HC Deb 23 February 1922 vol 150 cc2150-1W

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been drawn to the statement that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies announced at a meeting of the Associated West. Indian Chambers of Commerce in Trinidad on the 29th January that the British Government had decided to make a trade arrangement with the West Indies guaranteeing the continuance for the next 10 years of the existing rate of preference; and whether he has any announcement to make on this subject?


I have seen the report of the announcement by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, which represents in substance the policy which His Majesty's Government propose for the acceptance of Parliament, namely, an undertaking to the West Indian Colonies that the preference on goods at present entitled to preferential rates on importation into the United Kingdom shall be continued for 10 years. The undertaking would be that the Customs Duties on such goods, other than spirits, shall bear to the duties on similar goods imported from foreign countries the proportions prescribed by the Second Schedule of the Finance Act, 1919, and that the Customs Duties on spirits shall be lower, by not less than 2s. 6d. per proof gallon, than the duties on foreign spirits of a like kind.

His Majesty's Government do not consider that it will be necessary to make any formal agreement with bile West Indies. They assume that the West Indian Colonies will continue to accord preference to goods of the Mother Country throughout the period. The proposal for an undertaking to the West Indian Colonies is due to the representa- tions made to His Majesty's Government that the introduction of further capital is necessary to maintain and develop the main industries in the West Indies and that the raising of this capital will be greatly facilitated if the producers can be guaranteed that the preference which they enjoy in the United Kingdom market will be assured to them over a definite term of years.

Although the hon. Member's question relates solely to the West Indies and has been answered accordingly, I ought to make it clear that there is no intention of giving less favourable treatment to goods imported into the United Kingdom from any other part of the Empire during the 10 years in question.