HC Deb 10 November 1960 vol 629 cc1190-2
3. Mr. Lipton

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether licences to import Swiss watches are still limited to firms which imported them in 1939.

Mr. Maudling

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Lipton

Is this not a ridiculous and indefensible state of affairs? While it is true that the imports of Swiss watches have been increased in recent months, is it not quite wrong that the licence to import should be limited to firms which imported them in 1939? No one else is allowed to handle the business. What about Tory freedom working sometimes?

Mr. Maudling

This is one of the inherent difficulties of any system of import licensing, and that is one of the reasons why we on this side of the House dislike those systems and why hon. Members opposite seem to prefer them.

Mr. Manuel

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any idea of the number of firms which were importing Swiss watches in 1939 and whether there is now a big reduction in that number? Would he be prepared to keep the figure at the same level as it was previously if he is concerned about too many firms coming in?

Mr. Maudling

I will certainly look into that matter and I shall be happy to give the information in reply to a Question, but the restrictions on the import of these watches are quite severe at the moment.

Mr. Jay

Is it not perfectly possible to have import licensing existing without basing the quotas on 1939?

Mr. Maudling

I do not think that the party opposite found that so. It is difficult to see how one can give new importers a licence whilst still restricting the traditional importers to a very small proportion of what they originally imported.

27. Mr. Turton

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many watches were imported from Russia during the first nine months of 1960; and what was their average price.

Mr. Maudling

Nine thousand, eight hundred and sixty-six at an average import value of £1 18s. 3d. each.

Mr. Turton

As the watch-making industry has considerable strategic value, will my right hon. Friend reconsider the policy of licensing these imports? Is he aware that these watches are being sold in this country below the domestic price in Russia and well below the cost of production in this country, and that their import is depriving both British and Swiss manufacturers of part of the British market?

Mr. Maudling

On the whole, these are very small imports, fewer than 10,000 out of a total of more than 1 million. The average value of the Russian watches is £1 18s. 3d. while the average value of all imports is £1 15s. 6d. Certainly I would be very glad to examine any application for anti-dumping duty if it is thought that dumping is taking place.