HC Deb 18 March 1953 vol 513 cc30-2
49. Mr. Donnelly

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement regarding the Anglo-American agreement to prevent the use of British ships for the carrying of goods to China and the use by ships of the Soviet bloc of British ports in carrying out the same errand.

Mr. Eden

I referred to these measures in my statement yesterday on the Washington talks. There are two ways in which our controls are being strengthened.

In the first place, since British ships cannot carry strategic materials to China from British ports, it is anomalous for them to be able to do so from other ports. Existing powers under Defence Regulation 46 are therefore to be used so as to provide that voyages of United Kingdom and colonial ships to China require a licence which will preclude the carriage to China of listed strategic goods from any source. The necessary order, Control of Trade by Sea (China and North Korea) Order, was laid before Parliament on 16th March by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport.

Secondly, arrangements are being worked out with the authorities in the British territories concerned to prevent ships engaged in the carriage of strategic cargoes to China from being bunkered in ports under British control.

Mr. Donnelly

Is it not a fact that the previous embargo meant that only a very small quantity of goods were likely to be involved by this new policy, and is the right hon. Gentleman aware, therefore, that the general impression is given that this is a political demonstration which may be leading to a sliding into a naval blockade against China? Can the right hon. Gentleman give a firm assurance that no intention of that kind whatever is intended, and that we will not indulge in any kind of naval blockade?

Mr. Eden

Until the hon. Gentleman suggested it, I had not seen any suggestion that we were sliding into any sort of naval blockade. I made it quite clear in my public statement in the United States, a copy of which I will send to the hon. Gentleman and I hope he will read it, that this is not a new policy. It is strictly a fulfilment of a policy which we are obliged to carry out by the United Nations Resolution of May, 1951, which the late Government agreed to.

Captain Duncan

Could my right hon. Friend give us any rough idea of the size of the trade?

Mr. Eden

I do not consider it is at all large, but it is a fact that in many American minds it bulks very large, and I think it is a good thing that we should make it absolutely plain that, having agreed to these regulations, we shall make them effective.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm our understanding of what he has just said, that the new action now taken is in pursuance of a United Nations' Resolution and not beyond the action there proposed?

Mr. S. O. Davies

It is not.

Mr. Eden

It is to make that Resolution effective. For the sake of argument, I might say it was 94 per cent. effective before, and we hope to make it 99 per cent. or 100 per cent. effective now.

Mr. McGovern

What attitude will be adopted by this country towards the Polish ships that are moving rubber from Ceylon? I understand that these Polish ships are being loaded in Ceylon, and under this agreement what is the attitude we are to adopt about the passage of that rubber from Ceylon to China?

Mr. Eden

I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would put down special cases of that kind. As a general principle, we are not prepared to bunker at British ports ships which are carrying strategic materials to China.