HL Deb 16 November 1961 vol 235 cc730-1

My Lords, I beg leave 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, in the forthcoming negotiations with the Cuban Government for the renewal of the Anglo-Cuban Trade Agreement, full regard will be given, first to the damage which has been caused to the Jamaican cigar industry by the existing quota for Cuban cigars which has risen to 1½ million dollars for 1961; and secondly to the undesirability of expending large sums of money on imports from Cuba while the Cuban Government still refuse to pay any compensation for British property seized by them.]


My Lords, in considering the future of the AngloCuban Trade Agreement, which expires at the end of this year, Her Majesty's Government will take full account of the interests of the Jamaican cigar industry. The value of imports of Jamaican cigars in 1960 was £387,000, which was considerably above the figures for the two preceding years. Jamaican cigars enjoy a preferential tariff in the United Kingdom market and can be imported without any restriction as to quantity. On the second part of the Question, my noble friend Lord Dundee said on November 8 that we have already demanded the restoration of expropriated British property in Cuba and we shall continue to press for this. While recognising the importance for our commercial relations with Cuba of a solution to this problem, it would not be helpful at this stage if we attempted to link it directly with the level of trade in particular products between the two countries.


My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for his reply, I should like to ask him whether he is aware of the fact that the present large-scale unemployment in Jamaica is bound to be increased by the impending Commonwealth Immigrants Bill; and whether, in view of this, and also of the very high-handed treatment of British interests in Cuba in general, Her Majesty's Government will in fact not consider terminating entirely the quota for Havana cigars when the present trade agreement expires. It really seems to me that it is a luxury which on grounds of self-interest or self-respect we can no longer afford.


My Lords, the public have it in their own hands to buy Jamaican cigars if they wish to. As I say, they have a preferential tariff and can be imported freely. But in considering this matter we must have regard for the fact that we export to Cuba also, and I do not think it would be the path of wisdom just to abolish the quota for Cuban cigars; nor do I think it would be generally desired.


My Lords, in view of the basis of the supplementary question from Lord Colyton, I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Mills, has yet had any consultations with an expert on this matter and a heavy user of what was described as "a luxury" and, I think, as something else—Sir Winston Churchill? Why not consult him about it?


My Lords, perhaps the noble Viscount might have a word with him.