HC Deb 20 May 1957 vol 570 cc844-7
21. Mr. Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the failure of the China Committee of the Consultative Group to reach agreement, he will now reduce the China embargo list to the level of that applying to the Soviet bloc.

22. Mr. Rankin

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the stalemate in the China Committee of the Consultative Group, Her Majesty's Government will now exercise their right to act in the matter of China trade contracts according to the economic interests of this country.

Commander Noble

A meeting of the China Committee of the Consultative Group took place last Friday in Paris. Agreement was not reached, Her Majesty's Government are now considering what action they should take, and a further meeting of the Committee is being held this week.

Mr. Lewis

But Her Majesty's Government are always considering it. Is it not time that they did something, because this Committee will obviously not reach agreement? Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman explain why he told my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) last Thursday that the Government would not agree to make a statement in the House before reaching any agreement? Will he reconsider that and promise that he will make a statement before agreeing to anything which the American Government may put forward?

Commander Noble

I realise that hon. Members feel strongly on this subject. Her Majesty's Government, of course, realise that this is a problem which cannot go unresolved, but it is right that we should attend this meeting this week, and if there is no agreement, we will, of course, have to reconsider the whole position. The House will be told at the appropriate time.

Mr. F. M. Bennett

Is the Minister aware that the feeling that there is something ludicrous about discrimination in trade between Communist China and Communist Russia is by no means confined to one side of the House?

Commander Noble

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Rankin

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman not aware that the reply of the President of the Board of Trade to me last Thursday showed that the Chinese surplus with the sterling area was now about £70 million? What will he do about employing this amount of money? Is he to "footer" about with this problem until this surplus is turned into other currencies which take the matter altogether out of our hands?

Commander Noble

I think that my last answer makes it quite clear that we shall not "footer" about with this problem and that we will consider the position and make a statement as soon as possible.

24. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the number of procedures and control lists now governing Britain's exports to China and the Soviet bloc, he will now reconsider the advisability of publishing a White Paper to make the relevant information available to British exporters.

Commander Noble

No, Sir. The details of the procedures governing exports to China and the Soviet bloc are confidential. As far as the lists are concerned the items under control for the Soviet bloc were published in the Board of Trade journal of 16th October, 1954, and those under embargo for China were published in the Board of Trade journal of 23rd June, 1951. As I have just said, discussions are continuing in the China Committee on the scope of the China trade controls.

Mr. Allaun

But if a White Paper were published, would not it show that our export policy is no longer being decided in the British Parliament but in the American Congress, and are not Parliament as well as the exporters themselves entitled to the whole of the story?

Commander Noble

It is really the principles that are confidential. I do not think that exporters, if they go to the Board of Trade, have any doubt about the methods they should adopt. if those lists are changed they will be re-published.

Mr. Bevan

Whatever may be the outcome of the discussions now taking place in Paris, surely it will be necessary to inform the House of the situation which will have arisen? Therefore, I should have thought an application for a White Paper on the subject, including what may happen and the contemporary lists, was perfectly reasonable.

Commander Noble

I will certainly bring that point to the notice of my right hon. and learned Friend.

Mr. Langford-Holt

Is my hon. and gallant Friend aware that, within the limits of the strategic embargo, those who are trying to promote the exports of this country find the present differentiation between China and Russia both illogical and irritating?

Commander Noble

Yes, that is really why we wish to get this matter resolved as soon as possible.

Mr. Dugdale

Is it correct to say that the United States representative on the China Committee is the only representative who is against the liberalisation of trade with China?

Commander Noble

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, these meetings are confidential.

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