HC Deb 24 April 1978 vol 948 cc991-3
14. Mr. Hooley

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will now discontinue Export Credits Guarantee Department cover for trade with South Africa.

Mr. Dell

No, Sir. Export Credits Guarantee Department cover is available for civil exports to South Africa in accordance with the Department's normal underwriting criteria.

Mr. Hooley

Has my right hon. Friend noticed the recent statement by the Foreign Secretary discouraging private business from having too heavy an in- volvement in the economy of South Africa? Is it not slightly bizarre that the Foreign Office should be discouraging trade with South Africa while the Department of Trade is promoting it?

Mr. Dell

I have certainly noticed my right hon. Friend's remarks. There is no doubt that the dependence of this country on raw materials from Southern Africa is a form of exposure which I would willingly see reduced. On the other hand, I do not see that it harms this country, particularly at a time of high unemployment, if we maintain credit terms for South Africa in line with those of our major competitors.

Mr. Adley

Does the right hon. Gentleman envisage an increasingly political role for ECGD? Will he comment on the reports that the recent ECGD backing for the Pan Am-Rolls-Royce deal involves accepting the total commitment to the liability of any future default by Pan American on terms which American air engine manufacturers would not accept?

Mr. Dell

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman welcomes the success of that deal and, having done so, will no doubt devote his attention to the relationship between his supplementary question and the Question on the Order Paper.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Is it not time that my right hon. Friend had a meeting with the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister, both of whom have said that our membership of the EEC implies a common foreign policy? Is it not strange that we will soon be the only country left in the EEC which continues to give export credit guarantees to South Africa since the Germans and the Dutch already have such a ban?

Mr. Dell

I am afraid that my hon. Friend is misinformed as to the position of the Netherlands and Germany.

Mr. McCrindle

Why do the Secretary of State and the Government take different views about extending ECGD facilities to South Africa and to Chile, the regimes of both of which, as I understand it, the Government oppose? Could it have anything to do with the fact that such action against South Africa would affect the standard of living of the British people whereas such action against Chile would not?

Mr. Dell

We have made our position on human rights in both countries perfectly clear.