HC Deb 02 December 1952 vol 508 cc1275-7
50. Mr. Bellenger

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the reduction of the British deficit in the European Payments Union, he can hold out any hope of an early review of the restrictions placed on imports from Europe.

The Secretary for Overseas Trade (Mr. H. R. Mackeson)

The restrictions have just been reviewed and increased import quotas were announced on 25th November for certain goods of particular importance to other members of the European Payments Union. It remains the Government's object to secure the progressive reduction of restrictions, and import controls will be kept under review in the light of our balance of payments position and prospects and of the level of the gold and dollar reserves.

Mr. Bellenger

While my question was placed on the Order Paper before the announcement was made by the Board of Trade, could I ask the hon. Gentleman what is the effect of these restrictions on our trade treaties? Is any reciprocal action taken by those against whom we discriminate in our import restrictions?

Mr. Mackeson

No, Sir. These matters will be taken into consideration, of course, when we come to have bilateral treaty discussions with these countries. We were under a moral obligation to do what we could for our trading partners in view of our slightly improved position.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is it not the case that any deficit in our trade to Europe involves at present a loss of gold to the extent of 100 per cent., and is it not therefore wise for the Government to maintain these restrictions until we have won back, so to speak, the gold we have lost over the last few months?

Mr. Mackeson

Yes, Sir. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, but this is not a very large liberalisation move and we hope that it will help our exporters by means of easing our position with many countries in Europe.

51. Mr. Turner

asked the President of the Board of Trade to make a statement regarding the unsatisfactory state of the export trade with France, in particular of motor cars and agricultural machinery, particulars of which have been sent him.

Mr. Mackeson

France has had to restrict imports to protect her balance of payments, and I am aware that French importers are unable to obtain licences for all the agricultural machinery which they would like to import from this country. Nevertheless, our exports of agricultural machinery to France in the first 10 months of this year have been more than double the value for the same period last year, and our total exports to France have also increased.

As regards motor cars, I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. F. Maclean) on 20th November.