HC Deb 03 July 1962 vol 662 cc250-1
2. Lady Tweedsmuir

asked the President of the Board of Trade on how many occasions he has applied for waivers under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade; and what were the considerations involved.

The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Sir Keith Joseph)

On two matters we have applied for waivers which were granted subject to conditions. One waiver enables us to impose or increase a most-favoured-nation rate of duty without imposing a duty on imports from Commonwealth countries in cases where the latter have no substantial trade. The second waiver enables us in certain cases to accord increased preferences to imports from our dependent overseas territories.

Lady Tweedsmuir

As this procedure was introduced in order to enable this country and others to make special provision for industries which they felt were vital to their existence, could my hon. Friend say why he did not ask for a waiver under the G.A.T.T. to enable subsidies which are given in this country to boat owners to build their ships in British yards to continue as at present and ensure that these should not also apply to building in foreign yards?

Sir K. Joseph

I do not think that my hon. Friend is expressing quite correctly the reason for the system of waivers. The system of waivers is introduced, among other things, to allow countries to reconcile their G.A.T.T. obligations with pre-existing obligations, as we have, for instance, in connection with the Commonwealth. The waivers which we have asked for and obtained were in both cases because of our Commonwealth obligations. The fishing vessels grant has no such similar circumstances, and I doubt whether we should have obtained a waiver if we had tried.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Does the hon. Member realise that the machinery referred to in this Question provides him with a great opportunity to assist areas where the industry and employment are short? Will he say what practical steps he is taking to assist industry and employment in such areas, particularly in north-east Scotland?

Sir K. Joseph

I do not think the hon. and learned Member appreciates that we have ourselves invoked the G.A.T.T. principles which he is asking us now to reject. We have invoked them successfully for the benefit of our export trade. Of course, the G.A.T.T. reduces all over the world barriers to our exports on which the industries of this country depend.