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Trade And Commerce

Volume 643: debated on Tuesday 4 July 1961

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

Barley

31.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he has taken to stop the supplies of dumped barley from France, Russia and West Germany.

68.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is yet able to make a statement on the application of the National Farmers' Union for antidumping measures against the dumping of barley in the United Kingdom market; and if he will give an assurance that effective measures will be taken before this year's home crop is ready for sale.

73.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will now make a statement on the National Farmers' Union's complaint that barley is being dumped in this country.

I have considered as a matter of special urgency the application submitted by the National Farmers' Unions on 19th June for the imposition of duties under the Customs Duties (Dumping and Subsidies) Act, 1957, on barley imported from certain countries. I am satisfied that imports of barley into this country have been dumped or subsidised, that these imports threaten material injury to United Kingdom producers, and that there is a case for action under the Act. I am discussing the matter urgently with the countries concerned and will make a further statement before the end of the week.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for the statement so far as it goes, may I ask him three supplementary questions? Will he kindly name the countries with whom he has been discussing this question? Will he inform the House if a date has been given by which dumping will cease? Thirdly, will he kindly inform the House what would be the proposed amount of tariff on these dumped barleys which are coming in?

The countries named in the application were Russia, France, America, Western Germany and Australia. I will make a statement before the end of the week. I do not think I should anticipate what it will contain.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the latter part of my Question? It is very important that effective measures should be taken before the home crop of autumn barley is ready for sale. Will he also bear in mind that the quantity of barley dumped this year is over 100 per cent. more than last year's total? The cost to the Exchequer is growing very much in the price guarantee as a result of dumping, and urgent action is required.

I am well aware of the need for urgent action. That is why I shall make a further statement this week.

While we are most grateful that the right hon. Gentleman is to make up his mind more quickly and that he is not to take five months this time as he did last time, may I ask has not the damage done to the taxpayer been in millions of pounds? What is to be done to prevent this arising in future?

I am aware of the injury threatened to producers in this country. I have to do the best I can to protect their position without doing damage, which could be and should be avoided, to our general trading interests in the world.

Will my right hon. Friend look at the whole question of antidumping legislation, because time and again action is taken too late to protect the interests of the farmer and, most particularly, those of the taxpayer? If it is a fact that application has to be made by the industry for this procedure to be put into effect, does he not think that there should be some legislation to enable him to take action without application from outsiders in order to protect taxpayers' interests?

The fact is that the legislation enables me to act only when I have evidence of damage to an industry. It is framed in that way because of our international obligations. We should be rather careful not to act too precipitately because of the great interests of our export trade in various parts of the world. I cannot act under the antidumping legislation without evidence of damage to industry.

Does not the President of the Board of Trade think that the country has got itself into a most absurd position in that the cheaper our food imports are the more we have to pay by way of subsidies—money from the taxpayer? Is it not about time that we looked at the whole question of subsidies for agricultural production?

That is a much wider question. The question raised is that of dumping, which is quite a separate matter from cheap competition.

Steel Company Of Wales (American Coal)

32.

asked the President of the Board of Trade when he expects to make a statement on the application of the Steel Company of Wales to purchase coal from the United States of America.

I have at present nothing to add to the reply which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power gave on 15th May to my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro).

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us when he is to give a final answer on this question? Why is he taking so long to make up his mind on a simple issue of principle? Will he give an undertaking that before he accepts any such proposal as the Steel Company of Wales is putting forward he will take into account the injury which the coal industry has suffered over several years purely because of Government policy?

I hope to make a statement before the House rises for the Summer Recess, but the matter is not as simple as the hon. Member appears to think it is.

Since I last asked about this matter, has the right hon. Gentleman had any application from the Steel Company of Wales for the importation of cheap Russian oil to this country?

That is a rather different question. I think the answer is "No", but I would rather see the question on the Order Paper.

North-East

34.

asked the President of the Board of Trade, having regard to the fact that the contraction in the mining industry, and shipbuilding and ship-repairing industry has had an important bearing on the migration that has taken place during the past ten years from the North-East, what proposals he now has to bring the kind of industries to the region suitable to the skills of such workers, and other workers, thereby stopping the drift away from the area.

