HC Deb 08 June 1961 vol 641 cc1368-70
14. Mr. Holt

asked the President of the Board of Trade on what groups of tariffs Her Majesty's Government are not offering to make a 20 per cent. cut in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade negotiations.

Mr. Maudling

It is not the practice to disclose detailed information of this kind while negotiations are in progress.

Mr. Holt

But the President of the Board of Trade would not deny the statement which has been published in the Press that he has refused to make a cut of 20 per cent. across the whole of our industrial tariffs. Does he not realise that he is missing a great opportunity? He has spoken a lot about cutting tariffs. Does he not further realise that, in view of the widespread conversion now taking place in the Tory Party, including that of such a reactionary as the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) whose conversion to freer trade we have heard this afternoon, unless he takes a much better stand at G.A.T.T. than he has taken so far he will go down as a most reactionary President of the Board of Trade?

Mr. Maudling

We cannot disclose these details, and neither the blandishments nor the threats of the hon. Member will cause me to do so.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I am in favour of the preferential reduction of tariffs?

Mr. Russell

Will my right hon. Friend make it clear to the Liberal Party that universal free trade is no part of this country's policy?

Mr. Maudling

I do not think that my responsibility extends to making things clear to the Liberal Party.

Mr. Jay

Is it not rather extraordinary that the Liberal Party are prepared to accept the high import duties on foodstuffs which would be involved in accepting the common external tariff of the Common Market?

27. Mr. C. Osborne

asked the President of the Board of Trade, since the United States Government has power until next summer to reduce tariffs by up to 20 per cent., what approaches he has received from the American Government that the United Kingdom should make equal tariff cuts; which British industries he estimates would be most affected by such cuts; what consultations he has had with them; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Maudling

These matters are now being discussed at the G.A.T.T. Tariff Conference at Geneva. While negotiations are in progress, it would not be appropriate to disclose any details of our own offers or of the requests made to us. In preparing for the Conference, the Board of Trade had extensive consultations with British industries.

Mr. Osborne

If the Americans ask us to make equal tariff cuts, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the Americans export only 3 per cent. of their gross national product, whereas we export 30 per cent.? The same is almost true of imports. Therefore, any changes will affect this country ten times more than they will affect America. Will he be careful to ensure that we are not taken pari passu for a ride against our own interests?

Mr. Maudling

I always think that there is much wisdom in the remark of a distinguished predecessor of mine, who said that in tariff negotiations our object should be a quid pro quo, and thirty bob if we can get it.