HC Deb 19 June 1958 vol 589 cc1293-4
18. Mr. Hurd

asked the President of the Board of Trade what undertakings have now been given by the Governments of Sweden, Finland and Ireland to eliminate export subsidies on butter shipped to the United Kingdom; and in which of these cases countervailing duties under the Customs Duties (Dumping and Subsidies) Act, 1957, are to be imposed.

Sir D. Eccles

I apologise to the House for the length of the Answer.

The Governments of Finland and Sweden have agreed to limit their exports of butter to the United Kingdom in the twelve months commencing 20th May to 75 per cent. of their average exports in 1936–38 or 1955–57, whichever is the higher.

Her Majesty's Government have had consultations with the Government of the Irish Republic in accordance with the provisions of our Trade Agreements. The Government of the Irish Republic estimated that the export of butter to the United Kingdom will be less than it has been recently. We agreed that the two Governments will consult together if it appears likely that actual exports in the twelve months from 20th May may exceed the total exported in 1957.

I have also considered the application by the New Zealand Government relating to Argentine butter, and decided that a case of subsidisation has been made out. As, however, the quantity of butter imports from Argentina this year is expected to be substantially less than 75 per cent. of shipments in 1955–57, there is no need at present for any further action. Should the position change the matter would have to be reconsidered.

In these circumstances, Her Majesty's Government have decided that it is not necessary to impose countervailing duties.

Mr. Hurd

In welcoming this move to restore a fair price for butter here, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether New Zealand is now reasonably happy about the prospects, whether we have really stopped the subsidy element in these countries and, further, whether he has made clear to those concerned that, if need be, we shall have to impose countervailing duties if these present proposals do not work?

Sir D. Eccles

I have gone a good way in many directions to meet the New Zealand case. I think that, on the whole, the New Zealand Government appreciate what we have done. None of the exporting Governments concerned in the applications appears willing to give up its subsidy practices but has preferred, as we gave that alternative, to restrict the amount of exports to us. We shall watch the butter market and, if it is necessary to take further action, we will do so.

Mr. J. T. Price

Whilst the House will be quite pleased with the action taken by the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry in dealing with this stabilisation of butter prices and checking the unlimited import of very cheap butter at subsidised rates, why is not the Ministry also prepared to take similar action on behalf of Lancashire cotton, which it has just turned down?

Sir D. Eccles

In the case of Lancashire cotton, we are dealing with goods coming from the Commonwealth which have a right to duty-free entry.

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