Skip to main content


Volume 531: debated on Thursday 28 October 1954

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

10 and 11.

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) the total number and value of applications for licences to export machine tools to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics which were under consideration on 6th July. 1954, and have since been granted;

(2) the total value of the machine tools for which licences have been granted and refused, respectively, in the last six months for export from this country to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

In the last six months applications for permission to export a complete rolling mill and tinplating plant worth together over £10 million have had to be refused. Licences for £11 million worth of machine tools have been granted and £3 million worth refused. This represents the granting of 116 of the 150 licences outstanding on 6th July last. Seven of the remaining applications, for machine tools worth about £3 million, were withdrawn by the applicants.

Is it not clear from the right hon. Gentleman's answer—for which I thank him—and from previous answers given to similar Questions, that in the overwhelming number of cases where applications are made, especially with regard to machine tools, many months generally elapse before the applicant is told whether his licence is to be granted or refused, so that British businessmen are in great difficulties about making their export plans? Cannot the right hon. Gentleman speed up this process of giving a simple answer to a simple question—a simple "Yes" or a simple "No"—which is all the applicants want?

I should have thought that that statement would have been true about the situation as I found it, but I do not think it is true today, because I have been able to re-negotiate a much shorter and much more straightforward list of goods, which has been published, as a result of which everybody should know where they are and whether their goods can be freely sold or are subject to embargo.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that now, three years after he came to power, his supporters in another place are charging him with setting up a Soviet State? Does he not understand the implications of this?

It is not quite in order for me to contemplate what is happening in another place.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that even the most carefully drawn up list of goods is liable to omit large quantities of products which never precisely fit into any item in the list, and concerning which therefore, an ad hocapplication must be made? Will he see that these ad hocapplications are dealt with much faster than at present?

They are, of course, being dealt with much faster than they were under the previous system as I found it. Indeed, one of the purposes of the arrangements which we have now made is to speed things up in order to prevent these goods from going to destinations which might be dangerous, and to expedite trade where that might be safe.


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, following the publication of the lists of goods controlled for export to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, he will now publish a similar list indicating which types and tonnages of ships, floating cranes and dredgers are still embargoed for export to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Eastern Europe.

Consultations about the strategic control of ships are not yet concluded. I think it would be better to defer publication of any list until the discussions have reached a conclusion.

While appreciating all that, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to hurry forward this business, because there a good deal of anxiety in our shipyards? Is he aware that it is common knowledge that the Soviet is modernising its mercantile marine, and that orders are being placed in almost every Western European yard except British yards? I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will at any rate speed up these consultations.

I have the matters to which the hon. Gentleman refers and the interests of shipyards in Sunderland and elsewhere very much in mind. I am sure that he would not press me to come to an arrangement not in the interests of this country.

Will the right hon. Gentleman read once again the account of the offer which Mr. Ivanov Kabanov, the U.S.S.R. Foreign Minister of Trade, made to the British businessmen of orders for over 200 British ships; and will he also read the article in the "Financial Times" last week, in which it was stated that there are about seven European countries, in addition to Japan, supplying whalers, cargo ships and dredgers to the U.S.S.R.?

I will certainly read again the list which I have read before, but it is true that under the recent reform on strategic controls which I have managed to introduce no less than three-quarters of the goods mentioned by Mr. Kabanov are free for sale in this country.

Is it not a fact that the strategic list proposed by the Government at the time of the Korean war is now hopelessly out of date, even with the changes made by the right hon. Gentleman? If British industry is to hold its own, the list must be much wider so that it can sell its goods.

The list was out of date, and it has been revised in consultation with our friends, including many countries of Western Europe. When one has a revision of that kind, one has to take account of the views of all one's friends in the matter. I think that this is the best list at which we can arrive at present.