HC Deb 20 January 1953 vol 510 cc16-8
19. Mr. Osborne

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why he has agreed to lend another £20 million to the Argentine when that country is in default on its existing financial commitments: and if he will make a statement.

Mr. R. A. Butler

The renewal of the financial arrangements made in 1951, including the provision for credit facilities, if required by Argentina, up to £20 million, forms part of a general settlement for securing our supplies of meat and for establishing the basis of trade and payments between the U.K. and Argentina during 1953.

Mr. Osborne

Does the answer mean that the Argentine made it a condition that we should lend her another £20 million if we were to get meat supplies at all?

Mr. Butler

I would not like to state it in that spirit. All I can say is that if we were to get a general agreement it was clear that credits—which is the word I prefer to use—available up to this amount were an ingredient of the discussions and formed part of the final agreement.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this agreement has been almost universally condemned in the Press, that he appears to have received no substantial concessions from the Argentine in respect of either the remittance of dividends and interest owing or in respect of exports from this country to the Argentine? Will he please consider making further representations to the Argentine to stimulate exports?

Mr. Butler

The right hon. Gentleman is quite right in part of his Question, we should advance our exports to the Argentine. I would not accept that the situation is as bad as he makes out. In regard to the remittances, it is by no means to be taken that remittances may not be made but, owing to the continuing shortage of foreign currency in the Argentine, it may be difficult to say that they can be made immediately. The right hon. Gentleman would be wrong to imagine that there is a negative attitude on the matter. I believe that this is as good an agreement as the Government could have made in the circumstances, and in due course it will come before the House for its consideration.

Mr. Nabarro

Could my right hon. Friend confirm that as part of this agreement coal, machinery, steel, and £3 million of textiles, mostly cotton piece goods, are to be supplied from Britain as a direct further aid to the difficulties that have occurred in Lancashire in the last 12 months?

Mr. Butler

In general, the intervention of the hon. Gentleman is correct and I thank him for it.

Mrs. Mann

Are we to understand that in addition to the £168 a ton for this butcher's meat, which compares with £128 which the Labour Government were attacked for giving, we have to butter and sweeten the Argentine with this further loan of £20 million, and is it not a disgraceful admission on the part of the right hon. Gentleman that he could not get a better agreement than that?

Mr. Butler

As I said previously—and I think it would be wise to accept what I have said—this will be put before the House under a Supplementary Estimate and will no doubt be discussed. I think it would be better to discuss these matters on that occasion, but I would not accept the interpretation of the hon. Lady. When credits were made available before, they were not drawn upon, and therefore it would be wrong for the House to assume that this is a loan which may be totally taken up.

21. Mr. Osborne

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer at what prices the United Kingdom has agreed to purchase meat from the Argentine under the agreement recently signed; what prices the Argentine Government have agreed to pay for coal, steel and petroleum; what are the freight charges each way; and how these compare with pre-war prices.

Mr. R. A. Butler

As the answer is rather long, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Osborne

While waiting for those figures, may I ask the Chancellor if it is a fact that we have had to pay high prices for the Argentine meat merely because that country has paid still higher prices for the coal and steel and tinplate which we are sending to her? Is it not a fact also that the rise in the price we are paying for that meat is even smaller than the rise in price which the Argentine is having to pay for our goods?

Mr. Butler

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will study the detailed figures in the somewhat lengthy report which I will circulate?

Following is the answer:

The prices (f.o.b.) at which the United Kingdom will purchase the principal types of meat from the Argentine under the Agreement signed on 31st December are as follows:

£ s.
For Chiller quality "A" bee shipped frozen 161 0
For Frozen "B" beef shipped frozen 151 0
For frozen lamb 148 0
For pork cuts 262 10

(If any Chiller quality "A" beef is shipped chilled, the price is to be £181 per ton.)

It is not possible to give a comparable range of pre-war prices for Argentine meat, when it was sold here on consignment, but the 1938–39 price f.o.b. for frozen beef is estimated to have ben about £36 2s a ton, and for frozen lamb £52 5s. a ton.

On average the freight charges for frozen meat from Argentina are at present about £14 12s. per ton and the pre-war rates were about £5 8s. 7d. per ton.

Steel other than tinplate is not included in the Agreement. As to petroleum and coal, the price will be determined by ordinary commercial negotiations between the suppliers and the Argentine importers.