HC Deb 10 November 1960 vol 629 cc1209-10
28. Mr. Hirst

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the growing concern in the wool textile industry arising from the fact that the future basis for imports of wool cloth into the United States of America has not yet been announced; whether, in the interests of expanding British exports, Her Majesty's Government have made recent representations in the matter; and whether he will make a statement at an early date.

Mr. Maudling

The United States Administration announced yesterday that as from 1st January, 1961, the tariff quota system will be abolished and new rates of duty will apply throughout the year. The new tariff for most wool fabrics will be 38 per cent. ad valorem (in addition to the existing specific duty) though a higher rate will apply to cheap cloths costing less than $2 a lb. and a lower rate to certain speciality fabrics, including handwoven cloth.

These changes are the outcome of our request to the United States Administration that they should renegotiate the wool tariff arrangements under which the quota was imposed. They are not, however, the result of negotiations in the true sense, since the United States proposals were offered as a package to be accepted or rejected as a whole and no negotiation either generally or on any of the details was possible.

I regard the 38 per cent. rate as unjustifiably high and I am greatly disappointed that it was not possible to secure rates more favourable to British exporters, particularly those whose chief business is in the more expensive cloths. But I consider the new arrangements a lesser evil than the continuation of the tariff quota which has so damaged our exports over the past four years, and I believe that industry will agree with this judgment. We cannot, however, be satisfied with these arrangements and we shall seek to improve them in further negotiations at the earliest appropriate opportunity.

Mr. Hirst

I thank my right hon. Friend for his extremely valuable statement and his valuable expression of opinion. I accept What he said about the new proposals being better by a margin of the two evils. Will he bear in mind that the bitterness which he has expressed is fully shared by the industry as a whole and, I think I can say, by all hon. Members? Will he please continue the representations which he has mentioned, bearing in mind our own liberal attitude to American exports to this country and the fact that we have come out very unfavourably in this deal?

Mr. Maudling

Yes, Sir. I think that it is unsatisfactory. I am sure that on balance it is an improvement, but it is not an adequate one and we shall continue to deal with the problem.