HL Deb 19 November 1957 vol 206 cc375-6

2.35 p.m.


My Lords, in asking leave to put the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper, I would explain that, since the Question was framed, a statement has been made which, of course, replaces the word "rumours" in the Question.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Press rumours of a contemplated lowering of tariffs on steel have any foundation; if so, what confirmation would be necessary by Parliament; what weight was imported in 1956 from U.S.A.; what tariff reductions in compensation or reciprocity where import is normally substantial, such as for instance wool textiles, will be immediately obtained.]


My Lords, it is proposed shortly to enter into an Agreement with the European Coal and Steel Community, under which the United Kingdom duties on the main iron and steel products will be reduced to 10 per cent., with appropriate alternative specific rates. The Agreement will be published and laid before Parliament in the usual way before it is ratified. The weight of imports of the products concerned from the United States of America in 1956 was about 390,000 tons. Since the United States is not a party to the proposed Agreement, the question of compensation or reciprocity from that source does not arise, but under the Agreement the countries of the Community will introduce new rates of duty which in some cases will mean substantial reductions.


My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for his Answer? The latter part of it, if I understood it correctly, implies that under the most-favoured-nation treatment a concession to Europe carries an equal concession to the United States, so that the reduced rate of duty will be applicable to imports from the United States and, apparently, without reciprocal advantage in reductions of tariffs on other items exported from the United Kingdom to the United States.


My Lords, we are undertaking no commitment toward the United States of America in regard to maintaining our tariff at the new level; we could raise it after consultation with the parties to the Agreement, without any reference to the United States. That being so, there is no ground for securing compensating concessions from the United States. The compensation we have obtained is from the parties to the Agreement in the form of a harmonised steel tariff for the six countries at a less restrictive level.


My Lords, without asking the noble Lord to be more explicit now, I would ask him whether he will consider the point that apparently a reduction of duty has been extended to the United States unsought, without trading advantages to us in other directions.


Yes, my Lords, but that is inevitable under the procedure we have followed.

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