HC Deb 10 May 1951 vol 487 cc2142-3
25. Mr. Nigel Fisher

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will explain and take steps to arrest the decline both in imports from, and exports to, the Commonwealth, which took place in the United Kingdom's trade with the Commonwealth in the year 1950, as compared with 1949.

Sir H. Shawcross

The value of United Kingdom trade with Commonwealth countries, far from declining last year, was higher than in any year since the end of the war or indeed compared with any earlier years. Exports and re-exports to Commonwealth countries in 1950 amounted to £1,064 million compared with £920 million in 1949. Imports in 1950 were £1,116 million compared with £1,031 million in 1949.

Mr. Fisher

We are, of course, all aware that the money value in volume of all trade has increased, but is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that as a percentage of our total trade, our Commonwealth trade has declined in every category? Does he regard that as satisfactory? Is his policy Imperial Preference, and how far is he prepared to take steps to maintain and increase it? Am I am not entitled to a reply?

Sir Herbert Williams

Do the figures given by the right hon. and learned Gentleman include exports to Eire and Burma as part of the Commonwealth, as they did before the war?

Sir H. Shawcross

No, Sir.

Major Legge-Bourke

Although the contention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman that there has been an increase in the total value may be true, will he bear in mind that it disguises the fact that there has been a decline in individual cases? Does he not agree that there should be an increase all round?

Sir H. Shawcross

There may well have been a decline in various individual cases. My desire would be to see a general increase in all cases. There has been a general increase all round. It is, of course, true—the point was made by another hon. Member—that the volume of our trade with other countries has also increased and the percentage position has slightly changed.

Mr. Poole

Does not my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the very firm stand recently taken at Torquay is probably the greatest single factor in the maintenance of our Commonwealth trade?