HC Deb 17 April 1962 vol 658 cc234-6
Q3. Sir C. Osborne

asked the Prime Minister if he will make representations to President Kennedy, in support of the British Ambassador's speech in Chicago, to the effect that since 1945 America has sold nearly twice as much as she has bought from Britain, and that last year the average Briton bought twenty-four dollars' worth of American goods whereas the average American bought only four dollars' worth of British goods; what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking to promote trade in America; and if he will make a statement.

Q4. Mr. McMaster

asked the Prime Minister if, during his forthcoming talks with President Kennedy, he will discuss with him the damage caused to good relations between Britain and the United States by the continuation of America's present shipping policies and particularly that of flag discrimination and trade reservation.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I have been asked to reply.

Although my right hon. Friend's discussions with President Kennedy will be confidential, these matters will naturally be in his mind.

Sir C. Osborne

May I ask two supplementary questions? Firstly, was the British Ambassador's protest in Chicago made with the prior knowledge and consent of Her Majesty's Government? Secondly, has there been any official reaction from the American Government to that protest, and what steps are being taken?

Mr. Butler

I have read the speech of the Ambassador in Chicago. It was not a protest but a statement of the situation of trade between the two countries, which was extremely salutary and well expressed, and I have no more to add to that.

Mr. McMaster

While thanking the Prime Minister, through my right hon. Friend, for the efforts which he has already made on behalf of British shipping, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend is aware that freight rates charged by American ships which are protected in this way are far in excess of world rates and that this American example is being followed by other countries to the detriment of British shipping and the loss of our invisible earnings?

Mr. Butler

As my right hon. Friend has already expressed in the House, and as has been expressed to my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster), we regret the present policy of the United States, especially because of the example which it gives to other countries.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Prime Minister gave no definite assurance to the House at any time that in these discussions and conversations with President Kennedy he would raise this vital question for British shipping of flag discrimination? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the United States Government have now embarked on a method of providing capital aid to Commonwealth countries—and I ask the House to mark "Commonwealth countries"—on condition that goods purchased from the United States must be carried in American tonnage? Is not that discrimination of the most pernicious character?

Mr. Butler

I am aware of the latest practice. So is my right hon. Friend, and that is why he has authorised me to say that these matters will be in his mind when he speaks to President Kennedy.

Mr. P. Williams

Is my right hon. Friend aware that on his earlier visit to President Kennedy the Prime Minister left a document of some importance relating to shipping matters, since when no action appears to have been taken by the American Administration to meet the point of view of this country? Will my right hon. Friend convey to the Prime Minister the extreme depth of feeling of hon. Members on both sides of the House that this is a matter on which we expect action from the American Administration?

Mr. Butler

I am aware of the depth of feeling on both sides of the House on this matter, and so is the Prime Minister, but I will convey the sentiment to my right hon. Friend afresh.

Sir C. Osborne

On a point of order. I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter again on the Adjournment.