HC Deb 29 January 1934 vol 285 cc25-7

(by Private Notice) asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he can now make a statement as to the French quotas?

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

Yes, Sir. A decree and Orders of the French Government were published on the 31st December fixing the quotas for the first quarter of 1934. The amount of the existing quotas was in general reduced to 25 per cent. of the basic quotas for the previous quarter, and at the same time the quota system was applied with a corresponding reduction to a large number of items which had not previously been subject to quotas. The French Government stated that the balance of 75 per cent. should be made the subject of negotiations with individual countries with a view to securing advantages for French exports.

It was subsequently learnt that the quotas applicable to the United States of America and, more recently, to Belgium, had been increased to 100 per cent., thus creating a discrimination against this country. The matter was then raised with the French Government, who on 10th January undertook to restore 100 per cent. quotas on a "very abundant list" of United Kingdom products. This list was handed to His Majesty's Ambassador at Paris on 19th January, and (like the earlier quota lists) has been published in the Board of Trade Journal. On examination it was found not to restore 100 per cent. quotas in numerous important cases: in particular, cotton yarns and most classes of cotton goods remained on a 25 per cent. basis, while the quotas for various other categories were raised only to 75 per cent. In these circumstances, the French Government have been informed that we cannot accept the discrimination in favour of United States and Belgian goods which is thus maintained. They have also been told that, having regard to the grave interference with United Kingdom trade resulting from the new French quota policy and to the discrimination to which I have already referred, we shall very reluctantly have to take immediate retaliatory action by imposing additional duties on a range of French products unless within 10 days of the intimation the quotas in force before 1st January are restored to their original level and the new quotas imposed as from 1st January are similarly increased. I need not remind hon. Members that we have full power to impose such duties by Order under the provisions of Section 12 of the Import Duties Act.

I should add that we have also drawn attention to the grave impediments to United Kingdom trade which result from the methods adopted for the fixing and the administration of the quotas, and have informed the French Government that we propose to return to this matter at a later stage when we have obtained satisfaction in regard to the quantum of the quotas.


Will the right hon. Gentleman take care that these ultimatums which are flying about are retained at his own office, and that they do not extend to the War Office and the Foreign Office?

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