HC Deb 21 October 1954 vol 531 cc1358-9
8. Mr. Osborne

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that the imports of knitted gloves from Hong Kong at prices considerably below their cost of production in this country is continuing to cause anxiety to British manufacturers; and if he will make a statement on the position.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

This problem has been carefully examined in consultation with the National Hosiery Manufacturers' Federation, since the full discussion on the Adjournment debate initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) on 8th April. These products are free of import duty, under the Import Duties Act and the Ottawa Agreement, and it is not the policy of Her Majesty's Government to restrict imports from the Colonies by imposing quantitative restrictions.

Mr. Osborne

But is my right hon. Friend aware that since that Adjournment debate these imports from Hong Kong have increased tremendously? Will he please have the matter looked into again to see whether Japanese goods are not coming through Hong Kong and getting the benefit of Imperial Preference?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I should certainly take any action possible to see that Japanese goods are not getting the benefit of Imperial Preference. I can assure my hon. Friend that we are not oblivious to the difficulties in this position and that the Minister of State is to discuss this, among other problems, with the National Association of Glove Manufacturers in the near future.

Mr. P. Morris

Does not the President agree that a very large glove industry in Hong Kong is owned by British manufacturers and that it is wrong to assume that they are all Japanese goods?

Mr. Osborne

I did not say all.

Mr. Thorneycroft

There is no question of Japanese goods getting Imperial Preference. This is Hong Kong manufacture, and I have no doubt that some are manufactured by British-owned firms in that Colony.

Mr. Peyton

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the very disastrous increase in imports? For instance, in the case of woollen gloves the volume imported in August increased 50 times as compared with January? Is he further aware that the home industry has no chance whatever of competing in these goods in price? Would he please give urgent consideration to the only possible solution, namely, a quota restriction?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I am sympathetic with the points which my hon. Friend has very properly put and which he elaborated in the Adjournment debate, but he should remember that the free entry of Commonwealth goods has been a tradition in this country for some time. In fact, the balance of trade in Hong Kong is very heavily in our favour.