HC Deb 13 November 1958 vol 595 cc544-6
15. Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the removal of the import quota on Dutch bulbs would not adversely affect the nation's balance of payments by much more than £1 million per annum even if Dutch purchases from Great Britain did not substantially improve in consequence; and to what extent this point has been taken into consideration in delaying its removal.

13. Mr. Gresham Cooke

asked the President of the Board of Trade what estimate has been made by his Department as to what the effect on the nation's balance of payments would be if the present import quota on bulbs was removed; and whether he will provide some information on that aspect of the matter.

Sir D. Eccles

I do not know what the cost would be if Dutch bulbs were removed from control, but it would be substantial as compared with the cost of freeing many other items which are also subject to restrictions. We have taken this factor into account.

Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport

Would it not be worth while making this gesture to our good friends and customers the Dutch before Christmas, particularly as so many people are experiencing such difficulty in getting the bulbs they want? Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the biggest bulb wholesalers in the North of England completely ran out of the most popular type of bulb before the end of September, and is it not time that this racket arising from the quota system was ended?

Sir D. Eccles

To end the quota system would cost a good deal on our balance of payments, and the gesture for which my hon. and gallant Friend asks would immediately be noticed by other trades. For instance, I should be asked to remove restrictions on apples. I am not sure that my hon. and gallant Friend would like that.

23. Mr. Snow

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the frequent statements by Her Majesty's Government that the import quota on bulbs cannot be lifted until financial circumstances permit, reflect adversely on the credit of Great Britain overseas and encourage other countries to give similar reasons for refusing to provide better facilities for British exports; and whether, in the circumstances, he will give an assurance that the matter will be disposed of before the end of the present calendar year.

Sir D. Eccles

I do not accept the hon. Member's argument that our general trading and financial position suffers because we do not in present circumstances import more bulbs.

Mr. Snow

While that might be a quite clever answer, surely the work of the Paymaster-General is inhibited by this sort of ridiculous policy. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is little evidence to show that British bulb producers would lose in this matter? In any event, his advice appears to be obstinate and misconceived.

Sir D. Eccles

I cannot accept the argument of the hon. Gentleman. There is a good supply of home-grown bulbs and I am fairly certain that damage would be done.

Mr. H. Wilson

Without going into the arguments for or against the bulb position, has not the right hon. Gentleman addressed a very powerful sermon to the G.A.T.T. Powers, saying that quantitative restrictions should not be applied except when a country is in a balance of payments difficulty? Is he claiming that this country, after all the propaganda we have had from the Government and the right hon. Gentleman's party recently, is in a balance of payments difficulty?

Sir D. Eccles

The right hon. Gentleman knows quite well that there are hard core waivers in respect of certain goods—

An Hon. Member


Sir D. Eccles

I am using the language of G.A.T.T. A hard core waiver can be obtained in respect of certain goods which are still under quantitative restriction. There are many articles which we still have under quota, and it would not be possible to deal with just one of them in isolation.

Mr. H. Wilson

Is the right hon. Gentleman telling us that he has a waiver for these hard core bulbs or not?

Sir D. Eccles

Not yet.

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