HC Deb 16 February 1937 vol 320 cc971-4
7. Major Mills

asked the President of the Board of Trade with what countries there are treaties or trade agreements which prevent quantitative restriction of import of eggs and / or increased tariff on imported eggs; the date on which those treaties or trade agreements can be denounced; and whether he is considering such denunciation in all or any cases?

11. Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte

asked the President of the Board of Trade which of the trade agreements now in force prevent the Government from taking measures to help the poultry industry, either by tariffs or restriction of imports; and whether he proposes to take immediate steps to abolish these agreements?

Dr. Burgin

The imposition of increased import duties on eggs in shell is precluded by the trade agreements with Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland and Sweden. The agreement with Denmark can be denounced at any time after four months' prior notice, the other agreements after six months' notice. No treaty or trade agreement precludes unconditionally the quantitative regulation of imports of eggs. The position of the poultry industry will receive full consideration during the negotiations for a renewal of these agreements, which it is hoped may take place this year.

Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte

Will not the hon. Member immediately take steps to denounce these Agreements?

Major Mills

While thanking my hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask him whether he has had any representations from poultry keepers as to their unhappy position, as most Members of Parliament have had; and whether he has been able to reassure them that the Government mean to help them to preserve their industry?

Dr. Burgin

The Department has received a number of representations such as those to which the hon. and gallant Member referred. The whole matter is closely engaging the attention of the Department.

Mr. Lawson

Will the Parliamentary Secretary bear in mind, in reference to the question of Denmark, that Denmark is one of our best customers for coal, and that some people in the coal areas are in a worse position than the poultry keepers?

Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte

Will the Minister immediately take steps to denounce these Treaties, so that something can be done to help the poultry industry?

Dr. Burgin

I do not think that the right way to negotiate a commercial treaty is to denounce existing treaties. There are other subjects than the importation of eggs which require consideration. The hon. and gallant Member will, perhaps, be satisfied with the assurance that the matter is being very closely considered.

10. Sir Gifford Fox

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether at any time within the last six months the Government have made any suggestions to those countries normally exporting eggs to Great Britain that their consignments should be reduced; and whether, in that case, he can state the number and nature of the replies received?

Dr. Burgin

No such suggestions have been made within the period named.

17. Sir G. Fox

asked the President of the Board of Trade the period over which the various nations normally importing eggs into this country agreed voluntarily to restrict their imports; what was the extent of this restriction; and what were the circumstances under which this voluntary effort came to an end?

Dr. Burgin

Up to 30th September, 1934, there was a standstill arrangement on the basis of imports during the corresponding period of 1933. Subsequent arrangements provided for small reductions of varying amounts in total imports, but for the last quarter of 1935 there was a reversion to the standstill arrangement. The requests were not complied with in all cases, and no request was made to foreign countries after the end of 1935, since by that time the Reorganisation Commissions for Eggs and Poultry had reported and had not recommended the introduction of a general system of quantitative regulation of imports of eggs.

Sir G. Fox

Am I to understand that the Department has done nothing for the last 18 months to help the poultry producer? Is the hon. Member aware that many poultry producers are faced with bankruptcy? What measures does he propose to take?

Dr. Burgin

I hope the hon. Member will not understand anything of the kind. What happened was this. An arrangement for voluntary control was made to regulate the market pending a report by the Commission. That Commission having reported, not in the sense which the hon. Member desires, there is nothing further to do for the moment.

Mr. Turton

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the result of ending the voluntary restriction has been an increase in the imports of eggs of 6,800,000, and will he consider a renewal of the voluntary restriction in order that this industry may be saved?

Dr. Burgin

That is a matter which, in the first instance, must be addressed to the Minister for Agriculture.

46. Major Mills

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how long the application of the National Farmers' Union and the Poultry Keepers' Association for an increased duty on imported eggs has been before the Import Duties Advisory Committee; and when a report may be expected?

52. Mr. Touche

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the grave conditions at present existing in the egg and poultry industry, he will consider asking the Import Duties Advisory Committee to expedite the hearing and determination of the application which has been made to them for an increased duty on foreign imported eggs?

Mr. Chamberlain

The application was lodged on 24th September last. I am not able to say when a conclusion will be reached in the matter, but, in view of the position under certain trade agreements, no action in the way of an increase of duty could become effective for some time to come, and in these circumstances I do not think any useful purpose would be served by taking the action suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Touche).

Major Mills

Would it not help the Government to make up their minds if they had the advice of the Advisory Committee on this matter?

Sir William Davison

Before my right hon. Friend replies, is it not a fact that the House has repeatedly been told that no action can be taken because of these treaties, and would it not be desirable, in order that these negotiations should take place, that preliminary notice of denunciation should be given?

Mr. Henderson Stewart

Would the promotion of a marketing scheme enable the Government to take steps to restrict the importation of eggs either under the auspices of the reorganisation commission or otherwise?

Mr. Rowson

If the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot take action on imports, can he take the taxes off the feeding-stuffs of these people?

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