HC Deb 07 December 1954 vol 535 cc31-2W
95. Mr. Osborne

asked the President of the Board of Trade, in view of the fact that the McKenna duties were imposed in 1915 as a temporary war-time measure, and the big wages and profits that are now being earned in the motor car manufacturing industry behind the shelter of the 33⅓ per cent. tariffs imposed, if he will set up a committee to examine the possibility of reducing these duties in exchange for the lowering of foreign tariffs, especially American, on British exports from industries which are less prosperous than motor manufacturing; and if he will make a statement on the position.

Mr. Low

The duties to which my hon. Friend refers were renewed annually until 1924. But in 1925 they were re-introduced without limit of time.

The United Kingdom has signified its willingness, by its membership of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, to enter into reciprocal and mutually advantageous arrangements for lowering tariffs. This object can best be achieved by multilateral negotiations.

As my right hon. Friend said last month at Geneva, we are willing to take part in further negotiations for this purpose with the other contracting parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, but it would be premature to do so until the other countries, particularly the United States of America, are able to negotiate tariff concessions. I cannot, of course, say what requests for reductions of our duties we should receive from other countries if these negotiations take place, and I would not wish to prejudge which duties we might find it appropriate to reduce in the course of them.