HC Deb 13 June 1927 vol 207 cc666-8
25 and 26. Mr. JAMES HUDSON

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) why no reduction of the high Spanish duties against British wool textiles could be effected in the negotiations about the new Anglo-Spanish Treaty; and whether any effort was made to acquaint the Spanish authorities with the fact that the major part of the Yorkshire textiles hitherto exported to Spain were of a kind that were not and could not be produced in Spain;

(2) why, during the course of recent negotiations with Spain which led to the lowering of their duties against our steel while their high duties against our wool textiles remained unaffected, no use was made of the advice and assistance of the two representatives of the Bradford Chamber of Commerce who had been appointed by the chamber at the Board's request, while the representatives of the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce were called into consultation by the Board; and whether he is aware that this and other instances have given rise to apprehension among the chambers of commerce at Huddersfield, Bradford, and elsewhere that the Board of Trade, in its tariff and commercial negotiations, inadequately recommends the claims of the wool textile industry?


As the reply is a long one perhaps the hon. Member will agree to its circulation in the OFFICIAL REPORT.


Is it true, as suggested in the question, that special attention was given to the steel industry and the same sort of attention was not given to the woollen textile industry?


No, it is not correct to put it in that way. Every attention was given to the wishes and views of the Bradford people, but we were faced with the absolute refusal of the Spanish Government to make any concession. With regard to the Sheffield point, the President of the Board of Trade consulted the Sheffield people on technical questions such as descriptions of iron and steel after the Spanish Government had granted reliefs.

Following is the reply:

The circumstances of the British woollen export trade to Spain were fully borne in mind during the course of the recent negotiations for the revision of the Anglo-Spanish Commercial Treaty of 1922. The main purpose of this revision was the substitution on both sides of most-favoured-nation treatment for the specific tariff concessions prescribed by that treaty. The attention of the Spanish Government was nevertheless called to the large increases of duty on woollens as well as on certain other British goods, which would result in a number of cases from the abrogation of the Tariff Schedules annexed to the treaty. Unfortunately, however, woollens do not figure among the few items in respect of which the Spanish Government, by autonomous measure, made certain reductions in the high second column rates, but this was certainly not due to any failure to advance the claims of woollen goods. These were fully appreciated by the Board, and no occasion arose on which the Bradford representatives could have been usefully consulted. The conversations related to a number of matters, and it did become necessary to obtain certain information from representatives of the Sheffield trade. I am glad to have this opportunity of affirming that there is no foundation for the apprehension that the Board in their negotiations for commercial agreements do not do their utmost to secure benefits for the wool textile industry as for all other industries of first importance to this country.