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Commonwealth Countries (Preference Rates)

Volume 531: debated on Thursday 29 July 1954

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38.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if, in view of the fact that the average rate of preference granted to Commonwealth countries is now roughly only half the level of prewar and that the rise in prices has reduced the value of specific preference margins, he will make an investigation into the adequacy of existing rates in readiness for the time when convertibility of sterling is restored.

I do not think that at this stage it would be useful to undertake an investigation in the sense my hon. Friend suggests.

Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that he will undertake such an investigation before this contingency arises, and not after it?

My hon. Friend will recognise that there are two sides to the question: the preferences which we give, and the preferences which we receive. My hon. Friend's suggestion would involve almost a re-negotiation of all the preferences in the Ottawa Agreements. I suggest that we await the outcome of the discussions which we are having with the Commonwealth on the broad issues of policy that are involved before we go further in this matter.