HC Deb 11 April 1956 vol 551 cc201-3
33. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will now make a statement on the consultations that have taken place about the embargo on trade with China; what further consultations or negotiations are to take place; and what action is intended.

37. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what further attempts he has made to secure a discussion on the ban on export of commercial vehicles to China in the China Committee of the Paris Consultative Group; and when he expects to announce a final decision on this matter.

38. Mr. Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if a date has now been fixed for the discussion of controls on trade with China by the China Committee of the Paris Consultative Group and if he will use this opportunity to initiate proposals for the relaxation of the embargo.

40. Mr. Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will press for the removal of water pumps and electrical engines from the list of goods which are at present banned from export from Britain to China.

Mr. Nutting

Consultations are proceeding and it is hoped that the China Committee will shortly be convened to discuss this subject.

Mr. Chapman

While we are very glad to see the announcement in this morning's Press that some tractors are now to be exported to China, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us roughly how many are involved, what are the prospects of orders following on these first sample orders, and what are the prospects now for a similar relaxation for commercial vehicles?

Mr. Nutting

As to the export of tractors, this was licensed in accordance with the approved China Committee exemptions procedure, and members of the China Committee were duly notified. The numbers involved, I think, are about sixty tractors. As to other exemptions and relaxations, that matter must await—and I ask the hon. Member to bide his time in patience and await—the further conclusions of the China Committee when it meets to conduct a general review of the strategic list.

Mr. Swingler

Does the announcement in today's Press of this relaxation in the case of tractors herald further proposals being made by Her Majesty's Government for relaxation in other respects?

Mr. Nutting

I would prefer not to add to the Answer which I have given to the Question, and, in particular, to the answer which I have just given to the supplementary asked by the hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman).

Mr. Allaun

Does not the Minister think that the embargo on such exports as water pumps and electric motors demonstrates the damage being done to British trade by the present list—its harmfulness to friendly relationships and, indeed, its utter stupidity?

Mr. Nutting

I do not agree that these lists were stupidly or unnecessarily restricted. As to the water pumps to which the hon. Member refers, certain water pumps are not on the control list and certain others are. Those that are on the control list are for use—or can be of use—in atomic energy establishments, and I feel that the House would not wish us to assist in that kind of export of important strategic material to China or to the Soviet bloc.

Mr. Shinwell

What is the use, at this stage, of retaining this embargo? Do the Government expect a resumption of hostilities in the Far East? Are they not aware that we cannot afford to lose trade? In fact, many of our so-called Allies are engaged in such trade with China. Why are we lagging behind? Why are not the Government a little more forthcoming in this matter?

Mr. Nutting

I am well aware of the considerations in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman and in the mind of the House in this matter. We are consulting with our Allies on this point—they are fully aware of our point of view—and I hope that some further satisfaction and, possibly, relaxation of the list will emerge from the review to be conducted by the China Committee.

Mr. Dudley Williams

Will the Minister bear in mind that there is not much point in increasing our exports to China when the only thing which we are likely to get in exchange is a load of ginger?

34. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps are being taken to enable British concerns to resume normal trading and commercial relations with China and to permit the resumption of the pre-war arrangements for the exchange of engineering students.

Mr. Nutting

All normal facilities are given to British concerns who wish to develop trade with China in non-strategic goods. Her Majesty's Government have given their support to the Sino-British Trade Committee in their efforts to promote such commercial exchanges.

The answer to the second part of the Question is, "None, Sir."

Mr. Ellis Smith

Does the Minister not agree that it is in days of adversity that we learn who are our best friends; that China is now in need of economic co-operation, and that some of us who were engaged on this type of work for years prior to the war know that managements desire to resume normal trading relations—and is not this the time to do it? With regard to the exchange of students, some of us have been responsible for training hundreds of students. The present Prime Minister of China is eager that this practice should be resumed. Would it not be a good thing if we took the initiative by agreeing to a resumption?

Mr. Nutting

As I think the hon. Gentleman is aware—as he studies these matters very closely—trade in non-strategic goods between this country and China is on the increase, and I feel sure that he will join with me in welcoming that. As to students coming to this country, Her Majesty's Government would be prepared to examine each application on its merits, but as I am sure the hon. Member will appreciate there are considerations which must be borne in mind, including security.