HC Deb 10 December 1959 vol 615 cc716-8
7. Mr. du Cann

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will withdraw British participation in the forthcoming trade talks in Prague pending a resumption of interest payments due to British shareholders in respect of two Czechoslovak State Loans of 1922. the City of Prague Loan of 1922, and the Skoda Works Trust Mortgage Debentures.

24. Sir L. Plummer

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will fix an early date for the trade talks with the Czechoslovakian authorities in order to secure maximum advantages for British exporters threatened with West German competition in this market.

39. Mr. Swingler

asked the President of the Board of Trade why trade talks with the Czechoslovak Government have not yet begun; and if he will propose an early date for their commencement.

Mr. Erroll

We have suggested to the Czechoslovak authorities that the trade arrangement, which expires at the end of this month, should be extended until the end of April. I hope that it will be possible during this time to reach agreement about the future of the trade arrangement.

As regards the bonded debts, I would refer to the Answer given on 7th December by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

Mr. du Cann

Will my hon. Friend make it clear to the Czechoslovakian authorities that we regard a breach of faith in a matter of this sort extremely seriously? Will he give an undertaking that the British Government will not enter into fresh agreements until this matter is cleared up, so that we can restore that ancient and happy confidence which has existed between our two countries?

Mr. Erroll

I would rather not say any more while we are discussing with the Czechoslovakian Government how the matter of the bonded debt can best be tackled.

Sir L. Plummer

While the Czechoslovakian Government may have acted extremely oddly in this matter, will the hon. Gentleman see to it that if in the intervening period of four months while the trade pact is continued agreement is not reached, the period of extension will be even further extended so that we can bring British influence to bear on them and succeed in getting a trade pact which is in our interests as well as theirs?

Mr. Erroll

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's suggestion, but I prefer not to say anything about a possible extension beyond the period of four months.

Mr. Swingler

Was it not made clear when the existing agreement was negotiated that financial relations regarding the old loans for which the Czechoslovakian Government had some responsibility would be negotiated separately from the question of trade? Has not the Czechoslovakian Government offered to negotiate on the loans mentioned in the Question, and what is the obstacle to proceeding to trade talks?

Mr. Erroll

All that they have offered to do is to discuss the matter with us, and they made that offer only after they had defaulted on the loans.