HC Deb 08 December 1953 vol 521 cc1778-81
9 and 10. Mr. Swingler

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) what reports he has received from Her Majesty's Government's representatives in Hong Kong concerning the effects of the embargo on trade in certain goods with China and differences between the trade policy of Her Majesty's Government and that of other West European Governments;

(2) if he will call for and publish reports from Her Majesty's Government commercial representatives in China and Hong Kong on the present state of trade between China and countries adhering to the Consultative Group Co-operation Committee, with a view to determining whether Her Majesty's Government's administration of the embargo on trade in certain goods is in line with that of other Governments represented on the Committee.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

As to the effect of our strategic controls on Hong Kong's trade with China, I would refer to the reply given to the hon Member on 25th November by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Our controls were at one time, and in some respects, wider than those of other members of the Consultative Group on East-West trade, but, as I have already informed the House, the controls have now 'been brought into line; and I would not therefore wish to call for reports unless, in particular cases, there was reason to believe that the controls were being evaded.

Mr. Swingler

Has the Minister taken note of the fact that the trade of Hong Kong to China has fallen by 50 per cent. in the last 12 months, and what action does he propose in order to rehabilitate the trade of Hong Kong? Will he also say why it was that for about nine months the Board of Trade did not know that the West German Government were operating no embargo on exporting iron and steel goods to China, and how recently it was that they discovered this fact, and why it is they are still complacent about the export of steel products from Germany to China?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put all those questions down.

12. Mr. Hamilton

asked the President of the Board of Trade the total value of the exports of machine tools, optical and precision instruments and rolling-mill products to China in the first quarter of 1953; and what proposals he has for the relaxation of the ban on the export of any of these products in the near future.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

Exports to China in the first quarter of 1953 of machine tools, optical and precision instruments, and rolling mill products were valued at £509, £8,967 and £2,703, respectively. They were goods of non-strategic types. On the second part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Sir W. Fletcher) on 9th November.

Mr. Hamilton

Can the Minister explain how or why in the same period in the first quarter of 1953 German exports of exactly similar products were in the region of £4 million, as compared with a total export figure for Germany last year of £6½ million, and why is it that Germany is allowed to capture these markets while at the same time our Government have been denying these markets to our own manufacturers?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Whatever the reason, there is no difference as between Germany and this country with regard to the imposition of strategic controls.

Mr. Erroll

Will the Minister nevertheless go carefully into the statements made by the hon. Gentleman because, if true, they are very serious indeed?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Yes, Sir.

21 and 22. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) what steps he is taking to increase the export of agricultural machinery to China;

(2) what steps he is taking to increase the export of cycles and motor-cycles to China.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

The export to China of motor-cycles and of most types of agricultural tractor is at present prohibited because of their possible military value. As regards all other agricultural machinery and bicycles there is no such prohibition, and I wish to encourage exports in every possible way; but, as the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) was informed in reply to his Question on 27th October, there are no steps which Her Majesty's Government consider they can usefully take at present to expand such exports in view of the trade policy of the Government of China.

Mr. Hughes

Is the Minister aware that he has lifted the ban on small motor cars going to China, and can he explain exactly why a small motor car is non-strategic and a motor cycle is a strategic export?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I do not think that it would be useful if I started to debate that in Questions and answers.

Mr. de Freitas

Has the right hon. Gentleman any more information about the volume of trade going from the United States to China through Japan in goods that we have banned as being strategic?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I will certainly give the hon. Member any information which he cares to ask for about that if he puts down a Question, but there is no evidence whatever that large quantities of American motor cars keep appearing in Peking.

23. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the President of the Board of Trade his estimate of the number of tractors that are to be exported to China during the next three months.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

The export to China of most types of tractor is not permitted as they can readily be put to military use. Small garden tractors may be exported, but I have no information that any orders for such tractors are being placed.

Mr. Hughes

Will the right hon. Gentleman now explain why a small motor car is not of strategic value but a small tractor is?

Mr. Thorneycroft

A small garden tractor happily is not.

Mr. Hamilton

Do not these Questions and supplementary questions which the Government fail to answer satisfactorily reveal the ridiculous situation in which we find ourselves?

Mr. S. Silverman

Could the right hon. Gentleman explain to those of us who are not conversant with these things exactly what is a garden tractor and where in China it would be used?

Mr. Thorneycroft

It would be used particularly in gardens.

26. Mr. Osborne

asked the President of the Board of Trade the latest figures for United Kingdom-China trade, both direct and indirect; and how they compare with our pre-war trade.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

Since the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the Official Report.

Mr. Osborne

Since I assume that the present figures are very much lower than the pre-war figures, may I ask my right hon. Friend if he will consult with the American Government as to whether the ban on strategic goods can be reduced, so that we can recapture our trade with the Far East in view of the fact that the export trade is more important to us relatively than to America?

Mr. Thorneycroft

The figures are slightly lower but, on the wider question, I refer my hon. Friend to the detailed answer which was given previously.

The following are the figures:

I regret that figures of our indirect trade with China are not available, but the following figures show the direct visible trade between this country and China in 1938 and from 1950 up to date: —

£ Million
Imports from China Exports to China
1938 6.4 4.1
1950 10.3 3.6
1951 7.7 2.7
1952 3.0 4.6
1953* 9.4 6.2
*Annual rate for the 10 months January to October inclusive.