§ 10. Mr. N. Macpherson
asked the President of the Board of Trade the total value of knitwear imports from Hong Kong for the first five months of 1952, 1953 and 1954, respectively.
Figures for the first five months of this year are not yet available. Recorded imports of knitwear in the first four months of 1952, 1953 and 1954 were, respectively, £37,500, £35,000 and £61,300.
§ Mr. Macpherson
Is the Minister aware of the concern that is felt by both the employers' and the employees' organisations in this matter? Is he further aware that goods are being offered to this country at prices which scarcely cover the cost of the raw materials contained in them? Are any steps contemplated in this matter?
I would remind my hon. Friend that Hong Kong is a British Colony in the sterling area and it would be quite contrary to the Government's policy to attempt to impose either quota restrictions or a tariff scheme against Hong Kong products. 1 am aware of the concern, but the proportion of imports of knitwear from Hong Kong is at present only about 7 per cent. of the total imports of knitwear into this country. We are keeping the question under consideration, but I cannot hold out any hopes to my hon. Friend that there is any positive action we can take.
§ 11. Mr. N. Macpherson
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the concern felt at the rapid increase in the volume of imports of rubber footwear; and what steps he will take in the matter.
I am aware that United Kingdom manufacturers of rubber footwear are concerned about imports of these goods. Most of these imports come from Hong Kong and it would be contrary to the policy of Her Majesty's Government to impose quotas or duties on imports from Hong Kong or any other colonial territory.
§ Mr. Macpherson
Will the Minister investigate this matter with the Hong Kong Government to see whether the competition at present is entirely fair and, if it is not fair, will he go further into the matter to see whether action cannot be taken along the lines of that which was taken before the war?
If my hon. Friend has any information in support of his suggestion that this competition may not be fair, I shall be very glad if he will let me have it. I have no such information at present. I would remind him that at present the imports of footwear from Hong Kong are not up to their pre-war level.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Will the Minister not take steps to verify whether or not there are sweated conditions in Hong Kong?
We are in very close touch with the Colony on this question and the information and advice which we have at present is that there is nothing which could be referred to as sweated conditions.