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Board Of Trade

Volume 721: debated on Thursday 25 November 1965

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Export Rebate Scheme (Efta Countries)

29.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what representations he has received from non-European Free Trade Association governments regarding Her Majesty's Gov- ernment's undertaking to abolish their export rebate scheme on exports to European Free Trade Association countries; and what action he will take.

Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that the elimination of the export rebate only on exports to E.F.T.A. would be in conformity with the terms of the G.A.T.T., and, even if it would be, would not he agree that such elimination would depreciate the value of the E.F.T.A. preference to British exporters' preference?

The hon. Gentleman seems to be misinformed. As he recognises in his Question, we have not given an undertaking to abolish the export rebate on exports to the E.F.T.A. countries.

Development Districts, Scotland (Employment)

30.

asked the President of the Board of Trade, what was the total number of additional jobs in development districts in Scotland created by the opening of new factories or substantial additions to existing factories during the first six months of 1965.

Some 4,450 jobs are expected to arise from projects known to have been completed in the first six months of this year for which industrial development certificates have been issued.

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that this is a remarkable tribute to the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) under the previous Administration?

That may be true, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the I.D.C.s which have been approved during the first six months of this year will, we hope and fully expect, provide more than twice this number of jobs.

Cotton Textiles (Hong Kong)

33.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what estimate he has made of the effect on Hong Kong of his future arrangements for textile imports into Great Britain; and if he will make a statement.

The opportunities for Hong Kong's exports of cotton textiles to this market should be slightly improved by my proposals, which provide for a modest element of growth year by year.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in Hong Kong the Board of Trade's recent decision was regarded frankly as in breach of Clause 9 of the 1962 Agreement, and that it therefore created a very bady psychological effect there? Why could not the Minister have given more warning of his intentions? Can he give an assurance now that there will be no further erosion of the Hong Kong position in the future arrangements now to be negotiated?

The hon. Gentleman seems to be misinformed. Under the proposals Hong Kong received a "country quota" identical to that which she has had since 1962, plus a 1 per cent. growth a year. This growth figure will apply to imports generally and is designed to maintain for imports and for domestic producers their present share of the British market. In fact, there is an increase.

Is my hon. Friend aware that during the last five years imports from Hong Kong have risen by 62 per cent. in respect of clothing, and by 27 per cent. in respect of textiles? Is my hon. Friend aware that our whole industry is expecting him to go right ahead with Labour's policy on textiles?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the main problem facing Hong Kong at the moment is the question of carry-over from one year to the other? They were given only very short notice that the carry-over would not be permissible in this final year of the agreement. When will the new agreement be announced?

The hon. Gentleman is no doubt aware that the question of the carry-over was discussed in this House by Questions to, and Answers by, my right hon. Friend on 18th November.

Shipbuilding Industry

34.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will call for an interim report from the Geddes Committee, in view of the serious position in the shipbuilding industry, following the closure of Fairfields and losses sustained by other large firms, despite full order books.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a loan at 6 per cent., too late, to Fairfields is not a policy for shipbuilding? Is there to be no policy for shipbuilding until the Geddes Report has been received, considered and legislated upon?

I do not see any reason why there should be an interim report from the Geddes Committee. This would obviously delay publication of the final Report.

On a point of Order. Mr. Speaker, is it in order to make a false statement in a Question? Question No. 34 refers to "the closure of Fair-fields". That statement is untrue.

The hon. Member who tables the Question is responsible for any statement in it. I am not prepared to rule on the truth or falsity of it.

Exports (Exhibition Ships)

35.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will seek power to purchase the "Mauretania" or some similar vessel for conversion into a floating exhibition for British exports.

No, Sir. Having regard to the heavy cost and other disadvantages of exhibition ships, I see no reason to question the preference which British industry has shown for conventional trade fairs.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this Question was prompted by the great success of the London Fashion House show on the "Queen Elizabeth" in New York recently? If the cost of this sort of suggested exhibition is prohibitive, will the hon. Gentleman consider, as a compromise, whether similar shows by the London Fashion House can be arranged on ships visiting important ports throughout the world, and whether they could also be used for more serious exhibitions?

That is an entirely different question from the Question on the Order Paper. These exhibitions are different from a full-scale trade exhibition. There may be something in what the hon. Gentleman is suggesting, and we will consider it.

Life Jackets And Buoyancy Aids (Committee)

37.

asked the President of the Board of Trade on what date the working group set up by the Board of Trade to consider safety appliances for craft under 45 feet in length will be calling its first meeting, in view of the need for regulations concerning standards of performance of lifejackets and buoyancy aids which may be sold to the public.

While thanking my hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him to see to it that immediate steps are taken, particularly in respect of the callous and irresponsible descriptions that are given for so-called lifejackets, because of the danger that is being caused by their use?

One of the main matters to be discussed by the committee will be the type and specification of the lifejacket to be recommended for use on board these small craft.

Advertising (Misleading Claims)

38.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the proposed legislation to protect the consumer against misleading advertising claims will cover the types of cases relating to certain sale rooms, details of which have been submitted to him by the hon. Member for Cleveland.

