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Volume 531: debated on Thursday 28 October 1954

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asked the President of the Board of Trade why it is necessary to place a ban on the export to Poland of grinding and honing machines and multi-spindle automatic lathes, when British firms are able to supply these machine tools more cheaply than the countries from which Poland is at present drawing her supplies.

The export of certain types of these machine tools to Poland and other Soviet bloc countries is forbidden under the strategic control arrangements agreed with other countries.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at the Leipzig Exhibition any amount of these machines were on offer which countries covered by the embargo list could buy, and therefore that the present effect of the embargo in practice is to deny business to British exporters without denying supplies to the purchasing countries?

I think not. The purpose of strategic control is to ensure the opposite, namely that all the countries concerned in this matter should agree together what should be prohibited and what should be permitted to be sent. Such a list has been drawn up. Some machine tools are on the list and some are off. I think that the ones referred to in the Question happen to be embargoed.

Is it not clear that the purpose of the embargo has not been achieved, since Poland and the other countries are able to buy all the machine tools they want, but not from us?

If hon. Gentlemen have any evidence—[Laughter.]—we have asked for evidence on several occasions and so far such evidence has not been forthcoming. If such evidence is available we shall be happy to look at it.

I have already offered the evidence to the right hon. Gentleman, namely, that if he or any of his officers had been at Leipzig he would have found it possible to buy, as a Briton, or a Pole, or anyone else, any quantity he wanted of these machines.

That is an answer in general terms. If the hon. Gentleman can specify to me some machine tool which is embargoed under the agreement with other countries in Europe and which is in fact, being sold by one of them contrary to that agreement, I shall be happy to look into it.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the evidence produced by my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo) is sufficiently detailed for him to set up some examination?