HC Deb 01 December 1964 vol 703 cc204-6
17 and 18. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (1) what decline in imports from Commonwealth countries he expects as a result of the imposition of import surcharges; and

(2) what studies he is making of the effect of the import surcharges on the economies of Commonwealth countries.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

The purpose of the charge is, of course, to reduce imports, but it leaves consumer choice free. Its effect on any particular category of imports and particular supplying countries will depend on the decisions of importers and consumers. The Government will keep a careful watch on the effect.

Mr. Goodhart

Is not the Minister rather ashamed of having to give that reply when very little consideration has been given to the effect on the Commonwealth'? Have any talks been carried on between the Minister and the Minister for Overseas Development about special aid to offset this severe blow to Commonwealth trade?

Mr. Hughes

Other Commonwealth Governments have already in some cases indicated their confidential views on how import charges will affect them. They will probably give more detailed accounts when they have had time to consider the matter more carefully. I cannot go further than that at the moment.

Mr. Turton

Will the hon. Gentleman explain why it was that these confidential communications were not asked for from these Governments before the charge was put on when it appears from paragraph 11 of the White Paper that the United States Government were fully consulted?

Mr. Hughes

No Government was consulted before the announcement was made about the surcharges. All Governments were informed more or less about the same time.

Mr. Bence

Could my hon. Friend tell us for how much longer exporters in the Commonwealth countries would be prepared to export to us if we were not in a position to pay for their exports?

Mr. Tilney

Is it not very surprising that, despite agreements always to consult with the Commonwealth, they were not consulted?

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Member should know that this was an extraordinary situation brought about by the actions of his Government.

Mr. Ennals

Will my hon. Friend confirm that during the 13 years of Conservative rule there was a steady decline in Commonwealth trade?

25. Sir F. Bennett asked

the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what advance notification of the decision to impose a 15 per cent. surcharge on imports was given to the Commonwealth.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

I have nothing to add to the reply of my right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary to the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) on 17th November.

Sir F. Bennett

Can the hon. Gentleman now clarify once and for all that no advance notification whatever was given to the Commonwealth, but was given to the United States of America? Can we have a straight answer to that, as it is a question which we have found it difficult to get answered?

Mr. Hughes

All Governments were notified. There was no consultation. I can assure the House that any difference in timing of the messages to Commonwealth and other Governments was not significant.

Mr. Shinwell

Will my hon. Friend take the opportunity to congratulate the hon. Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett) on the honour which he has just had bestowed upon him for political services? At the same time, will he reject the patronising attitude which we are now witnessing day by day from hon. Members opposite and in plain language reject it? If he does not have a sufficient supply of plain language, let him come to me and I will lend it to him.

Mr. Hughes

I have a sufficient supply of plain language in both English and Welsh, but as this is my first appearance at the Dispatch Box, my right hon. Friend will excuse if I do not use it today.

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