HL Deb 10 June 1958 vol 209 cc619-21

2.39 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 if, in view of official statements of policy favouring approved trade with Communist countries (including China), they will state on what basis are quotas of imports fixed for primary products coming from such countries when payments for the same might be expected to assist exports from the United Kingdom to those countries.]


My Lords, the great majority of our imports of primary products from Communist countries, including China, are not subject to quantitative restrictions, so that no quotas need to be fixed for them. Her Majesty's Government consider that the interests of the United Kingdom are best served by allowing importers to procure their supplies of these products from whichever parts of the world can best meet their commercial requirements. For the remaining primary products, and for other products from these countries which require individual import licences, the Board of Trade are prepared, generally speaking, to grant import quotas in exchange for reciprocal facilities in their markets for corresponding British exports.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reassuring reply, but arising out of it may I ask him whether he will review the question of Poland, which at present is able to take substantial quantities of British merchandise and is being subjected to severe restrictions, if not discriminatory restrictions, on her exports of primary products to this country? Also, is it to be under- stood that among the ships from which labour is being held back in the Port of London there are included ships from Iron Curtain countries?


My Lords, further to that supplementary question, may I ask the noble Lord whether any progress has been made in removing the embargo on trade with China, which has a bearing on the point which the noble Lord has already raised?


My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, knows, we are not prepared to establish quotas for Soviet bloc countries' consumer goods, except against reciprocal facilities for consumer goods which we wish to sell to them. It is, of course, a very wide range of United Kingdom consumer goods for which reciprocal facilities are acceptable. If the noble Lord will let me have particulars regarding Polish goods I will look into the question. With regard to his second question, I hope that the noble Lord will allow me to say that a greater degree of poetic justice is involved than of strict relevance to his original Question. The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, asked a question which is really concerned with "Cocom", which again is a different matter. I am happy to tell him that when we have some progress to report we shall report it.


My Lords, why does the noble Lord say that it is concerned with "Cocom"? Surely the question of abolishing the embargo against trade with China is a matter for Her Majesty's Government. And have we not asked time and time again whether Her Majesty's Government will initiate steps to abolish this embargo?


My Lords, it is a matter for Her Majesty's Government, and the noble Viscount has asked, time and time again; but it has nothing whatever to do with the Question of my noble friend Lord Barnby.


My Lords, but still there is no reason why the question put should not be answered. It is a very interesting question, and it has been asked once or twice of another distinguished member of the Government. Have the Government or anybody else at "Cocom" put forward the simple proposition that this embargo should go?


My Lords, my affection for the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, is such that I must rise, but only to tell him that his question is even more irrelevant than those he has previously asked on this subject.


My Lords, may I return to the original Question, for the purpose of the accuracy of the record? In his reply the noble Lord referred, if I correctly understood him, to consumer goods to Poland, as against primary products from Poland. I should like to make sure that he understood that my reference was to the import of primary goods from countries like Poland against the export of manufactured goods, or Empire raw materials, to the country concerned.


Yes, my Lords, I understood.