HC Deb 02 April 1953 vol 513 cc1344-5
16. Mr. Stokes

asked the President of the Board of Trade in view of the fact that the German Government are subsidising the heavy mechanical engineering and civil engineering contracting industries which are in consequence steadily outbidding British industry in the Near and Middle East, what steps he proposes to take.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

The evidence at my disposal does not suggest that United Kingdom firms in the industries referred to are being steadily outbid by their German competitors in these markets. Her Majesty's Government are, of course, strongly opposed to the use of export subsidies, overt or concealed, and I should be glad if the right hon. Member would bring to my attention any cases in which such devices appear to have been responsible for our losing orders.

Mr. Stokes

Is not the Minister aware that while the Germans were quoting 25 per cent. above us 18 months ago, they are now quoting about 30 per cent. below us, for the same goods, without any appreciable difference having taken place in our prices at all? Does not that indicate that there must be a subsidy of some sort?

Mr. Thorneycroft

There is some substance in the point which the right hon. Gentleman has put forward. We have taken a leading part in seeking to get rid of these subsidy arrangements, both in the International Monetary Fund and in the resolution passed recently in the O.E.E.C., calling upon the sterling board to make an investigation. If the right hon. Gentleman has any specific cases in mind, or any views he would like to put in some detail, I shall be happy to consider them.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is it not the case that the German Government have recently made available very substantial export credits to assist their industries? Has the President of the Board of Trade considered the implications of that, and could not we do something more on those lines ourselves?

Mr. Thorneycroft

We have, of course, considered the question of credit policy, and we have sought to assist our industrialists by a generous credit policy in the same way. The Question refers specifically not to credit but to export subsidy arrangements, and it is towards that that we are directing our particular attention, both in the International Monetary Fund and in the O.E.E.C.

Mr. Stokes

While I shall be very glad to supply the Minister with any information that I have, it is only on particular cases. Will he give an assurance that he will examine the position in regard to these particular matters?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Certainly, Sir.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Is not one of the objectionable practices of the Germans the giving of discriminatory taxes to relieve these exports?

Mr. Thorneycroft

That is one of the points which I think the right hon. Member has in mind.