HC Deb 16 November 1983 vol 48 cc842-3
13. Mr. Shersby

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the Minister of Trade's recent visit to Colombia and Venezuela.

Mr. Channon

I visited Colombia and Venzuela to further our bilateral trade relations, to support British companies in those markets, and to open a conference of commercial officers from our embassies in Latin America and the Caribbean, with the purpose of increasing United Kingdom trade in the area.

Mr. Shersby

Does my right hon. Friend agree that trade with the South American continent is of the utmost importance to Britain? Is he aware that trade with that continent is inadequate? What is his policy for improving it?

Mr. Channon

I agree with all my hon. Friend's points. Our trade with South America has fallen far too much, and is now less than 2 per cent. We need to take energetic action to increase it. We shall now concentrate on selective exports and on trying to make a real effort to increase our share of the Latin-American market. In the past decade or so Britain has neglected it far too much.

Mr. Dalyell

If the Minister was sincere about that answer, as I am sure he was, will he have a word with our ever so recent ambassador in Washington, Sir Nicholas Henderson, and ask him not to write in The Economist about the Organisation of American States in particular, and Latin Americans in general, in terms that are quite so insulting and offensive?

Mr. Channon

I have a suspicion that that is another question. However, when I have to pick between the hon. Gentleman and Sir Nicholas Henderson it is, indeed, a difficult task to know which to trust.


Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I did not say that Sir Nicholas Henderson was untrustworthy. He may have written an extraordinary article in The Economist referring to intelligence reports which cannot be questioned in the House of Commons, and he may have made ample use of unpublished Foreign Office telegrams. I suppose that Sir Nicholas Henderson is entitled to defend himself and certain sections of the Foreign Office. The Minister for Trade can put his point of view in the article, which, incidentally, is a veiled but devastating attack upon the Prime Minister.

I said that Sir Nicholas Henderson had insulted the Organisation of American States and what he called in the article "the Latinos". That is different from saying that he is untrustworthy. Can we have an explanation of precisely what the right hon. Gentleman meant when he replied to a relevant question by saying that Sir Nicholas Henderson and I were untrustworthy?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am sure that the whole House will accept that the hon. Gentleman is certainly not untrustworthy. I am sure that had the Minister intended to say that he was, he would withdraw that remark.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Channon

Mr. Speaker, I believe that when the House reads Hansard it will find that I did not say that, but if that was the impression that I gave, it is not the one that I would wish to convey and I naturally withdraw any such implication.