HC Deb 20 March 1956 vol 550 cc991-3
33. Mr. Chapman

asked the President of the Board of Trade what negotiations have taken place in the past three years between his Department and State trading organisations in the Soviet bloc and China on the sale of British motor cars; and with what result.

Mr. Low

The Board of Trade always does what it can in trade negotiations to secure quotas for our motor cars, but negotiations with State trading organisations for export business rest with our business men and not with the Government.

Mr. Chapman

Is it not now absolutely clear that we shall not get any trade on a sufficient scale to help the industry unless the Government intervene, because at the other end it is the State trading organisations who want to make agreements? Would it not be a very good thing, particularly in view of the difficulties of the motor industry, if the Board of Trade now intervened in company with the motor manufacturers?

Mr. Low

What we do in our negotiations with these Eastern bloc countries is to negotiate first for quotas for motor cars, buses, commercial vehicles and the like, when we can get quotas, and also to negotiate for an undertaking that no obstacle is placed in the way of the State trading organisation. Then, we leave the rest to our manufacturers. That is the proper thing to do.

37. Mr. Sorensen

asked the President of the Board of Trade to what extent, and in respect of what commodities, trade with China has expanded during the past 12 months; and what further negotiations have taken place in respect of easing the present embargo.

Mr. Low

Imports from China rose from £9 million in 1954 to £12.4 million in 1955. Exports to China rose from £6.8 million in 1954 to £7.9 million in 1955. The principal increases were in imports of raw hair, bristles, hides and skins, tung oil and tea and in exports of wool tops and chemicals. As regards the second part of the Question, I have nothing to add to the answer given yesterday by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to the hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman).

Mr. Sorensen

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the increase in the exports is much less than the increase in the imports? In those circumstances, does he not think reconsideration of the question of the embargo could go some way towards helping our export trade?

Mr. Low

The question of the reconsideration of the embargo was covered in the second part of my answer, and by the Foreign Secretary yesterday. I am satisfied that there is room for expansion of trade even according to the present rules. There was some expansion last year.

Mr. H. Wilson

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the very stringent comments made by leading British business men in Hong Kong, including the chairman of the principal bank there, about the very severe damage being done to Hong Kong as an entrepot centre as the result of these strategic restrictions, and will he consider the effects of the restrictions not only economically but politically?

Mr. Low

The right hon. Gentleman is raising again the second part of the Question. I had hoped that I had explained to the House that that was dealt with yesterday by the Foreign Secretary.