HC Deb 06 July 1954 vol 529 cc1955-6
24. Mr. Nabarro

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the policy of Her Majesty's Government in increasing tariffs in December, 1953, and May, 1954, upon fruit and other horticultural products is being negatived by increases in export subsidies by the foreign countries of origin of horticultural products; and what further action he is now taking to protect the home horticultural producer.

Mr. Amory

As I told my hon. Friend on 29th June, we are aware that there are elements of export subsidy in a number of horticultural imports into this country. I have received no evidence, however, that the increased tariffs recently introduced for certain horticultural produce have been negatived by increased export subsidies in foreign supplying countries. If my hon. Friend has any particular case in mind, perhaps he will let me know.

Mr. Nabarro

Is it not a fact that the export subsidies to which my right hon. Friend referred are, in themselves, a contravention of G.A.T.T. and, as the United Kingdom is a contributor to G.A.T.T., what action does my right hon. Friend propose to take to see that the other contributors abide by the terms of that agreement?—unless he is prepared to scrap the agreement altogether, which many of us believe ought to be done.

Mr. Amory

I did say that it is an over-simplification to assert that all export subsidies are against the provisions of G.A.T.T. It depends on the particular export subsidy. I have said that the Government do not like export subsidies and, when G.A.T.T. comes up for review, no doubt that will be one of the questions which will be considered.

Mr. H. Wilson

Whether or not the Government like these subsidies, is not the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) right when he says that if export subsidies are not applied equally to home consumption in these countries they are a direct contravention of G.A.T.T.? In those circumstances, without waiting for a review of G.A.T.T., will not the right hon. Gentleman enter into discussions with those countries in order to find out whether they are acting in breach of the Agreement?

Mr. Amory

These G.A.T.T. matters are extremely complicated, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, but where we have a clear case of a provision of G.A.T.T. not being adhered to we consider what steps we can usefully take.

Mr. Beresford Craddock

Is it not a fact that we are unable to take any effective measures against this sort of thing so long as the restrictive clauses in G.A.T.T. continue to operate?

Mrs. Mann

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the price of fruit and vegetables this year is higher than ever and is becoming absolutely prohibitive to the housewife? Will he say when all this plotting is going to cease, and when some help is going to be extended to the housewife?

Mr. Amory

That question falls outside the scope of the Question on the Order Paper.