HC Deb 04 March 1886 vol 302 cc1904-5

asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether the practice of certain Foreign Governments of subsidising articles of commerce produced and manufactured in their countries, and competing with British manufacturers in British markets, is in accordance with, or a violation of, Free Trade principles, and unfair between friendly nations; whether any, and what, endeavours are being made by the Foreign Office to get such practice abolished; and, whether, failing such endeavours, the Government are willing to try the effect of an intimation that, if such subsidies are persisted in, a fine or duty equal to the subsidy will be imposed on any such goods entering British ports, in order that foreigners shall only compete in British markets under fair and natural economic conditions?


If I rightly gather the purport of the first part of the hon. Member's Question, he invites me to pronounce an opinion upon the commercial policy of foreign countries with regard to bounties; but, as this does not come either within the sphere of my own duties, or within the province of a Question in this House, I regret that I am unable to comply with his request. In reply to the second part of the Question, I may state that any action for the purpose of obtaining the discontinuance of bounties by Foreign Governments in the case of goods exported to British markets would be taken by the Foreign Office at the instance of the Board of Trade; and it is, therefore, to that Department that his Question should be addressed. Her Majesty's Government have constantly declared, and given effect in practice to their opinion, that the principles of Free Trade are beneficial to any and every country; but they conceive that they would injure and not forward such principles by entering upon a war of tariffs; and they cannot, therefore, hold out to the hon. Member any prospect of their trying the effect of the intimation which he suggests.