§ 4. Mr. Swingler
asked the President of the Board of Trade when he expects to be in a position to make a statement on the negotiations for a major relaxation of strategic controls on East-West trade.
19. Mr. Wilson
asked the President of the Board of Trade when he expects to make a statement about the changes to be made in the strategic controls on exports to Eastern Europe following the meetings of the Consultative Committee in Paris.
§ The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. Heathcoat Amory)
Not yet, Sir.
§ Mr. Swingler
As the three months' period in which we were promised a statement is now up, might the House now be informed what special obstacles there are to getting agreement about this matter? Will the Minister now declare what his policy is?
These discussions are taking rather longer than we had hoped when we started, and no one is sorrier about that than we are. I assure the hon. Gentleman that any delay is certainly not due to inertia or lack of energy on the part of Her Majesty's Government.
Since Question No. 19 was put down before it was known that the President of the Board of Trade was going to America, will the Minister of State communicate with his right hon. Friend and say—and I am sure that he will be speaking for both sides of this House—that there is a widespread view in this country that these discussions should now be confined to restricting genuine munitions and items closely connected with munitions and should not be related, as the Americans want to relate them, to imposing an economic stranglehold on the Soviet Union?
I think that the right hon. Gentleman knows the policy of the Government, and that we are endeavouring to bring about a substantial shortening of the list.
I should be glad, if the hon. Gentleman knows of such cases, if he would let me know. Any representations that have been made to us have been looked into, with the result, as I said the other day in the House, that we had no evidence that that was happening.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I have been myself informed by the Russian authorities that we are virtually the only country that is honouring this list and that it is perfectly simple to get these goods from other countries? Is he aware that the Soviet Minister for Foreign Trade has said in the last few days—he actually said it to myself—that orders have been placed or arrangements had been made for buying at the official rates of exchange £100 million of goods from this country, if the licences were forthcoming?
I was not aware of either of those points that the right hon. Gentleman has made, but again, if he has any evidence, I should be glad if he would pass it on.
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is speaking of controls on trade with Eastern Europe or with China—
On China the list of prohibited goods has been published. I am afraid I have not all the details.
§ Mr. Bottomley
Can the Minister assure the House that the President of the Board of Trade, in his mission to the United States, is not to by-pass the work of the Consultative Committee in Paris?