HC Deb 15 March 1960 vol 619 cc1090-4
5. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the President of the Board of Trade what representations he has received about the import restrictions on trade with China; what modifications have been made or are intended; what quotas there are for glassware, and what these include; to what extent ceilings have been fixed for the importation of Chinese goods; and whether he will make a full statement on the problems involved in the fixing of ceilings, quotas and the need for a large scale expansion of mutual trade.

The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. F. J. Erroll)

As the Answer is a long one and contains a table of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Does the Minister of State remember that where he and I were employed we benefited for many years to the extent of millions of pounds worth of orders? Does his recent experience of a visit to China confirm that there is enormous good will towards the people of this country, especially for our technique and skill, and, if so, has not the time arrived when there should be a large-scale expansion of trade?

Mr. Erroll

I am glad to say that trade with China in both directions is expanding.

Following is the information: The new import licensing arrangements for China have been discussed with the Chinese authorities and with a number of firms and representative trade organisations. I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer given on 27th January to my hon. Friend the Member for Merton and Morden (Mr. Atkins) about the Government's policy in expanding trade with China and to the Answer given on 23rd February to the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) about the allocation of licences. As regards the quotas for glassware, I would refer to the
Quota Heading Value
Meat and meat products, frozen or in airtight containers (of which not more than £150,000 for poultry) £400,000
Fish, fresh, frozen or preserved, other than fish packed in airtight containers £300,000
Butter £100,000
Canned oranges (including Clementines, mandarins and tangarines) and canned pineapple (of which not more than £150,000 for canned pineapple) £550,000
Nuts in shell, or shelled £250,000
Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals (subject to type) £350,000
Silk piece goods for home retention (originally £250,000) increased to £380,000
Headgear (including hat bodies, hoods and shapes) not made wholly or partly of wool or felt (originally £500,000) increased to £655,000
Hand-made carpets (originally £500,000) increased to £634,000
Pottery (originally £50,000) increased to £80,000
Basketware (other than wicker, cane or willow) and manufactures of raffia and straw £150,000
Sports goods, toys and games £180,000
Additional Quotas (since the original announcement)—
Fancy goods £250,000
Seagrass mats £320,000
Furniture and woodware £150,000
Table glassware £25,000
Chinese food specialities £75,000
Canned fruit, other than oranges and pineapple £50,000
Provisional Quotas
Fruit and vegetables (variously grouped) each approx £25,000
Canned fish each approx £25,000
Preserved ginger each approx £25,000
Textiles and manufactures thereof, not covered by other quotas (variously grouped) each approx £25,000
Stationery each approx £25,000
Cutlery and hardware each approx £25,000
Leather goods and footwear each approx £25,000
Brushes each approx £25,000
Gloves each approx £25,000
Musical instruments each approx £25,000
NOTE.—There has not been sufficient interest in other items for formal quota arrangements to be made and these have generally been dealt with by issuing licences to applicants on request.
6. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the President of the Board of Trade what action it is intended to take to bring about increased trade with China; to what extent China's sterling balances have increased, and whether this permits an increase in United Kingdom exports; how exports of capital goods to China compare, as a percentage, with pre-war exports; and what technical assistance is being provided or has been offered to China.

Mr. Erroll

The services of the Department and of Her Majesty's representative in Peking are available to facilitate increased trade with China. No figures are published of China's sterling balances, but clearly any increase would help China to increase her purchases from the United Kingdom amongst other countries. The value of United Kingdom

Answer given to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) on 4th March and to the list below of the quotas set up for China and of the modications since the new arrangements were first announced.

exports of capital goods to China in 1959 is estimated at approximately four times that in 1938. As regards the last part of the Question, a number of technical facilities in the United Kingdom are available to the Chinese should they wish to use them.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Whilst appreciating that reply, may I ask the Minister of State whether he is aware that prior to the war large numbers of Chinese students who were studying technical questions used to visit this country and our men, in return, used to visit China? It was a mutual flow between the two countries. Those of us who have had large numbers of Chinese students working with us remember the enormous good will that it created. Has not the time arrived when that sort of exchange should be renewed?

Mr. Erroll

Yes, Sir, I am aware of what the hon. Gentleman has said, and in part answer to his previous supplementary question I would point out that during my visit to China I particularly reminded the Chinese of our willingness to receive engineering and other students in this country.

7. Mr. Swingler

asked the President of the Board of Trade, in granting licences for imports from China, how many new applications have been granted and how many refused in the last six months; and what value of trade has been allowed to new applicants in this period.

Mr. Erroll

I regret that this information could not be obtained without a disproportionate amount of work.

Mr. Swingler

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the complaints that are being made from a number of people that new applications for licences for trade with China are being refused on the grounds that they have no past experience and that the quotas allow only for those who have been in the trade already? Will he look into this whole matter, in view of the promise, which he has just confirmed, that the Government are in favour of the maximum expansion of trade with China, because it is extremely frustrating to those who feel that they have some trade they would like to enter?

Mr. Erroll

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I have looked into this matter. In any import licensing system one must have regard first to those who have already been in the trade. There have been a large number of applications quite unrelated in size to the level of the trade by the applicant concerned. We look particularly carefully at new applicants for licences for trade in lines which they did not go in for before.

20. Sir L. Plummer

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will arrange for the publication of revised versions of Notices to Importers, Nos. 920 and 921, for the benefit of British importers of goods from China.

Mr. Erroll

My right hon. Friend will bear this suggestion in mind. The hon. Member may find it helpful to refer to the list of quotas I am today circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT as part of my Answer to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith).

Sir L. Plummer

I am grateful to the Minister for making an attempt to clear up what was causing a great deal of confusion. Is he aware that as a result of the changes which have come about since 4th November quotas have been supplemented by import licences and that many importers do not know from period to period whether their import licences will be granted? Will he, in the interest of clarification, publish a new statement so that they can understand exactly where they stand?

Mr. Erroll

As I said in my main Answer, we will give careful consideration to the hon. Member's suggestion.

8. Mr. Swingler

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will give a list of imports from China subject to quota restrictions in respect of which his Department is rejecting all licence applications from firms unable to give details of past trade.

Mr. Erroll

With permission, I will circulate the list in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the list: