HC Deb 01 December 1964 vol 703 cc215-6
9. Mr. Grant-Ferris

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations whether Her Majesty's Government will exempt Malta from the imposition of the 15 per cent, surcharge on imports into this country.

27. Sir P. Agnew

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if he will augment the sum to be given to Malta in grant-aid by the amount of the cost to the Maltese economy of the surcharge on imports into the United Kingdom.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

it is not possible to discriminate in favour of Malta either in the incidence of the temporary import charge or by making any additional financial payments.

Mr. Grant-Ferris

Such an Answer will give no satisfaction either here or in Malta. As the last Government, with the support of the party opposite, did a great deal to start industry going in Malta, is it not the height of folly to cut the ground from under all that, and will the Minister give the House an assurance that Malta will not suffer deleteriously as a result of Government policies?

Mr. Hughes

The Government much regret the necessity to impose the import surcharge on countries such as Malta with which we have a special relationship, but in the end their interests would have suffered much more if we had allowed our balance of payments to deteriorate further. The prime necessity at this time is to maintain the strength of sterling.

Sir P. Agnew

As Malta receives grant aid, with the assent of hon. Members in all parts of the House, is it not quite inappropriate to take some of it away again in the form of surcharges?

Mr. Hughes

We appreciate the problems of Malta, but I stress once again what my right hon. Friends have already said on several occasions, that these surcharges are temporary in their effect.

Mr. Sandys

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the financial arrangement with Malta was based as far as possible on an exact calculation of its essential needs? Will he, therefore, consider this matter further?

Mr. Hughes

We are always prepared to consider any constructive suggestion, but I must point out that the great bulk of Malta's foreign earnings derives from invisible exports, that is, goods and services supplies to the British forces.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

Has my hon. Friend made any calculation of what it would cost in the effort to reduce imports if consent were given to each and all of the recommendations from the other side of the House to make exceptions?

Mr. Hughes

No, Sir; we have no such figures.

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