HL Deb 25 January 1956 vol 195 cc524-5

2.53 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are aware (1) that the New York Times of December 21, 1955, stated in relation to trade with China, that, The British feel that the present restrictions could be eased without permitting the export of materials of a definitely strategic value to Pekin. They can, if they wish, take this step unilaterally while remaining within the general terms of the United Nations resolution"; (2) that amongst items embargoed by this country but exported by West Germany to China in 1955 were power machinery, optical precision instruments and copper and alloys, and that trade in British-embargoed items took place in 1955 between Sweden and Switzerland on the one hand and China on the other and seeing that some countries are driving a coach and four through the gap between the broad terms of the United Nations resolution and the specific provisions of the original embargo lists, whether Her Majesty's Government will take steps to place British industrialists on an equal footing with their foreign competitors in the China market.]


My Lords, Her Majesty's Government are aware of the statement by the New York Times to which the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, refers in the first part of his Question. As my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicated in another place on November 30, the scope of the China trade controls is under study, in consultation with the United States authorities.

As to the second part of the Question, I would refer the noble Viscount to the answer which my noble friend Lord Mancroft gave to him in reply to a similar Question on December 6. As my noble friend then indicated, British businessmen desiring to trade with China are on exactly the same footing as their foreign competitors, such as those of France, Japan and Western Germany and other members of tile Consultative Group. The items referred to in the noble Viscount's Question as having been exported by West Germany form part of categories of item, some of which are subject to embargo and others not. I understand that the items so exported were not subject to embargo. As has already been stated, Sweden and Switzerland are not members of the Consultative Group in Paris. However, Her Majesty's Government do not consider that the nature or volume of these two countries' exports to China arc such as to prejudice the general effectiveness of the controls maintained by members of the Consultative Group.


I beg to thank the noble Marquess for his Answer.


My Lords, may I ask Her Majesty's Government whether it is not a fact that the embargo list for China is approximately double the length of the embargo list for Russia, and, if that is so, that any item exported to the Soviet bloc can easily be re-exported to China? Therefore, is there not a case for bringing these two embargo lists more into line with one another?


My Lords, I would not commit myself offhand to the existing excess of the China list over the Soviet list, but there is a considerably greater number of articles than on the Soviet list. The point which the noble Lord has just made is, of course, one which has been under consideration, and, indeed, has been mentioned in a previous discussion on this particular matter in your Lordships' House.