HC Deb 22 October 1953 vol 518 cc2137-9
27. Captain Duncan

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he has taken to protect the horticultural industry in the future as a result of his attendance at the meeting of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade Powers.

37. Brigadier Medlicott

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that the conditions imposed on this country by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade are not consistent with the Government's promise to give British horticulturists the same assured markets and prices as are given to farmers under the Agriculture Act, 1947; and if he will take steps to revise the agreement to achieve this purpose.

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Peter Thorneycroft)

The assurance given in 1947 by the then Government was that means other than guaranteed prices and assured markets would be devised to provide the necessary measure of stability for horticulture.

It has been made clear on many occasions that in cases where it is desirable to give a United Kingdom industry like the horticultural industry protection against foreign competition, the appropriate way of giving protection, in the Government's view, would be by a tariff. There is nothing in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade which prevents us from imposing or increasing a tariff (except in those particular cases where we have bound ourselves not to do so).

The question which causes difficulty is whether, because of the obligation under the General Agreement to create no new preferences, we must, in all future cases where tariffs are imposed or raised against foreign goods, impose a corresponding duty on Commonwealth goods to which we give duty-free entry.

The contracting parties to the General Agreement are being asked to agree to a waiver which would allow us in such circumstances and subject to certain conditions to refrain from imposing a duty on Commonwealth goods on which no United Kingdom import duties now exist.

Captain Duncan

While the contracting parties are thinking about the answers which they are to give, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he will give an assurance to the growers of horticultural produce in this country for next year's crop that, if nothing by way of tariffs is given, the quota arrangements will be continued along the same lines as at present?

Mr. Thorneycroft

The negotiations upon which we are engaged in Geneva are now reaching their final stages and a vote will be taken on the waiver this week. In the circumstances, I would ask the House not to press me to enlarge upon the subject.

Mr. Paton

When the right hon. Gentleman is giving further consideration to this matter, will he keep constantly before him the need to protect the interests of the consumers as well as the growers by preventing a further rise in prices?

Mr. Thorneycroft

In the Government's view it is in the interests of producer and consumer alike that protection should be given by tariffs in these cases rather than by quotas.

Lieut.-Colonel Schofield

Whatever steps may be taken about horticulture, does my right hon. Friend not agree that it is equally important to resist the admission of Japan into G.A.T.T. on the grounds that if there had been any question of the admission of Japan when this organisation was being formed it is more than likely that there would not have been any G.A.T.T.? Will my right hon. Friend continue to resist that country's admission?

Mr. Thorneycroft

That is another question.