and heifers; but prices there are very competitive, and the high freight costs and the expense and delay necessitated by quarantine regulations are a considerable handicap to our exporters.

Worcester Property Holdings Ltd (Inquiry Report)


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will publish the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the formation by the directors of Savoy Hotels Limited of the subsidiary Worcester Property Holdings, Limited; and what action he proposes to take on the matter.

The Inspector's Report is being printed and arrangements have been made for its publication, and for copies to be available in the Vote Office, tomorrow afternoon.

May we know when the Minister will make an announcement about the steps that he proposes to take?

I think that the hon. Member and other hon. Members will wish to have an opportunity of reading the Report before they ask Questions about it.

Aberdeen Blind Asylum (Contracts)


asked the President of the Board of Trade what new contracts he proposes to place with the Aberdeen Blind Asylum at an early date.

In view of the expressed desire of the President of the Board of Trade to attract industry and employment to the North-East of Scotland and the fact that the institution has relied on Government contracts for a very long time, cannot the Department use its influence in the right places to ensure that further contracts are placed at an early date?

I think my hon. Friend is putting her Question to the wrong Department. There are about eight Government Departments which order goods, but the Board of Trade is not one of them.

United States Dams (Contracts)


asked the President of the Board of Trade what representations he has made to the United States Government about the grant of further contracts for the Chief Joseph and Dalles dams by the United States Army Department to United States firms, although the English Electric Company had tendered at a substantially lower price.

Representations stressing the importance we attached to the decisions on these contracts were made while they were under consideration by the United States authorities. In view of the award, instructions have been sent to our Ambassador in Washington to make representations at the highest level, expressing our disappointment that this decision does not follow the more liberal policy which appeared to be foreshadowed by the President's message to Congress.

Were not the British prices in these cases substantially below the American prices? In view of all that has been said by American leaders about the need for "trade, not aid" in respect of competitive British products, is it not deplorable that this kind of thing should happen?

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the differential in these cases was substantial. The result is extremely disappointing.

What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by the matter being taken up at the highest level? Does he mean between the Prime Minister and the President, or does he mean by the Ambassador or a Cabinet Minister?