HC Deb 03 March 1953 vol 512 cc176-80
22. Mr. Nabarro

asked the President of the Board of Trade what relaxation has now taken place in regard to the restrictions on imports of British manufactured goods into Australia; to what extent the pre-February, 1952, Australian imports position has been restored; and whether he will make a statement having special reference to the United Kingdom motor vehicles and carpet industries which have suffered most severely as a result of Australian import restrictions.

Mr. Mackeson

The relaxations just announced are intended, I understand, to add £40 million sterling a year to Australia's imports from non-dollar countries, excluding Japan, but it is not possible to assess their precise effect on United Kingdom exports. In the six months before March, 1952, when the import restrictions were imposed, Australia imported at the very high annual rate of £805 million sterling from these countries. In the six months July to December, 1952, Australia imported at an annual rate of £312 million from the same countries. Carpets and assembled motor vehicles are included in the category of goods for which the quota is to be increased from 20 per cent. of 1950–51 values to 30 per cent. from 1st April.

Mr. Nabarro

Cannot my hon. Friend be a little more forthcoming about the carpet industry? Is it not a fact that 48 per cent. of all the carpet exports from this country went to Australia in 1951? Can he say what the effect of the recent £40 million increase is going to be on the carpet industry's exports?

Mr. Mackeson

The trouble is that these relaxations cover a very large number of countries and a very large number of industries, and it is really impossible to give an estimate of what their effects will be on one industry.

Mrs. Castle

Is it not a fact that the bulk of these increased imports as a result of this relaxation will be of capital goods and raw materials, and that the advantage to the whole of the textile industry of Britain will only be to the tune of £2 million? Is it not a demonstration of the failure of the Government to use the opportunity presented by the Commonwealth Conference for an expansion of Commonwealth trade?

Mr. Mackeson

As I have tried to explain before, this is a matter for the Australian Government, who naturally, for balance of payments reasons, must handle their own affairs. I cannot give an estimate of what the advantage will be in the case of a particular industry.

Brigadier Peto

Is my hon. Friend aware that the fabric glove industry is equally hard hit by these import duties? Is it not time that he looked into the question from a much wider angle than he has done so far?

Mr. Mackeson

If my hon. and gallant Friend will look at the communiqué issued after the Commonwealth Conference, he will find that our Australian friends committed themselves very fully to look after our interests as far as they could.

Mr. Bottomley

Have not Her Majesty's Government taken some steps since the Commonwealth Conference to find out from Australia what quotas there are and the amounts for each particular item? We really should have some information.

Mr. Mackeson

Under category B, importers are allowed to switch from one commodity to another, so the Australians have given a certain amount of flexibility to importers in this matter.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Hale.

Mr. D. Brook

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. When you called my right hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Bottomley) I was on my feet.

Mr. Speaker

I allow only a certain amount of time for each Question, but I should have called the hon. Member if he had not been blanketed by his own Front Bench.

26. Air Commodore Harvey

asked the President of the Board of Trade what effect the increased import quotas to Australia will have on British textiles.

Mr. Mackeson

I hope that the partial relaxation in the Australian restrictions will have a beneficial effect on our exports. Apart from yarns, textile goods fall mainly under category B of the Australian import restrictions. Licences in respect of this category can be used to import from any of a number of countries any of the goods falling within category B, and it is, therefore, not possible to make any reliable estimate of the likely increase in United Kingdom exports of textiles.

Air Commodore Harvey

While thanking my hon. Friend for that answer, may I be allowed to tell him that I am not very much wiser? Will he bear in mind that orders for the textile industry as a result of the Coronation are already beginning to fall off? Will he communicate with our Australian friends to see what can be done for this industry which, although it has been built up, has to be kept up?

Mr. Mackeson

Our Australian friends are very well aware of our anxiety in this matter.

Mr. D. Brook

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Australia is drawing considerably more for her exports of raw wool this year than last, and that her financial position should warrant the liberation of imports from this country?

Mr. Mackeson

That is a matter for the Australian Government. They must look after their own economy. We cannot run it from the Floor of this House.

28. Mr. Malcolm MacPherson

asked the President of the Board of Trade what representations he has made, or intends to make, to the Australian Government with regard to the desirability for an increase in Australian imports of cast-iron goods from this country.

Mr. Mackeson

The impact of the Australian restrictions on United Kingdom industries has naturally been discussed very fully with the Commonwealth Government. The recently announced partial relaxation of the Australian restrictions will, I hope, benefit our exports of cast-iron goods.

Mr. MacPherson

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a more exact answer would be helpful in the circumstances? Does he realise that the exports of cast-iron goods to Australia formed a considerable part of the work in my constituency, and that one of the reasons for the anxiety about future employment in the Falkirk area is Australian import restrictions? Will he do what he can to have the level of these exports restored?

Mr. Mackeson

I am well aware of the anxiety of hon. Members in this matter. Cast-iron goods are restricted in different ratios according to different goods. I think I am right in saying that cast-iron exports to Australia will benefit as a result of this concession, but it is impossible to say exactly how much benefit there will be in the case of any particular commodity.

Sir W. Smithers

May I ask the hon. Gentleman to bear in mind that the real answer to all these questions is that if we restrict imports we shall restrict exports? That applies to all countries.

Mr. McGovern

May I remind the hon. Gentleman that the Australians are very anxious also to be allowed to send their exports to this country?

Mr. Mackeson

The hon. Member will recall that the Australians ran into a serious balance of payments difficulty owing to the fall in the price of wool in the world markets.

Mr. Jay

Surely the hon. Gentleman recognises some responsibility on the part of Her Majesty's Government to make representations to the Australian Government on these matters?

Mr. Mackeson

Certainly. We are in constant touch with the Australians, who are well aware of our anxiety in this matter.