§ 2.42 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have any information to the effect that British ships which are, or have been recently, engaged in the China trade will be refused bunkers in United States ports.]660
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE CO-ORDINATION OF TRANSPORT, FUEL AND POWER (LORD LEATHEAS)
My Lords, I have no doubt that the noble Lord's question is concerned with the introduction by the United States Government on July 6, of new regulations governing the supply of petroleum products to ships in United States ports. These products, which include marine bunker oils and lubricating oil and grease, were previously dealt with under a general export licence and could therefore be freely obtained by ships calling at American ports. The effect of the new regulations is that an individual export licence is now required for the supply of these products to any ship which falls into certain categories, namely: ships which have called at Macao or a Far East Communist port since January 1, 1953, and ships which are bound for any such port within 120 days; ships which are to carry within 120 days any cargo which is known to be destined for any such port and is not covered by a United States export licence; and ships which are registered in or on charter to a Soviet Bloc country, or on charter to a national of such a country.
The first point which I should like to emphasise is that these restrictions are in no sense aimed only at British ships. They apply to all foreign ships that may enter ports under United States jurisdiction, whatever their flag may be. There is no question of discrimination in favour of United States ships, because they are already prohibited from trading with Chiness ports. Secondly, the regulations do not of themselves prohibit the supply of bunkers; they provide only that an individual export licence must be obtained for the supplies for each ship. While it is true that the regulations came into force only a fortnight ago, Her Majesty's Government have so far had no report of an export licence having been refused in respect of a British ship. In at least two cases which have fallen under the new regulations a licence has been granted and bunkers have been obtained without any significant delay to the operations of the ships concerned. Her Majesty's Embassy in Washington are in close touch with the United States Department of Commerce on the administration of this control as it affects 661 British ships, and will investigate immediately any case in which difficulties may arise.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that full and helpful Answer, but may I express the hope that he will follow this matter carefully, because it is one which will affect not merely ships engaged in the China trade but ships engaged in the Eastern trade generally? I appreciate what the noble Lord said about there being no discrimination against our ships in particular, or any discrimination in favour of American ships. But it is the fact that British shipowners engaging in trade with China have to get a licence from the Ministry of Transport, and the British ships which are trading with China are trading only in non-strategic materials and are complying with the resolution on the subject passed by the United Nations. In all those circumstances, it seems unfair and unkind that our ships should in any case be refused bunkers, and I hope that that matter will be followed up, in case any refusal of bunkers occurs. I am sure that the noble Lord will appreciate, too, that American bunkers are much cheaper than British bunkers.
§ LORD LEATHERS
My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord that all the points he has raised will be carefully watched. It is not easy to make any statement, in that the objective of the United States goes beyond what we have laid down in our own regulations. All this will require careful consideration, and the noble Lord may be sure that everything will be watched continuously.
My Lords, closely related to this subject, may I ask the noble Lord whether he is aware that, whilst legitimate British trade with China is under criticism, the United States last year bought from China goods valued at nearly 28 million dollars?
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
My Lords, may I ask whether the Government intend, in the interests of our own traders, to issue some reply to the very damaging report by the McCarthy committee?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, perhaps that is a matter which I can answer. I have not yet seen the 662 report itself; all I have seen have been reports in the Press. I will, however, take an early opportunity of looking at it, and at other documents at the same time, and perhaps it may be possible for me to say something on them in the debate next week.
§ LORD BARNBY
My Lords, reverting to the original reply and arising out of it, may I ask the noble Lord a further question? In view of the acuteness of feeling in the United States on the matter of trade between the United Kingdom and China, as is brought home to those of us who are in constant commercial relationship with the United States, and the widespread misconception existing in the United States, would he feel it worthwhile to make representations in the proper quarter that the appropriate media in the United States—the British Embassy or British Information Services—should be used to bring about a greater understanding in the United States of the difference between, strategic and non-strategic rated materials, in so far as they fall within the categories of trade between the United Kingdom and China?
§ LORD LEATHERS
My Lords, that rather presupposes that nothing of that sort had been done already. I assure the noble Lord that it has been constantly represented and will continue to be the subject of discussion.
§ LORD MATHERS
My Lords, for the purposes of clarification, will the noble Lord say whether the reference to "one twenty days" in his original reply meant one hundred and twenty days?
§ LORD LEATHERS
I am sorry if I have misunderstood the noble Lord's question. Am I asked whether the words "one twenty days" really mean a hundred and twenty days?
§ LORD MATHERS
It is the expression used by the noble Lord. I am asking him whether, when he referred to "one twenty days"—it might mean one period of twenty days—he meant one hundred and twenty days.