HC Deb 31 March 1960 vol 620 cc1509-10
48. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the President of the Board of Trade what further changes are contemplated in preferential and other tariffs.

Mr. Maudling

I am not clear what particular circumstances my hon. Friend has in mind.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is my right hon. Friend aware of disquieting reports that there may be some intention of buying economic agreement in Europe at the expense of the Commonwealth? May we be assured that rather than do that the Government would seek to alter international agreements which prevent the exchange of appropriately graduated margins of preference between Commonwealth, European and other nations?

Mr. Maudling

I think I should draw the attention of my hon. Friend to the communiqué which was issued after the recent meeting in Vienna where there was specific reference to the existing rights of third countries, which, in our mind, very much covers the position of the Commonwealth.

Mr. Jay

Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed the curious remarks on this subject reported to have been made by the Prime Minister in Washington this week? Do they represent the views of Her Majesty's Government?

Mr. Maudling

I prefer not to comment on newspaper reports, which I gather are not accurate.

Mr. Wade

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there are unfortunate signs that the division of Europe into two economic blocs is hardening? Would he agree that a reduction or removal of preferential or other tariffs might help in the creation of a bridge?

Mr. Maudling

I agree that the dangers of division in Europe are growing and are very serious, but I think that to come from that to the preferential position is a very complicated matter which should not be dealt with by question and answer across the Floor of the House.

Mr. Russell

Have any agreements been reached with Commonwealth countries about this, and, if so, can my right hon. Friend publish details of them?

Mr. Maudling

I think that that anticipates the next Question on the Order Paper.