HC Deb 11 June 1953 vol 516 cc440-2
34. Mr. Beswick

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions he has had with representatives of other Commonwealth countries about further measures to be taken to restore the economic stability and to quicken the economic development of the Commonwealth as a whole; and if he will make a statement.

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. R. Mandling)

While the conference covered many and varied subjects my right hon. Friend had very useful discussions on economic matters, covering both the longer term and immediate future. The Prime Ministers endorsed the objectives agreed upon by the Economic Conference of last December. Meanwhile, the need for developing the resources of the Commonwealth countries and for removing restrictions on trade especially within the Commonwealth and the sterling area were particularly stressed, as is indicated in the communiqué approved by the conference.

Mr. Beswick

As the Economic Secretary appreciates the enormous potential political influence of the Commonwealth, of which we had a glimpse in the last few weeks, is it not absolutely essential to back it up by solid progress in the economic field? Can he tell us whether we are to have a more detailed statement about the steps proposed to be taken?

Mr. Maudling

I entirely endorse the hon. Member's view about the importance of the development of the resources of the Commonwealth, but I do not think that my right hon. Friend has anything more to add to the communiqué which has already been issued.

Mr. Stokes

Can the Economic Secretary say whether it was pointed out to the Commonwealth Ministers, for example, to Australia, what an advantage it would be to build up in our favour sterling balances in Australia for the purpose of increasing capital equipment over there as compared with the absurdity of building up sterling balances in this country in time of war? Is not peacetime much more important than wartime?

Mr. Maudling

All possible matters designed to stimulate trade between this country and Australia were discussed.

Mr. Beresford Craddock

Can my hon. Friend say whether there were any further discussions about the restrictive clauses in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade at the recent conference, and if so, with what results?

Mr. Ellis Smith

Ask the Americans.

Mr. Maudling

As I say, the discussions covered economic matters generally affecting the Commonwealth. I have nothing to add of a more detailed character on that point.

Mr. Bottomley

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the Strasbourg Plan, prepared by the Council of Europe, was considered by the Prime Ministers' Conference?

Mr. Maudling

I cannot make a detailed statement on anything that was discussed, but certainly everything relating to the matters referred to in the communiqué was considered.