HC Deb 05 June 1956 vol 553 cc870-2
38. Mr. Fisher

asked the President of the Board of Trade why large quantities of Japanese grey cloth are allowed duty-free into this country provided that, after processing here, they are re-exported as British.

Mr. Low

Japanese grey cloth within an annual quota of £3 million is imported into the United Kingdom for finishing and re-export to colonial and other markets. In addition, some Japanese grey cloth, the import of which has been licensed by Colonial Governments, is also imported into the United Kingdom for finishing and re-export. These imports give work to the finishing industry which would go to other countries if the imports were not allowed. Duty-free entry is afforded, except for rayon grey cloth, under regulations issued in accordance with Section 40 of the Customs and Excise Act, 1952, which continued powers originally given in 1932.

Mr. Fisher

Might I put three very short questions to my right hon. Friend arising out of his Answer? Are not these Japanese imports, to say the least, somewhat prejudicial to the British textile industry; secondly, why should we make things so easy for Japan, who did not make things particularly easy for us during the last war; and, thirdly, why should we not take steps to safeguard our textile industry such as other countries, notably the United States, take to safeguard theirs?

Mr. Low

These imports are not prejudicial to the interests of the Lancashire textile industry as a whole. They help the finishing industry. Our agreement with Japan does not necessarily make things easy for Japan. It is a balanced agreement and, in return for quotas which we grant, we get valuable quotas in Japan. Our trade relations with Japan are regulated by the Anglo-Japanese Trade and Payments Agreement, and the trade quotas are made under it, and I think they are satisfactory to British trade as a whole.

Mrs. Castle

Has the Minister's attention been drawn to Mr. Cyril Lord's proposal that Japanese cloth should be allowed duty-free into this country only on condition that it is re-exported to Commonwealth markets? He feels that this would give some protection to the Lancashire industry. Could the Minister state the Government's attitude to that proposal?

Mr. Low

I have seen the various things which Mr. Cyril Lord has sent round to all of us. I understood that his proposal about Japanese imports was that they should not be allowed even for re-export, but on that I think he is wrong and that he does not represent the view of the Lancashire industry as a whole.