HC Deb 01 May 1952 vol 499 cc1654-6
38. Mr. Julian Amery

asked the President of the Board of Trade when the Government will denounce those parts of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade which limit Britain's right to give increased preferences to goods imported from Commonwealth countries.

40. Mr. Nabarro

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will make a statement in regard to the future policy of Her Majesty's Government in relation to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade with particular reference to increases in the rates of Imperial Preference.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

The system of Imperial Preference has played and continues to play a large and useful part in the development of trade between the countries of the Commonwealth. Her Majesty's Government attaches great importance to Imperial Preference, not only as a symbol of the desire of the countries of the Commonwealth to stand together and to trade with each other, but also as a practical means of increasing their trade and their prosperity. I can therefore assure my hon. Friends that this matter will be kept in the forefront of the examination of our future external commercial policy, including the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which we are now undertaking and about which we shall, of course, consult with other Commonwealth countries as soon as possible.

Mr. Amery

While appreciating that my right hon. Friend has had this matter under consideration for only three or four months, might I ask him whether he would bear in mind that there is a growing feeling in Lancashire that our prospects of gaining new markets in textiles, as well as holding the ones which we have at present, depend—according to many people—on regaining our freedom to extend the system of Imperial Preference?

Mr. Thorneycroft

If my hon. Friend will read the answer he will see that I have made a very full statement of what is our general policy in that matter.

Mr. John Dugdale

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that last year, when things were rather different in Lancashire, people in many Colonies were crying out for Lancashire textiles? Can the Presisident say that now that things are not so good Lancashire will send textiles to West Africa and other places where they are very badly needed?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I do not think that Lancashire is backward about taking advantage of any opportunities which can assist in that direction.

Mr. Nabarro

Is my right hon. Friend aware that our trading difficulties overseas are likely to be substantially aggravated in the course of the next few months due to our manifest inability to extend Commonwealth trade and increase protection? Will he treat this matter as one of over-riding urgency?

44. Mr. Bernard Braine

asked the President of the Board of Trade in respect of what classes of goods have the United Kingdom and other signatories invoked the escape clauses of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade; what steps are being taken to restore our freedom to adjust preferences; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

Article XIX of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which I assume is the escape clause which my hon. Friend has in mind, has been invoked by the United States Government to withdraw tariff concessions on fur felt hat bodies and on hatters' fur. It has not been invoked by the United Kingdom or by any of the other contracting parties to the General Agreement.

As regards the second and third parts of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I have given today to my hon. Friends the Members for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery) and Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro).

Mr. Braine

Does not the first part of that answer reveal that Britain at least has been playing the game in this matter? Does not the recent Note sent to the United States Government reveal how desperately dependent we have become on a market which, paradoxically, we shall lose if we do too well in it, and has not the time come to speak to our American friends much more frankly?