HC Deb 04 March 1965 vol 707 cc1500-2
8. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the President of the Board of Trade what evidence he has that European countries are discriminating against British exporters as a reprisal for the 15 per cent. surcharge; and what action he intends to take.

Mr. Jay

I have no evidence whatever of any discrimination by European or any other countries against British exporters as a reprisal for the temporary import charge.

Mr. Hamilton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that that Answer will give a good deal of satisfaction, but can he make any comment on the specific instance—details of which I have sent to him—in Glenrothes, in Fife, where the allegation was made that this discrimination was taking place?

Mr. Jay

I have heard such statements made, but I have no real evidence of them.

Mr. Channon

On a point of order. Is Question No. 71 also being taken with this one, as it covers exactly the same point?

Mr. Speaker

I did not hear it, so I think not.

Mr. Barber

With great respect, it seems to me that the lack of knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman on this matter is abysmal. Is he not aware that Volkswagen have already cut their purchases of United Kingdom components as the direct result of the imposition of the surcharge, that Fiat are taking up the matter with their United Kingdom suppliers and that Volvo, who buy about £12 million worth of parts a year from the United Kingdom, are now considering increasing their supplies from the United States and Germany? Will the right hon. Gentleman realise that these facts cannot be brushed aside?

Mr. Jay

I know, if the right hon. Gentleman does not, that, since last autumn, exports have been rising, though they were previously falling.

Mr. Ridley

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, although there have been no actual reprisals, where we used to receive the benefit of the doubt when prices were about equal, contracts have, in many cases, been awarded against us by private firms on the Continent? What is the effect of this on our balance of payments?

r. Jay

If the hon. Gentleman says that he has information about such isolated cases, he may be right. As far as the balance of payments is concerned, since last autumn imports have been falling and exports rising.

Mr. Heath

Could the right hon. Gentleman clarify this? When he was asked the Question about whether European countries were discriminating against us, did he answer in the sense of changing their laws or tariff arrangements to discriminate against us, or was it in the general sense that many traders in those countries have decided not to buy British goods as the result of the surcharge? All of us have a great deal of evidence that the latter is taking place. To answer on a general basis of the level of exports and imports is not dealing with this point.

Mr. Jay

I answered in the sense that we have no evidence that any other Government is altering the law or taking any other decision to discriminate against us.

Mr. Fell

On a point of order. May I pursue the point of order which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) about his Question 71 not being taken with this one? A large number of the Questions before this one were taken together. It seems that we are getting to the stage now, particularly with this bank-up of Questions, where it would be possible for hon. Members to put down Questions at the end of a long bank of Questions which were similar to those at the beginning, and therefore have them taken with them.

Mr. Speaker

Nothing would bank up Questions more than that we should start discussing the system of Questions in the middle of Question Time. This is not a matter for the Chair. The Minister does not have to answer Questions together if he does not want to.