HC Deb 07 February 1957 vol 564 cc587-8
14. Mr. Gordon Walker

asked the President of the Board of Trade what reply he has given to the protest by the Rhodesian Tobacco Board against his forecast that the United Kingdom will further reduce its demand for Rhodesian tobacco in 1959.

Sir D. Eccles

A forecast was made by the leading United Kingdom tobacco manufacturers. The protest by the Rhodesian Tobacco Marketing Board was accordingly addressed to them and not to me.

Mr. Gordon Walker

Would not the Minister agree that it really is essential to increase the consumption of Commonwealth tobacco in this country as one means of saving dollars?

Sir D. Eccles

I understand that pretty well all the tobacco of good quality from Rhodesia is now bought.

Mr. Langford-Holt

Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the difficulties is the fear of the tobacco companies that if they were to increase the percentage of Commonwealth tobacco their sales might suffer? Would he, therefore, consider inviting the heads of the cigarette manufacturing industry to meet him, with a view to getting a uniform increase in the percentage of Commonwealth tobacco in cigarettes?

Sir D. Eccles

I am always willing to see the manufacturers on any subject.

Mr. Beswick

Is the President also aware that at one time there was a very useful ad valorem duty which gave some protection to the Commonwealth product, but that, since the increase in domestic taxation, that duty has been absolutely swamped? Will he see what else he can do to restore the protection which this Commonwealth product formerly had?

Sir D. Eccles

Protection is given, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman can see, by another method. It is given by the quota method.

Mr. Jay

But will not the right hon. Gentleman take some initiative himself in regard to this?

Sir D. Eccles

I am ready to look at this matter but, as I understand it, the facts are as stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Langford-Holt)—that a change in the proportion of American tobacco might have very serious effects upon the cigarette industry.