asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether, in view of the fact that the Australian Government still maintain a duty ranging from 100 to 300 per cent. on United Kingdom hosiery and knitwear, he will furnish this House with the basic rate of wages in the hosiery and knitwear industry in this country and Australia?
Mr. J. H. THOMAS:
I am aware that the rates of duty in Australia on hosiery and knitwear are at a high level, but I understand that the Commonwealth Tariff Board are reviewing the duties on these commodities in accordance with Article 11 of the United Kingdom-Australian Agreement. I have no information regarding rates of wages in these industries in Australia, but the hon. Member is no doubt aware that in reviewing such duties the Tariff Board is required under Article 10 of the Agreement to take such factors into consideration.
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware of the fact that the English industry claims that the basic rates in this country are as high as in any part of the world, and what other things account for these exceptionally high duties?
asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether he is aware that the new Australian duties have not been reduced to any material degree in favour of this country, but that further duties have been imposed, notably 35 per cent. on English-made elastic fabric (up to one inch in width) in addition to the various existing charges of 52 per cent., making a duty of 92¾ per cent. in all; and, since this contravenes the undertaking which Australia gave at Ottawa that duties should not exceed a level which would give United Kingdom producers opportunities to compete on the basis of relative costs of production, whether he will make representations to that effect to the Australian Government?
Since the Ottawa Conference various modifications have been made in the Australian tariff, the great majority of which have been in the direction of reducing the duties on United Kingdom goods. As regards the increase in the duty on elastic fabric of less than one inch in width, I would refer to the answer which I gave to the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) on 21st June, in which I indicated that I was awaiting the report of the Australian Tariff Board on the subject and that, if after studying the report, I found that there was any useful action I could take in the matter, I would not fail to do so. I hope to receive the report very shortly.