HC Deb 01 May 1933 vol 277 cc497-501
28. Mr. HANNON

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, during the process of negotiations between His Majesty's Government and the representatives of the Governments of Denmark and the Argentine, steps were taken to ascertain the views of organisations in this country representative of agriculture and industry; what organisations were so consulted; and what representations were received by the Government before the terms of the agreements with those countries were concluded?

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Runciman)

In connection with the recent commercial negotiations, the most careful consideration was given to the effect upon the trade and industry of this country of any proposals that have been suggested from time to time affecting the position either of a United Kingdom industry or of export trade. In the course of this consideration information was obtained from many quarters in order to supplement that already in the possession of Government Departments. My hon. Friend will appreciate that in conducting commercial negotiations His Majesty's Government must have complete discretion as to consultation with particular interests.


While admitting entirely the right of the Government to have complete discretion, could the right hon. Gentleman say whether any of the organisations concerned with British industry or agriculture have been consulted by the Board of Trade during the process of these negotiations?


So far as I am concerned, I have at my right hand the Minister of Agriculture, whom I regard as one of the best informed persons on agriculture in this country. He has collaborated with us throughout.


In arriving at conclusions of this moment to the interests of this country, should not the right hon. Gentleman have recourse to the advice of organised industry and agriculture?


Has the right hon. Gentleman any reason to think that organisations representing the great industrial interests of the country have the slightest objection to what has been done?


Is it not a fact that Birmingham is one of the places which will be most benefited?

39. Mr. LAWSON

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) the metric tonnage of coal and coke which was exported to Germany for the month ending 31st March, 1933;

(2) the monthly tonnage of coal only for which licences will be given under the German Agreecent?

Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE (Secretary, Overseas Trade Department)

The Agreement provides for the issue of licences in respect of 180,000 metric tons of coal and coke for importation into the German Customs area. Separate quotas for coal and coke are not provided for. The exports from this country of coal and coke registered during the month of March, 1933, as consigned to Germany, amounted to 185,700 metric tons and 3,800 metric tons, respectively. The latter figures, however, include not only coal and coke imported into the German Customs area, but also the quantity, estimated at about 81,000 tons a month, imported into the free harbour area, and for use as bunkers on German and foreign ships.


Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman complete the figures? The first figure he gave was 180,000, but I did not catch the second figure.

Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE

One hundred and eighty thousand metric tons of coal provided for under the agreement, and as regards the second figure, during the month of March, 1933, 185,700 metric tons of coal, and 3,800 metric tons of coke, respectively, but, as I pointed out, this includes the coal imported into the free harbour area, and for use of German ships amounting to some 81,000 tons.

41. Mr. HANNON

asked the President of the Board of Trade the value of imports from Germany into Great Britain in the years 1930, 1931, and 1932, of jewellery and imitation jewellery; if he is aware of the condition of unemployment which affects these trades in this country; and if he is satisfied that a duty of 25 per cent. is adequate protection for this industry in view of the much lower wage-standards in Germany?

Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE

The total declared value of the imports of jewellery and imitation jewellery into the United Kingdom consigned from Germany was £103,327 in 1930, £83,169 in 1931, and £124,688 in 1932. I understand, however, that the apparent increase in imports in 1932 is probably due to the fact that since the Import Duties Act has been in force goods formerly described under other headings in the trade returns are now classified as jewellery, and to the inclusion of imports of jewellery by parcel post, which were not formerly classified under statistical headings. I am aware that there is unemployment in this, as in other trades, but I do not anticipate that a reduction of duty from 30 per cent. to 25 per cent. will appreciably affect the position.


Can my hon. and gallant Friend say whether, before the conclusion of the agreement with Germany, any consultation took place between the Jewellers' Association of Birmingham, or the Goldsmiths' Association of London, in order to ascertain the extent to which the competitive power of these trades in our home market will be affected by the introduction of the new tariff?

Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE

I cannot add to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade earlier this afternoon, except to say that the probable effect of any reductions in duties were very carefully taken into account before the agreement as made.


Surely, my hon. and gallant Friend can answer a simple question? Was any communication held by the Board of Trade with the representative association of this trade?

Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE

I cannot answer whether that particular body was consulted.


May I ask, as my hon. and gallant Friend represents the Overseas Trade Department, whether it is the policy of His Majesty's Government to come to agreements with foreign countries affecting intimately the employment in trades in this country without consultation with the local trade organisations concerned?

Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE

As my right hon. Friend said, His Majesty's Government must reserve the right as to the bodies with which they hold consultations. Consultation has been held in these Trade Agreements with bodies representing organised trade as a whole. I cannot, without notice, say what particular bodies were consulted.


Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade could inform the House whether the Minister of Agriculture was the authority with whom he consulted on this subject?


Is the hon. and gallant Member aware that the jewellers' associations in this country view the decreases in duty with very real alarm indeed, and that his answer that there is no fear of further unemployment owing to the effect of the decrease is quite erroneous, and is not shared by people who know something about the industry?

Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE

Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman did not quite catch my answer. I said that I did not anticipate that the reduction of duty from 30 per cent. to 25 per cent. would appreciably affect the position, and that was the opinion formed after very careful examination.

Captain HOPE

The Jewellers' Association of Birmingham say that it will affect the position very materially.


(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on what grounds His Majesty's Government have departed from the constitutional practice in making the commercial agreements with Germany and Denmark in the name of the Government of the United Kingdom instead of in the name of His Majesty?


There has been no departure from constitutional practice. Many commercial agreements have been made in the form of agreements between Governments, or exchanges of notes which were the forms adopted in the two cases referred to.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say why in that case the title selected for the Government of this country is a title which has no constitutional existence, having regard to the fact that the proper title is "His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom"?


I should like that put down.