HC Deb 03 August 1922 vol 157 cc1653-4
10. Mr. HANNON

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that, notwithstanding a loan of £3,000,000 from this country to Portugal, the Portuguese Government has repudiated without redress a contract with a British firm of up to 36,000 tons of Welsh coal per month over 12 months, involving a credit of £540,000, approved for this purpose under the Trade Facilities Act, 1921; whether the injury done to this firm will receive his immediate attention; and what steps he proposes to take in the matter?

Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME (Parliamentary Secretary, Overseas Trade Department)

I am aware that a credit in respect of a contract for the supply of Welsh coal to the Portuguese Government was granted last autumn under the Overseas Trade Acts to a British firm, and that the Portuguese Government has since cancelled the contract. Strong representations have been addressed to the Portuguese Government on the matter, but unfortunately without effect. I should add that no loan has been granted to Portugal, as stated by my hon. Friend, but a credit of £3,000,000 for exports to that country has been negotiated with the Export Credits Department by the Banco Nacionale Ultramarino, and has been sanctioned with the approval of the Advisory Committee to the Department.


Was not £1,000,000 of that credit allocated to coal purchases abroad, and was not the contract in question approved by the Minister of Commerce of Portugal, and subsequently by the Council of Ministers; and this is the contract now being cancelled?


The hon. Gentleman has put two points. The transactions under the £3,000,000 credit will be approved as they are brought forward. This is not a credit to the Portuguese Government. In regard to the second point, the contract was certainly entered into by the appropriate Minister on behalf of the Portuguese Government. I believe it is alleged that the contract was not approved by the Council of Ministers; but this is challenged. In any case, it was a contract definitely made by the Minister on behalf of his Government. It was on those grounds that strong representations were made.


Will my hon. Friend use what diplomatic influence he can to impress upon Portugal the necessity of keeping contracts made?


That is exactly what I have been doing.


How many times has the Portuguese Government been changed since this contract was signed?


I should like notice of that.

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