HC Deb 20 March 1952 vol 497 cc2535-7
22. Mr. J. R. Bevins

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware of the substantial increase in the exports of raw rubber from the United Kingdom to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; and if he will consider imposing a ceiling on such strategic exports.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

I am glad to have this opportunity of explaining the position since there have been recent Press statements which, no doubt inadvertently, gave a misleading impression

Exports of rubber to the U.S.S.R., whether from the United Kingdom or from Malaya have, since April of last year, been limited by export licensing to quantities related to our estimate of their normal civilian consumption. This is about the same rate of export as in 1950 before the development of large-scale fighting in Korea, and the rate is being kept constantly under review.

It is true that re-exports from the United Kingdom are greater now than they were in 1950. The explanation is that in 1950 the U.S.S.R. shipped 68,000 tons direct from Malaya and only 10,000 tons through the United Kingdom, whereas in 1951 the U.S.S.R. shipped 14,000 tons from Malaya and 42,000 tons through the United Kingdom. There are of course, fluctuations in monthly shipments within the annual rate.

Mr. Bevins

In view of the surprisingly high level of those exports during the last two months of this year, will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking to keep a close watch on the whole position?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Yes, Sir, certainly. The matter is being kept under very close watch. The normal flow of rubber will not be increased.

Mr. S. S. Awbery

Is the Minister aware that, in addition to the export of rubber from Malaya, the Russians are now getting rubber from Colombo and Ceylon?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I have no evidence that leads me to suppose that there has been a great increase in the export of rubber to Russia.

30. Mr. George Jeger

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will initiate trade talks with the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics with a view to obtaining supplies of timber and grain.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

In the case of plywood and of coarse grains, imports are arranged as necessary under separate contracts concluded between the appropriate Soviet organisation and the responsible Department of Her Majesty's Government. Supplies of timber other than plywood are a matter for the private importer.

Mr. Jeger

Is it not necessary to get the maximum imports of timber and grain from the U.S.S.R., and would not the Minister enter into negotiation with that country in order that trade talks might help to a better understanding between the Governments of both countries?

Mr. Thorneycroft

This trade is being conducted on a perfectly satisfactory basis at the moment.

Mr. Jeger

Can it be called satisfactory when the imports at present coming in from the U.S.S.R. are about 2½ to 3 times as much as our exports, thereby giving us an unfavourable balance of trade? Surely it would be better to have trade talks which would equate our exports and imports and lead not only to better trading relations but to better international relations?

31. Mr. G. Jeger

asked the President of the Board of Trade how far he is able to give details of private buying from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

Statistics of imports from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on private account are to be found in the Trade and Navigation Accounts. These imports in 1951 involved a very large number of private transactions but did not include coarse grains and animal feeding stuffs, canned fish, softwood and plywood, which were imported on public account. Softwood has now reverted to private trade.