HC Deb 30 May 1957 vol 571 cc618-20
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I wish to make a statement on China trade.

Discussions in the China Committee on controls on trade with China have taken place over the last three weeks. In the light of these discussions Her Majesty's Government have now considered their position. We intend to continue our established policy of co-operating with our friends and allies in a system of controls on trade with both the Soviet bloc and China in the mutual security interest.

As regards the detailed scope of the United Kingdom controls on trade with China, however, we have informed our associates that, in future, we shall adopt the same lists for China and the Soviet bloc. This decision will mean no change as regards items which are embargoed for both the Soviet bloc and China. But certain items now embargoed for China will either be transferred to the quantitative control list, or to the watch list, or completely freed. The necessary detailed arrangements will need to be discussed in the China Committee.

The Export of Goods Control Order will be amended accordingly as soon as that can be done. In the meantime, licences will be granted on request for all items now embargoed for China but not subject to export licensing to the Soviet bloc. For items subject to quantitative control for export to the Soviet bloc it will not be possible to grant licences until discussions have been held in Paris about the size of quotas for China.

Exporters interested in any items which are not embargoed to the Soviet bloc should communicate with the Export Licensing Branch of the Board of Trade.

Mr. Younger

While welcoming the decision which has now been taken, may I ask the Foreign Secretary whether he is aware that it is not a question of discussions having taken place only over the last three weeks, but of their having taken place over three years and more? Making all allowances for the necessity for full discussion with our allies on this matter, does he not think that if an attitude of such rigidity is taken up in international discussions over so long a period it makes nonsense altogether of consultation? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman make representations to our allies that we cannot be expected to wait so long without any kind of concession on future occasions?

Turning to the future, can he now give an assurance, after this very long delay, that there will not be substantial further delay before the question of the export to China of goods under quantitative control to the Soviet Union are settled, so that exports can start?

Mr. Lloyd

I think we have gone a very long way to try to preserve a common front in this matter. I hope that the matter of those quotas will be settled in the course of a few weeks.

Mr. Jay

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether the other countries in the Paris Committee, apart from the United States, will now follow the same policy as that of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Lloyd

They have not yet made their attitudes clear. I think they waited to hear what Her Majesty's Government had to say, but I expect that the majority of them will follow our example.

Mr. Drayson

Will my right hon. and learned Friend say whether the quantitative control will refer to quotas for each of the individual countries in Western Europe concerned, or whether the whole quota can be taken up by the United Kingdom if their prices are lower than those in the other European countries?

Mr. Lloyd

I think my hon. Friend had better put a detailed question such as that to the President of the Board of Trade. My impression is that in the quantitative controls both methods are used. In some cases it is a question of a quota which is divided up between various countries and in other cases the fixing of the quota is left to the individual country concerned.

Mr. S. Silverman

As, together with the hon. Member for Skipton (Mr. Drayson), I was among the earliest pioneers in this field, may I ask whether it would be possible for us to congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman on this belated if partial return to common sense?

Mr. Donnelly

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman again give consideration to the proposal that there should be a White Paper, so that the maximum knowledge is available as to how exporters should proceed in the matter of the new arrangements for trade with China?

Mr. Lloyd

I will certainly consider that. I think it might be a convenience if the Soviet bloc list, which will now be also the China list, were put in as succinct a form as possible.