35.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what proposals he has for dealing with the decline of the basic industries in the North-East, especially West Durham, in order to stop migration from that area to more congested areas.

36.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what studies his Department has made during the last ten years into the migration of young people from the North-East.

38.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to establish new industries in the North-East to assist in stopping the continuing migration of young persons from this area.

51.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the action he contemplates to establish new industries in the North-East which will provide jobs for young persons and so arrest the continuing migration from this area.

As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour said on 26th June, the Government, through their distribution of industry policy, are encouraging firms to develop in parts of the country where unemployment is relatively high and discouraging firms in already congested areas The number of new jobs at present in prospect in the North-East is 21,000, including 10,000 in the development districts. The projects giving rise to these jobs extend over all the main areas of unemployment in County Durham, including West Durham. They should provide opportunities of suitable work both for the skilled workers now unemployed, and for young persons, and thus help in reducing migration from the area.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, whatever he thinks he is doing, he certainly is not doing enough? It can be seen from the Census Report that the position in the North-East is far from rosy. Will he stop fiddling with the problem and be more precise about the type of industry he intends to induce to go to the North-East? Will he consult his right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and ensure that, if there are to be any economic restrictions such as the payroll tax, the North-East will be excluded from their operation?

That is a fairly wide range of supplementary questions. I have no powers to order firms to go to the North-East, and I am sure that the House would not wish me to have such powers. We discussed that question when the Bill was passing through the House. Within that limitation, we do all we can to encourage firms to go to the North-East and we are making quite considerable progress.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the people of the North-East look upon this as the major failure of the present Government? Is he aware that economic pressure is driving people away from the North-East to where they have never had it so good in the Midlands and the South? Will he do something to keep people in the North-East, where they are anxious to stay? The area has been scheduled under the Local Employment Act. We are told that something is coming in the dim and distant future, but not at present.

I do not think that anyone in the North-East who looked at this matter objectively would share the views of the hon. Member. We have made great progress there, as we have in other districts. My powers under the Local Employment Act are to deal with the problem of local unemployment. They are not to deal with the whole question of migration. The Government have not the power, and in my view should not have the power, to freeze the population in its precise location.

Would the right hon. Gentleman get himself out of the pipeline he is in at present?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, despite the 21,000 jobs in prospect, to which reference has been made on a number of occasions, his right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour only recently reported that for the last four weeks there was a number of filled vacancies and that these were the lowest of any region in the country in comparison with figures of unemployment? This has gone on for a considerable period. Does not this fact of itself suggest that there is a very strong case indeed for bringing industries to the North-East?

I agree. There is a strong case, and we are trying to do that. However, I have no powers to compel people to go there, nor would I wish to have such powers.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in addition to the constant demands which are made for Government action to bring new industries to the area, recognition should be given to the existing industry there? It has made enormous efforts to retain prosperity in the North-East. Would my right hon. Friend agree that in technical advance and in its excellent labour relations the North-East compares very favourably with any other area in the country?

Yes, I agree. I do my best to bring that fact to the attention of all employers who consult me on location problems.

On a point of order. In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.

British Film Fund Agency (Payments)

39.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if his attention has been drawn to the dissatisfaction felt by British film producers at the delays in the payments made by the British Film Fund Agency; and if he will take steps to speed up these payments.

I am satisfied that the British Film Fund Agency carries out its responsibilities efficiently and in general as expeditiously as circumstances allow. Informal talks between the Agency and the film trade associations concerned will shortly take place, and I hope that they will clear up any outstanding points of difficulty.

Will the right hon. Gentleman keep this matter in mind? Is he aware that it is very important for smaller film producers especially to have prompt payments? It appears that the Agency is keeping back a disproportionate amount of its funds, instead of paying them out to producers.

I think that there may have been some misunderstanding here. I hope that the talks to which I have referred will clear the matter up. I will certainly keep it in mind.