This is a matter which my right hon. Friend has well in mind, but I would ask my hon. Friend to await the Bill.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that I am still receiving correspondence concerning cases of double pricing, and that I am looking forward to him taking action in this matter.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me evidence of cases that have come to his notice. These have been taken into consideration.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us some idea of when we are likely to see the Bill?

Southern Rhodesia (Ottawa Agreement)

39.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what is the expected loss of exports as a result of the termination of the United Kingdom-Southern Rhodesia preferential agreement of 1932, and of the emergency restrictions generally; and what steps are being taken to find other export markets.

It is not possible to foresee at this stage how British exports will be affected. The Government will continue to give all possible encouragement to the expansion of exports generally.

Will the Government please keep us informed as they acquire more knowledge, and will they please place in the Library any guidance which they give to exporters about how they should try to replace any markets which they may lose?

40.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what procedure was used in the termination of the United Kingdom-Southern Rhodesia preferential agreement of 1932.

Britain's trade relations with Southern Rhodesia are governed by the Ottawa Agreement, 1932. This agreement has not been terminated, but it has been suspended by Her Majesty's Government.

Shipping Lines, Belgium And United Kingdom (Reciprocity)

42.

asked the President of the Board of Trade why British shipping lines do not enjoy reciprocal rights in respect of the carriage of passengers between Belgium and the United Kingdom; and what steps he is taking to establish reciprocity.

The Convention and Statute on the International Regime of Maritime Ports of 1923, of which both Belgium and the United Kingdom are signatories, guarantees equality of treatment between ships of all contracting states for purposes of international trade. The second part of the Question does not, therefore, arise.

Will the hon. Gentleman, therefore, tell the House why it is that no British ships sail between Ostend and British ports carrying pasengers?

The fact that the Belgians rave a monopoly of the passenger service is a matter of history, and not of legal right. We have a similar monopoly of the rail-ferry service.

Fiesta Tours Ltd And Holiday Clubs Ltd

43.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he has received the report from the inspector inquiring into the affairs of Fiesta Tours Ltd. and Travel and Holiday Clubs Ltd.

No, Sir. The inspectors have made good progress with their inquiry, but are unable to make their report owing to pending litigation.

Does my hon. Friend realise that there has been an inordinate delay in the publication of this Report, for over a year or so? A constituent of mine paid £50 for a trip to Yugoslavia, and he is still waiting to hear the outcome of the payment. Are the Government considering legislation to deal with this situation?

I can understand my hon. Friend's feelings of dissatisfaction, but, ES the purpose of the litigation is to prevent the inspectors from completing their inquiries and to prevent them from including certain evidence in their report, they cannot go any further until the litigation proceedings are concluded. I should like notice on the question of legislation.

Exports (Efta Countries)

44.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what percent- age increase took place in Great Britain's exports to European Free Trade Association countries in the first, second and third quarters of 1965 compared with the comparable periods in 1964.

Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied with this rate of progress in an area in which we have such overwhelming advantages? Has he any plans to deal with the matter?

I think that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has a Question on the Order Paper regarding plans. There has been an increase in exports to E.F.T.A. countries this year of a wide range of goods including metals, chemicals, textiles, non-electrical machinery and motor vehicles. I think that this is a success story which ought to be applauded.

45.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what further action he is taking to increase British trade with the European Free Trade Association countries following his discussions at Copenhagen with representatives of member states.

The complete removal of industrial tariffs in E.F.T.A. by the end of next year provides great opportunities for British exporters. I have taken special steps to bring these opportunities to their notice, and to remind them of the services my Department can offer to assist their efforts.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the Government have any intention of postponing the removal of the tariffs for this area?

I understand the hon. and gallant Member to be referring to the import surcharge. We have a binding commitment on this and, as the House already knows, as our balance of payments difficulties are eased the import surcharge will be gradually lowered.

Is the hon. Member aware that during the visit of a Parliamentary delegation to Sweden during the summer it was reported to some hon. Members that the extentive advertising campaigns in Sweden by the British car industry have had to be cancelled because of the non-availability of car deliveries to that important market?

Our exports to Sweden are a striking example of the opportunities that E.F.T.A. provides. They are now about £200 million a year. This country of about 8 million people has become our largest export market in Europe after West Germany, and our fifth largest in the world.

Has the hon. Member's Department had any reports of the adverse effects of the import charge on exports to the E.F.T.A. countries?

Consumer Protection (Legislation)

46.

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many interested bodies will be consulted by his Department before the Bill on consumer protection is presented to Parliament.

The Board of Trade have already sought the views of all bodies known to be interested on proposals for this new legislation. My right hon. Friend is taking their views into account in preparing the legislation.

I know that the Board of Trade has made inquiries of about 100 bodies, but I have been told that certain other bodies do not realise that information can still be given to the Board of Trade. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that if anybody concerned in consumer protection wishes to lay information to the Board of Trade he can still do so?

The hon. Member will agree that we do not want to delay the final stages of the preparation of the Bill, but if any organisation has views which, even at this late stage, it thinks that we should take into consideration, we shall do so. As I have said, we do not want to delay the final preparation of the Bill.