HC Deb 01 May 1952 vol 499 cc1633-4
11. Mr. Shepherd

asked the President of the Board of Trade to what extent export credit guarantees cover contracts entered into by British exporters and Australia which have now been cancelled.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

As I informed the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn) on 24th April, the Export Credits Guarantee Department estimates that its own liabilities arising from the frustration of contracts by the recent Australian import regulations, is approximately £5 million. The cover represented by export credits guarantees is in respect of 90 per cent. of the loss sustained by the policy holders.

Mr. Shepherd

Is it not a fact that the policies do not cover, where they refer to shipping contracts, against specific contracts, and that quite a number of firms who have actually taken out contracts which appear as "shipping contracts" are not covered?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Contracts may differ according to the policies issued in different cases, but the percentage cover of the total trade to Australia is a very small one.

Mr. Walter Fletcher

Will my right hon. Friend note that by using the expression "frustration of contracts" he appears to admit, in the case of f.o.b. contracts, that the action of the Australian Government vitiates them? Will he bear in mind that there is first-class legal opinion to the effect that that is not so?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I did not intend by that term to over-ride the legal arguments which I know are going on about this matter.

Sir Ian Fraser

Would my right hon. Friend make it clear that his statement does not prejudice or commit anybody in this matter? Is it not doubtful whether many of these contracts are not valid now?

Mr. Thorneycroft

This answer refers solely to the percentage of trade which was covered by the Export Credits Guarantee Department.

43. Mr. W. Fletcher

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will cause to be prepared as complete a list as possible of all outstanding contracts made in the United Kingdom with Australia, which are not included in the categories of exemption, to the recent action of the Australian Government in stopping imports into Australia.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

I should welcome any additional information which exporters and trade associations think it desirable that I should have, whether on the subject of outstanding contracts or other aspects of the effects on United Kingdom industry of the Australian import restrictions.

Mr. Fletcher

In view of the fact that such a list would be of the utmost value during the welcome visit of the Prime Minister of Australia to this country towards the end of the month, would my right hon. Friend give such an invitation to the various industries in order that he may be equipped with the fullest possible latest information?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. I am in touch with these industries with that point in mind.