HC Deb 23 March 1964 vol 692 cc13-4
15. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will approach the South African Government in order to ensure that gifts of clothing, food and other charitable supplies are admitted into the High Commission Territories duty free.

Mr. P. Thomas

The High Commission Territories are in customs union with the Republic of South Africa. Under the 1910 Customs Agreement, they receive a fixed share of the import duties collected by the South African authorities and this is a valuable source of income for them. It is a necessary feature of the Agreement that the Territories should conform as far as possible to South African law as regards rebates and refunds and there is no provision in South African customs laws for the refund of duty on charitable gifts. I am not convinced that there are good grounds for asking the South African authorities to change the customs laws in this respect, but if the hon. Lady has a case in mind and can give me full details, my right hon. Friend is prepared to consider taking it up with the South African authorities.

Mrs. Castle

While thanking the hon. Member for that reply, may I ask him whether he is aware that the Church World Service recently offered a free gift of blankets and foodstuffs to the Community Development Centre at Mochudi, Bechuanaland, on condition that no import duty was payable on them but that the officials of this centre were informed that they would have to pay 25 per cent. duty on the blankets and a smaller percentage on the foodstuffs? As there will be an increasing number of this kind of charitable gift, does not the hon. Member think that this matter ought to be renegotiated with the South African Government?

Mr. Thomas

I am aware of the case which the hon. Lady mentioned. I believe that the Colonial Office have had some correspondence on this matter.