Germany

40.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in his diplomatic intercourse with other heads of allied Governments, he will consider as a possible solution to the problem of the Soviet zone of Germany the suggestion first put forward in this House by the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West on 12th May, 1960, namely, that it should become a separate state having a reunited Berlin as its capital whose independence and neutrality are guaranteed by the Western Powers and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Austrian model.

Our policy towards Germany and Berlin remains as stated in the Western Peace Plan which was put forward at the Geneva Conference of Foreign Ministers in 1959, and which remains allied policy.

Does my right hon. Friend recall that Chancellor Adenauer is reported to have said some months ago that

"if we can help them"—
that is, the East Germans—
"to live better and more freely, then that is more important than anything else."?
Does my right hon. Friend agree that this solution, or some such solution as this, would reunite Berlin in freedom, would not impair N.A.T.O. in any way, and would provide a cushion of reassurance between the Soviet Union and Berlin, on the one side, and the Federal Republic of Germany on the other? Would he be prepared to look at this again?

No; because the Western Peace Plan is really a phased programme for German reunification. My hon. Friend's proposal in effect rules out reunification.

Is it true that the proposals on which the Western allies now appear to be standing amount to this, that the Potsdam Agreements are obsolete in every part of Germany except Berlin?

No. The problem confronting us is a difficult and tangled one. It will require a considerable degree of agreement between all the allies. I do not think that it would be in the public interest for me to comment upon what the hon. Gentleman has said; I do not think that it would help to solve our difficulties.

Building Land (Minister's Statement)

42.

asked the Prime Minister whether the statement regarding building land speculation made by the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs on 19th June in London represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

If the hon. Member is referring to a report in the Daily Mail that day of an interview with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, the answer is, "Yes, Sir".

Is the Prime Minister aware that I was referring to the report in the Daily Mail, which discloses no policy whatsoever on the part of the Government? In those circumstances, how can the Prime Minister agree with a nil policy, or is he saying that the one flashing phrase of the Minister of Housing and Local Government

"I am not sitting around doing nothing"
is a declaration of the Government's policy?

No. The hon. Gentleman has completely misrepresented what is in the article. As I understood my right hon. Friend, he reaffirmed our determination not to allow the green belt policy and other important planning objectives to be sacrificed and said that those who were speculating in land in the hope that pressure would be brought to abandon the green belt policy were likely to burn their fingers.

Is the Prime Minister aware that we on this side welcome the warning to speculators against the danger of getting their fingers burned, providing that the warning is backed up by some kind of policy? Is he now telling us that all that the Minister of Housing and Local Government meant was that he would not give way on green belts but would do nothing else to deal with the scandal of land prices?

No. The Minister of Housing and Local Government made some other observations. I was picking out one which I thought particularly apt in view of the misrepresentation of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly).

When may we expect from the Government an announcement of their policy in this matter?

If the right hon. Gentleman reads the article he will see that it contains some very valuable statements of policy.

Is not the Prime Minister aware that it is precisely because it contains no content whatever that I asked him when we would have a statement on policy?

The right hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. He is associating himself with the mis-statement made by his hon. Friend below the Gangway.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Immigration From The West Indies (Home Secretary's Statement)

43.

asked the Prime Minister whether the statements made by the Secretary of State for the Home Department on the subject of immigration from the West Indies at a meeting of the Conservative and Unionist Teachers' Association in London on 17th June represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

I refer the hon. Member to the Answer I gave to the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) on 22nd June.

Is the Prime Minister aware that in this case the Home Secretary characteristically let the cat out of the bag? He said that the Government were contemplating legislation to restrict immigration. He used the phrase that this would be based not on colour prejudice alone. Is the Prime Minister aware that this unfortunate phraseology caused widespread offence? Will he repudiate this statement and affirm that the Government have no intention of introducing legislation which is in any way discriminatory or based on colour prejudice?

The Government's position has been made clear in the House on many occasions and I do not see any need to add to it.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that unless the Government tackle the problem soon the flow of immigrants is likely to affect the employment position and hon. Members opposite and the trade unions in particular will be the first people to say, "Let us put a ban on non-British labour"?

