HC Deb 22 March 1956 vol 550 cc1452-4
24. Mr. Nabarro

asked the President of the Board of Trade what effect upon exports from the United Kingdom has been produced by recent Australian import restrictions, notably of British-manufactured carpets and motor cars; and, in view of short-time working in these industries, what representations he is making to the Australian authorities against further such import restrictions.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

As Australian import licences are valid for twelve months, the effect of the restrictions imposed last October is not yet apparent. I would not think it right to try to stop the Australians from taking the steps they consider necessary to protect their overseas reserves, but I am glad to note that the economic measures which the Australian Prime Minister announced last week do not include further import restrictions.

Mr. Nabarro

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that in the Kidderminster area one carpet worker in five is now on short time, partly due to pre-Budget anticipation regarding Purchase Tax, partly due to the credit squeeze and very largely due to these import restrictions? Will he, therefore, have special regard to the prospect of discussing this matter further with the Australian Government, both in respect of motor cars and carpets?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I will certainly bear my hon. Friend's remarks in mind, and I am glad to note that in their recent announcements the Australian Government went away from import restrictions and relied upon other methods of import control.

Mr. Stokes

Has the President of the Board of Trade really studied this matter? If he examines it, will he not find that the ridiculous position into which we have got the Australians arises entirely from the idiotic idea that a developing country can have a favourable balance of trade? So long as we go on with this ridiculous antediluvian idea which the Treasury has got sunk in its guts somewhere, we shall never get Australia developing to the extent that we require. Will the right hon. Gentleman look into that?

Mr. Thorneycroft

While I appreciate the vigour with which the right hon. Gentleman expresses his views, it is still necessary for the Australian Government, like other Governments, to live within their income.

Mr. Shinwell

Has the right hon. Gentleman observed that only a few minutes ago the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) told the House, in relation to short time and unemployment in the motor car industry in the Midlands, that there are 45,000 vacancies? Will the Minister take note of those vacancies when the hon. Member raises questions about short time in Kidderminster?

Mr. Baldwin

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the import restrictions imposed by the Australian Government are due entirely to the trade gap? Does he not think that the way to encourage Australia is to buy more of our fruit there and less in the Argentine?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Australia is a very great market for British manufacturers, and continues to be so. I do not think we should start to develop some entirely new form of barter deal between this country and the Commonwealth.