§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, I beg to ask His Majesty's Government the question standing in my name on the Paper.
§ [The question was as follows:
§ To ask His Majesty's Government, whether they will undertake that the United Kingdom shall not be committed to the Trade Charter, the draft of 204 which is now under discussion at Havana, until the Charter has been approved by Parliament.]
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (VISCOUNT ADDISON)
My Lords, it may perhaps be advantageous if the opportunity is taken which is afforded by the noble Viscount's question to make a statement explanatory of the relationship between the general Agreement concluded at Geneva and the draft Charter now under examination at Havana. The Conference held during 1947 at Geneva between representatives of most of the leading trading nations drew up, first, a General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade between the Governments there represented, embodying a multilateral exchange of tariff concessions as well as certain general clauses; and second, a draft Charter for the proposed International Trade Organisation, which is at present under consideration by the World Conference at Havana. The main substantive provisions of the General Agreement correspond very closely with those of the draft Charter as it emerged from Geneva, and it was provided in the Agreement that they should be suspended and superseded by the provisions of the Charter when the latter entered into force, subject to the right of any contracting party to object.
His Majesty's Government have not yet deposited their instrument of acceptance of the General Agreement, nor will the General Agreement enter definitively into force until it has been accepted by contracting parties who account for at least 85 per cent. of the total external trade of all the signatories. In common, however, with the Governments of Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United States of America, His Majesty's Government signed a Protocol of Provisional Application of the General Agreement in which they undertook to apply the General Agreement provisionally as from the 1st January, 1948, and this Protocol is now in force. The draft Charter is at present under active consideration at Havana and the final form of its provisions is not yet settled; it is therefore not possible to define the attitude of His Majesty's Government at this stage or to say to what extent the provisions of the General Agreement will be affected. I can, however, undertake that Parliament will be given a full opportunity, in accordance 205 with usual practice, for a debate on the Charter before the stage of acceptance is reached.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, I am sure your Lordships will be deeply grateful to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for that very full statement. Arising out of it, I should like to put to him a further question. As I understand the concluding passage of his answer it means that His Majesty's Government will not commit this country to the Charter, in whatever form it emerges, until Parliament has had an opportunity of approving or disapproving of it. Is that so?
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I am much obliged. Could the noble Viscount state what is the relationship to the draft Charter of the General Tariff Agreement at Geneva to which he referred in his answer; and in particular will the General Tariff Agreement be finally ratified irrespective of the Charter or do the two hang together?
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
The General Agreement has already been debated in another place, and a Motion approving it was agreed to there. There has, however, been no intention on the part of His Majesty's Government, or indeed on the part of any other Government concerned, to ratify the General Agreement before the outcome of the discussions on the draft Charter is known.