That is quite a different question. I am asked in the Question whether I agree with the Home Secretary's statements. I have said that I think they were in conformity with what has been said over and over again in recent months.

If the authentic notes of all these pronunciamentos were recorded on menu cards, would it not be possible to introduce a card-indexing system so that we could become aware of all the future disasters to which the nation has been committed?

If the hon. Gentleman thought that out while he was sitting there, it is quite good. If he thought it out before, it is not really so good.

Common Market

44.

asked the Prime Minister, in view of the need for more public information on the facts relevant to the problem of British membership of the Common Market, if he will now publish a White Paper limited to the relevant statistical and factual information.

48.

asked the Prime Minister whether Her Majesty's Government now intend to issue a White Paper setting out the facts and statistics relevant to consideration of the question of Britain's entry into the Common Market.

I will certainly consider whether a Paper could be pro- duced on the lines suggested. The range of factual information which is relevant to this complex question is very wide. A White Paper which contained only some of the obvious facts could give a very misleading impression. If an attempt were made to widen the scope of the White Paper and to publish detailed information, however factual, over a broader but still necessarily selective field, the result might be taken as carrying implications for our conduct of any negotiations which it might be decided we should undertake.

While I am deeply grateful to my right hon. Friend for his reply, I should like to ask him two supplementary questions. In view of the confusion and doubt, and even suspicion in the public mind—as well, indeed, as in this House—does he not think that it would be wise for some sort of objective statement, or a White Paper, to be published, setting out the short-term and long-term possible advantages and the short-term and long-term possible disadvantages to us if we joined the Common Market? Secondly, in his own judgment, does my right hon. Friend think that it will be possible to bring our Commonwealth friends, our partners in Europe and our farmers into this Common Market and yet retain the broad conception of European integration?

I quite see the object and value of producing some kind of document, and I have been trying to start work on it. There is the quite separate question which I undertook to consider, and which I hope to be able to meet, which was merely to give information of the measures taken by the parties to the Treaty of Rome in implementation of its Articles on common organisation and institutions. If we could obtain that, it would be possible to produce a factual, objective statement on them, but I still have a little doubt. I still find it difficult to reconcile this with the real purpose of a White Paper. Giving the arguments for and against is not quite the function of a public document published by the Government as such. If I can help, I will do so, but I think that hon. Members will see the difficulty. If the Government were asked to produce a White Paper for or against a much-debated policy, are the facts and the kind of objective statements really suitable to a Government White Paper? That is my difficulty, and that only.

One appreciates the Prime Minister's difficulty, but does not he realise that until a Paper is published that does give the facts for and against, the country is being asked to buy a pig in a poke and that unless the Commonwealth countries now being visited by Her Majesty's salesmen are also informed of the profit or loss to them, they, too, are being asked to buy a pig in a poke?

I think that the very phrase the right hon. Gentleman uses illustrates just the difficulty. He says that we must publish a White Paper about the facts and arguments, but that is just the one thing one cannot do about an argument.

Would the Prime Minister explain more clearly why he would be so embarrassed in a future negotiation if he published the facts and statistics on which the negotiation must necessarily be based? Is the Common Market the kind of game where it is really necessary for each player to hold the cards as close to his face as all that?

Well, there are some differences between holding the cards very close to one's chest and putting them all, before any negotiation starts, face downwards—[HON. MEMBERS: "Upwards."]—on the table.

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that though publishing arguments is, of course, dangerous, there is room for some simplification of the main documents? The Treaty of Rome is pretty tough reading. Could not my right hon. Friend produce a Treaty of Rome "told to the children"?

Of course, if it is valuable merely to summarise existing documents, that is one thing, but that was not what I was asked for.

Central Africa (Defence Arrangements)

45.

asked the Minister what consultations he has had with the Prime Minister of the Federation of Central Africa regarding joint arrangements for defence in Africa.

