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European Common Market (Common Tariff Rates)

Volume 640: debated on Thursday 18 May 1961

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asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in the course of his negotiations with representatives of the European Common Market, he has obtained information about the rates of import duty which those countries intend to impose as part of their common external tariff, on the principal foods and raw materials; and what these rates of duty are on beef, mutton, lamb, wheat, bacon, butter, cheese and tea, respectively.

All common tariff rates of import duty except for some tobacco and petroleum headings have now been published by the European Economic Community. I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the details for the eight foodstuffs in question.

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that the duties on the foodstuffs mentioned range from about 18 per cent. to 25 per cent. or 30 per cent., and that it would be impossible to impose these high food taxes on present tariff-free food imports into the United Kingdom without a serious effect on our cost of living, our standard of living and our industrial costs?

The rates actually vary from 12 per cent. to 25 per cent., but of course we recognise the importance of the effect that these duties would have, and this is one of the matters that we take fully into account in our consideration of the whole complex problem.

Would the right hon. Gentleman make it clear now that the Government would not in any circumstances impose these high rates of food taxes on imports?

I should not like to say anything now while there is going on in the House an important debate which deals largely with these problems.

Following is the information:

The common tariff rates asked for are as follows:

Per Cent.

beef; fresh, chilled or frozen (meat and offal)20
beef; sailed, in brine, dried or smoked (meat and offal)24
mutton and lamb; fresh, chilled or frozen:
mutton and lamb; salted, in brine, dried or smoked (meat and offal)24
bacon; salted, in brine, dried or smoked25
tea; in immediate containers of a net capacity of 3 kg. or less23