HC Deb 10 April 1956 vol 551 cc9-10
12. Miss Burton

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will amplify Command Paper No. 9707 by publishing the text of correspondence with the Danish Government in relation to the proposal to impose a 10 per cent. tariff on bacon imports.

The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. A. R. W. Low)

Command Paper 9707 contains the Agreed Minute of the discussions on arrangements relating to the import of Danish bacon and requires no amplification. It would be contrary to normal practice to publish correspondence exchanged in the course of confidential negotiations.

Miss Burton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Prime Minister of Denmark made it plain that Denmark could not sign a formal agreement and accept the principle of a tariff; at the same time, they had no means of preventing Britain from applying it? In view of that statement by the Danish Prime Minister, would the right hon. Gentleman explain his statement to the House that there had been a definite agreement on this matter?

Mr. Low

The question whether a tariff would or would not be put on was not the subject of the negotiations, which were held to consider the necessary steps to be taken after a tariff had been put on. There was a satisfactory settlement, and it is a good thing that, as a result of the negotiations, the good trading relations between Britain and Denmark have been maintained. The Prime Minister of Denmark has acknowledged that as well.

Mr. Baldwin

Would my right hon. Friend agree that the British bacon producer is entitled to tariff protection just as much as the manufacturers of motor cars in Coventry?

Mr. Speaker

That is going beyond the Question.

Miss Burton

May I ask the Minister of State if he will answer the question which I put to him? Why did he tell the House that there had been a definite agreement and that we did not impose settlements on our friends, when such was not the case?

Mr. Low

There was a definite agreement, which was announced to the House on that occasion. It is set out in the Command Paper referred to, and if the hon. Lady would be good enough to read my statement again in its context she will see that I made it quite clear that there was no agreement by the Danes to accept our tariff. There was not.

Mr. Bottomley

Would the Minister of State accept the view that it was an imposition on our friends in Denmark, with whom we have had such friendly relations in trade matters, and that it is most unfortunate that we should hamper them now?

Mr. Low

I will not accept that it was wrong to do what we did about the tariff. There was a satisfactory conclusion on the matters which were discussed during the negotiations.