HC Deb 24 April 1958 vol 586 cc1129-32
1 Miss Burton

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) whether he is aware that production prospects in Coventry would be assisted if exports were unrestricted in turret lathes of 4 inches bar capacity, deep hole drills with the coolant passing through the drill, profiling, copying and duplicating machines, Alfred Herbert 14/30 turret lathes with swing over of 24 inches, and 20 combination turret lathes, all of which are included in List 1, Group A, of the Common Embargo List for Trade with China and the Soviet bloc; and if he will secure their removal from the list;

(2) if he will consider the removal of fine boring machines, having an accuracy of 0.005 inch, from List 2 of the Common Embargo List for Trade with China and the Soviet bloc, so that production prospects in Coventry may be improved;

(3) if he is aware that production prospects in Coventry and elsewhere would be improved by a drastic revision of the Common Embargo List for Trade with China and the Soviet bloc; and what steps he will take for such a revision.

The President of the Board of Trade (Sir David Eccles)

I am aware that the tools described in the Questions are now under strategic control. As I said on 3rd April in reply to the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson), all these controls are under review in Paris and our policy is to have them confined to goods which are still of strategic significance.

Miss Burton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this seems to have been going on for a very long time? Is he further aware, with reference to the first two Questions, that the chief shop stewards of all machine tool factories in Coventry had a meeting and, after consideration, decided that the tools mentioned could be removed from the list? [Laughter.] I think they would know which, as they make them; hon. Gentlemen opposite do not make them.

Concerning Question No. 3, may I ask the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that not only the shop stewards, but the manufacturers in Coventry, also, feel that this list is now completely out of date?

Sir D. Eccles

I know there is a feeling in that sense, and it is the Government's policy to revise the list in the direction of confining it only to those goods which are strategically significant.

Mr. H. Wilson

Will the President of the Board of Trade, in putting the Government's point of view at the meetings in Paris, emphasise one argument which we have already brought to his attention, and which the Russians have stressed many times, that if we do not supply these machine tools not only can they get them from other areas, but, also, they will expand, and even double, the size of their own industry for producing these tools, which is really not in accordance with the strategic objectives of the scheme?

Sir D. Eccles

I am well aware of this Russian argument.

Mr. Speaker rose


Miss Burton

On a point of order. As I have three Questions on this point, Mr. Speaker, will you allow me to put another supplementary question?

Mr. Speaker

I thought that the hon. Lady's supplementary question covered all her three Questions because she referred to them individually. If she has another question to put, I will listen to it.

Miss Burton

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. May I ask the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that the statement just made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) was borne out to me recently by a managing director of one of the firms in Coventry, namely, that Russia has been making the goods which we have denied to her?

14. Mr. Lipton

asked the President of the Board of Trade what recent representations he has had from the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce in London and similar bodies of British businessmen about ending restrictions on East-West trade; and what replies he has given.

Sir D. Eccles

The President of the Chamber wrote to me on 2nd April on behalf of its British members. They welcomed my statement that in the review proceeding in Paris it would be our policy to confine the embargo list to goods which still have strategic significance and they urged that this policy be extended to freeing all exports to the Soviet Union except "munitions and other warlike goods". These representations have been acknowledged and will be borne in mind.

Mr. Lipton

Will the President of the Board of Trade confirm that not only this country but all the other European countries in N.A.T.O. are in favour of ending these unnecessary restrictions? Will he tell us what has been holding up the removal of these embargoes?

Sir D. Eccles

I certainly could not confirm that. There are very considerable differences of opinion among the European countries.

Mr. Remnant

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that a great deal more trade could be done with the existing free list if the Russians, were willing?

Sir D. Eccles


Mrs. Castle

Is the President aware that only a few weeks ago West Germany concluded a trade agreement with Russia to the value of about £300 million over the next two years, and that West Germany is to send Russia mining equipment, giant steel presses, machine tools and general factory equipment under that agreement? How many of these items are on the embargo list?

Sir D. Eccles

None at all. That agreement is in strict conformity with the present strategic controls.

Mr. H. Wilson

But is not the Minister aware that West Germany and certain other countries are breaking these strategic restrictions right and left all the time? Is he further aware that the person to whom the President himself referred in connection with this question is a leading figure in the machine tool industry, and that the machine tool trade itself has used the argument that I put to him a few minutes ago—and that he is most unwise to dismiss this serious argument as being merely of Russian origin?

Sir D. Eccles

I am not aware that our Allies are breaking this agreement right and left——

Mr. Mikardo

The right hon. Gentleman is the only one who is not.

Sir D. Eccles

I sympathise with what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the machine tool position. Machine tool items are one of the sections of the list which we are examining.

Mr. Bellenger

Can the President confirm that the Americans keep a very sharp watch on what goes through the frontier to Eastern Germany from Western Germany?

Sir D. Eccles

I believe that there are not a great many exceptions to the procedure on the part of our N.A.T.O. Allies.