HC Deb 13 May 1892 vol 4 cc829-30
MR. LENG (Dundee)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the United Kingdom, under existing Treaties with Spain, is entitled to its imports into that country coming under the Most Favoured Nation Clause until 30th June of the present year; whether the tariff on linen yarns imported into Spain from Austria-Hungary is equal to 27.42 pesetas for Nos. 1 to 20, and whether a Circular issued by the Director General of Customs in Madrid on 11th April last ordered that such numbers of linen yarns must pay 45 pesetas, not only in future, but retrospectively on all imported since 1st February last and which had been cleared at the lower rate of duty, whereas the notice which appeared in the Gazette of 10th February last stated that The Treaty of Commerce and Navigation between Spain and Austria-Hungary of 3rd June, 1880, is prolonged and shall remain in force until 30th June, 1892, except as regards spirits and alcohols, and in a telegram sent by the Minister of Finance at Madrid on 1st February to the Collectors of Customs at Barcelona and other Spanish ports it is stated that goods from Austria-Hungary should enjoy the tariff annexed to its Treaty, subsequent to which up to 11th April British yarns were admitted at the same rate; whether it has been brought to the knowledge of the Government that British merchants, acting on the notice in the Gazette and the telegram of the Spanish Minister of Finance, entered into contracts and transactions which have involved serious inconvenience and loss, consequent on the sudden and retrospective increase of the duty on linen yarns imported from this country into Spain since 1st February; and whether, in the circumstances, Her Majesty's Government will endeavour to obtain compensation from the Government of Spain for the injury British merchants have suffered, or will press for the admission of British linen yarns until 30th June at the Austria-Hungary tariff rate, in accordance with the Gazette notice and the instructions of the Minister of Finance in February last?


The answers to the first and third paragraphs are in the affirmative. As to the series of questions contained in the second paragraph, the Spanish Government state that the special rates for linen yarns, stipulated for in the Austro-Hungarian Treaty of 1880, ceased to exist on the 14th March, 1887, at the termination of the period agreed upon for the duration of those special rates. The general tariff for linen yarns then came into force and remained in force until the 1st February, 1892 when the present tariff became operative. Her Majesty's Government have not found themselves able to accept the contention of the Spanish Government, and they have consequently adopted the second alternative suggested in the last paragraph of the hon. Member's question.