HL Deb 05 November 1979 vol 402 cc693-4WA

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether their review into the desirability and practicality of ceasing the authentication of negative certificates of origin has been completed.


The Government have now consulted the organisations directly concerned with the authentication of negative certificates of origin.

None of those consulted approve of the boycott or of the requirement for negative certificates of origin which is one aspect of it. However there was a consensus of opinion among those organisations in- volved with trade to the Arab countries that if the Foreign and Commonwealth Office ceased authentication of signatures on negative certificates of origin there would be an unacceptable risk to British exports. The Government agree with this view. We have therefore concluded that in these circumstances it would be against British interests to discontinue the practice of authentication.

The main reason advanced by the Select Committee of the House of Lords for discontinuing this practice was that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office thereby gave the impression of condoning the content of the negative certificate. The Government do not condone the boycott. As has been stated on a number of occasions, it is the attesting signature on the document not the document itself which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is authenticating. We accept that there is a case for making this absolutely clear, and an explanation to this effect is now being attached to each FCO authentication certificate. We believe that this explanation meets the main objection raised by the Select Committee to the process of authentication, without incurring unacceptable damage to British trading interests.

House adjourned at twenty-eight minutes before eight o'clock.