Consultations with the Federal authorities are naturally close and continuous.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Federal Defence Ministry has announced joint military exercises with the South African Air Forces? Is not that a very serious step to take with what is now a foreign country without full consultation with Her Majesty's Government? Would not the Prime Minister try to use his persuasive powers with Sir Roy Welensky, and tell him that this kind of policy will isolate him still further from world opinion?

That is another question, but, with regard to our own arrangements with the Federal Government, we naturally have close consultation, and I should like to express my gratitude to the Federal Government for their help in a recent crisis in which we now find ourselves.

Would the right hon. Gentleman answer the specific point of whether Her Majesty's Government were consulted about these new defence arrangements between the Federal Government and the South African Government?

Portugal (Supply Of Arms)

46.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make it a condition that, when arms are supplied to Portugal under North Atlantic Treaty Organisation arrangements, they will not be used in Portuguese territories overseas.

47.

asked the Prime Minister if he will make it a condition of supplies of military equipment to Portugal under North Atlantic Treaty Organisation requirements that such equipment should not be used in Portuguese overseas territories.

In considering applications for the export of arms to Portugal, we shall have regard to the nature and quantity of equipment in relation to her reasonable requirements as a N.A.T.O. ally. This has been explained to the Portuguese Government, and I do not think that formal conditions about the use of any military equipment that may be exported are necessary or appropriate.

Is the Prime Minister alive to the grave indignation felt in this country at the thought that we are supplying arms to Portugal, either directly or through the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which are being used to crush the people of Angola? Will he take steps to stop this trade immediately, and will he indicate to the Portuguese Government our disgust at and disapproval of what is being done? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that making excuses that it is not our responsibility is just a washing of his hands, like Pilate in the past, and saying that we are innocent of these things when we are guilty?

As I said to the House some days ago, the position is that no licences for the export of arms or ammunition are, in fact, being made in respect of Angola or Mozambique. That does not affect certain large deliveries of equipment that are only suitable for Portugal in her place as a N.A.T.O. ally.

How can the right hon. Gentleman possibly distinguish between armaments supplied for N.A.T.O. purposes and armaments that could be used in Angola? Is he not aware that at this moment armaments supplied for N.A.T.O., including the napalm bomb, are being used by the Portuguese Government in Angola? Is it not the case that Portugal itself is the base of the policy in Angola, and that if Portugal is built up, its policy in Angola is also being supported?

As regards the supplies of weapons that may have been supplied in the past, I do not know. All I know is that as regards licences in the last few weeks, or even longer, we have been applying this rule. I do not, for instance, see how to continue work in a British shipyard on two frigates that were sold some months ago and cannot be delivered for some time, can assist or play any part in the rather tragic events now going on in Angola.

Can the Prime Minister explain what is the point of putting an embargo on the export of arms to Angola when arms can go freely to Portugal and be sent from there to Angola?

In giving these export licences, such is the great width and variety of arms that are likely to be asked for that I think that it is quite possible to operate this policy effectively.

The right hon. Gentleman has not answered the question. What we are concerned with is this. If, in fact, the Government have out off the supply of arms to Angola, as they have done, it is presumably because they think it against our interests that they should go there. Since it is perfectly possible for the arms to go from Portugal to Angola, does he not think that the Government should take the logical step of putting an embargo on the export of arms to Portugal?

No, Sir. I think that there are certain arms that it is right for us to be ready to continue to sell to Portugal for N.A.T.O. purposes.

Would it not be better to discriminate between the different kinds of arms being sent to Portugal, instead of simply imposing an embargo on the export of arms to Angola and doing nothing about the export of arms to Portugal?

Any licences for Angola are obviously likely to be asked for because the arms would be useful to Angola.

Has my right hon. Friend seen a letter in The Times of this morning in which it is suggested that this vendetta against Portugal is quite out of proportion?

We deeply regret, of course—and this is a very large question—the situation that has developed there, but I do not honestly' think—and the House, on reflection, I think will agree—that to try to cut off Portugal from membership of the N.A.T.O. alliance at this time would help in any influence that we may have on them.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I beg to give notice that, in view of the very unsatisfactory reply of the Prime Minister, I will seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.