HC Deb 25 June 1964 vol 697 cc624-6

Mr. Jay (by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development and President of the Board of Trade whether he will reconsider his refusal to offer an E.C.G.D. guarantee for a 10-year credit to enable a £6 million export order for acrylic fibre plant to be placed by a Pakistan group with High Polymer and Petro-Chemical Engineering Ltd., of the United Kingdom, since otherwise this order will go to France?

The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. Edward du Cann)

No, Sir, for the reasons given to the right hon. Gentleman in my letter of 18th June, of which the most important, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, is that long-term cover in this market is limited.

Mr. Jay

I am grateful to the Minister of State for arranging for me to discuss this with the E.C.G.D., but is it not extraordinary, at a time when the Government are, rightly, giving guarantees for 15-year credits to Russia and 12-year contracts to Czechoslovakia, and when the French syndicate concerned is willing to offer a 10-year credit in this case to Pakistan, that Her Majesty's Government should refuse to make a similar offer? Is the Minister aware that the Pakistan group in this case is very anxious to place the order with British industry and that nothing but the attitude of his Department is forcing it to place the order with France instead?

Mr. du Cann

The right hon. Gentleman is making it appear as though Her Majesty's Government are doing nothing to encourage trade with Pakistan and are not interested in trade with Pakistan. Nothing could be further from the truth. Since 1959, we have committed loans amounting to over £43 million to Pakistan. [HON. MEMBERS: "Stick to the point and answer."] I think that the right hon. Gentleman knows the position as well as I can describe it to him or to the House.

The position is that, in those circumstances, it was thought right originally not to give long-term credit. On the other hand, a great deal of short-term credit is given, as the House knows. However, my right hon. Friend the then President of the Board of Trade announced, during the course of last year's Budget debate, that a certain amount of long-term credit would be made available. Inevitably, limits have to be imposed.

I remind the right hon. Gentleman that it is not certain that this contract will go to France, and, in any case, I can assure him that there are plenty of other parts of the world where we are taking a good deal of business from France.

Mr. Turton

Could my hon. Friend circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the details of his letter to the right hon. Gentleman, since hon. Members on both sides are deeply concerned about the development of trade with Pakistan?

Mr. du Cann

I am as concerned about the development of trade with Pakistan as my right hon. Friend and other hon. Members are. There is a difficulty here. Normally, the particulars of individual cases are, for good and obvious reasons, regarded as confidential. I assure my right hon. Friend that officials have considered this seriously, and so have Ministers. As the right hon. Member for Battersea, North said, he himself has had an opportunity to discuss it. Nevertheless, I shall consider my right hon. Friend's suggestion.

Mr. Jay

I am well aware that there are difficulties and complications in this case, but must not there be something wrong with a system which loses an order as important as this to this country?

Mr. du Cann

The right hon. Gentleman must understand that this particular order could be accepted only at the cost of pushing some other order out of the queue.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I did not interrupt the exchange which has just taken place, but how could the Question which has just been put by the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) rank as a Private Notice Question? The right hon. Member made it clear that letters had been exchanged, which seems to take away the element of urgency about it. In the absence of those letters being published, there would seem to be doubt about how it came to rank as a Private Notice Question.

Mr. Speaker

This is one of the matters which the House places within the discretion of the Chair, and, as far as I am concerned, so it will remain.