HC Deb 04 April 1963 vol 675 cc629-31
Q5. Mr. Rankin

asked the Prime Minister if the public statement made by the Foreign Secretary at his Press conference in Tokyo on Friday, 29th March, on trade with the State-trading countries represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Rankin

I welcome that continued policy of expansion, but does the Prime Minister recognise that one of the reasons for the smallness of our trade with China, which the Foreign Secretary regretted, is China's difficulty in acquiring sterling? Does he realise that that trade would be increased if he would take the necessary steps to give to China the terms of trade which have been given to Japan and which are much more favourable than those which China now has?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. Our trade with China was expanding and will, I think, expand again, but there has been a reduction during recent years owing to the situation of near-famine in China which forced the Chinese to spend a very large proportion of their foreign currency on the purchase of wheat. This has, of course, had a corresponding effect on their ability to purchase other forms of material from this country.

Sir A. V. Harvey

In considering the sale of second-hand transport aircraft to China, will my right hon. Friend take into account the feelings of the Indian Government in the matter?

The Prime Minister

All these matters are taken into account. What my noble Friend said in Tokio repeated the situation as regards our trading arrangements as they now stand with the bloc countries.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

All recent visitors to Japan will warmly welcome the Foreign Secretary's encouragement of Japanese trade with China, but will the Prime Minister give consideration to what my hon. Friend has proposed in regard to British trade with China?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir; but the facts are as I have given them. Trade was going up until about two years ago. The Chinese, of course, have difficulty in finding sufficient foreign exchange to meet their requirements, and they had to spend a very heavy amount on purchases from Australia, Canada and other countries in order to feed their people.

Mr. Shinwell

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the statement made by the Foreign Secretary was the most sensible statement made by a Member of the Government for some considerable time? In view of this, will he take active steps, even dynamic steps, to implement the content of the policy formulated by the Foreign Secretary

The Prime Minister

I am very glad to hear this tribute from the right hon. Gentleman. I remember so well what he said three years ago when the Foreign Secretary was appointed.