HC Deb 02 August 1965 vol 717 cc1052-3
28. Mr. Tilney

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will take action under the Congo Basin Treaty, to which the United Kingdom is a signatory, in view of the agreement initialed between the European Economic Community and Nigeria whereby Nigeria grants the European Economic Community a 2 per cent. preference on 26 products on which Great Britain will receive no preference.

Mr. Padley

No, Sir. Neither the General Act of the Berlin Conference of 1885 nor the Convention of Saint German-en-Laye of 1919, which replaced the Act of Berlin as between the Parties to the Convention, extended to the area which is now Nigeria the principle of non-discrimination regarding customs tariffs which applied within the Basin of the Congo.

Mr. Tilney

While hoping that Nigeria will get as much aid as possible from the whole of Western Europe, may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he could say that up to now there has been no discrimination at all in Nigeria and other countries between this country and other countries of Western Europe?

Mr. Padley

Yes, I think that that is true. We have told both Nigeria and the E.E.C. that, while we should be glad to see Nigeria secure improved opportunities for exporting to the E.E.C., we should deprecate Nigeria complying with the proposal from the Community that she should grant tariff preference to imports from the Community.

Mr. Maudling

If this is the first time that a reverse preference has been created against United Kingdom products in a Commonwealth country, is not this a very serious development indeed?

Mr. Padley

Up to now, no agreement has been made or, as far as I know, initialled, but there is no doubt that a proposal is under way. As I have said, we have made our strong views known both in Lagos and to the Community.

Sir G. de Freitas

Do not this Question and Answer support the Minister's reference a few minutes ago to the tremendous changes in the facts facing us in Europe since this matter was discussed at a party conference?

Mr. Padley

I think that that is a very helpful supplementary question.