Oral Answers to Questions — Cuba (Trade Negotiations)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th April 1951.

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Photo of Lieut-Commander Peter Smithers Lieut-Commander Peter Smithers , Winchester 12:00 am, 12th April 1951

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what consultations took place with Commonwealth Governments before His Majesty's Government entered into negotiations with the Cuban Government with regard to the purchase of sugar, tobacco or grapefruit.

Photo of Mr Patrick Gordon Walker Mr Patrick Gordon Walker , Smethwick

There was no consultation before the negotiations opened, but during the negotiations there have been exchanges of view with other Commonwealth Governments.

Photo of Lieut-Commander Peter Smithers Lieut-Commander Peter Smithers , Winchester

In view of the existence of the Commonwealth sugar agreement, does the right hon. Gentleman not think that it was incumbent upon him to consult with Commonwealth Governments before negotiations were undertaken?

Photo of Mr Patrick Gordon Walker Mr Patrick Gordon Walker , Smethwick

No, Sir, I think not, but when the negotiations were begun they were to cover a wide field and it was impossible to know what matters would be raised. The President of the Board of Trade has stated our view, which is that nothing will be agreed with Cuba which conflicts with or prejudices the sugar agreement arrived at with other Commonwealth countries.

Photo of Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd , Mid Bedfordshire

The right hon. Gentleman states that when the talks began it was impossible to know that this matter would be raised. Is it not obvious that in any talks with Cuba the question of sugar will arise? Was not the Prime Minister of Queensland recently the guest of His Majesty's Government in London, and were no references whatever made to the Prime Minister of Queensland about these proposed talks?

Photo of Mr Patrick Gordon Walker Mr Patrick Gordon Walker , Smethwick

The Premier of Queensland was, of course, in this country but our agreement was with the Federal Government of Australia, not the Queensland Government. We have, naturally, had detailed conversations on this sugar question with the Australian Government and, for that matter, with the South African Government, also.

Photo of Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd , Mid Bedfordshire

The Prime Minister of Queensland having been here, is it not a grossly improper way in which to conduct Imperial negotiations in that no reference whatever should be made to the Prime Minister of Queensland on a matter which deeply affects the future of the State of Queensland?

Photo of Mr Patrick Gordon Walker Mr Patrick Gordon Walker , Smethwick

It would be quite improper for us to discuss with the Premier of Queensland matters which fall between His Majesty's Government here and His Majesty's Government in Australia—not the Government of Queensland.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

Is my right hon. Friend saying that there were detailed conversations with the Government of Australia and the Government of New Zealand? If so, were there also consultations with the Government of Jamaica?

Photo of Mr Patrick Gordon Walker Mr Patrick Gordon Walker , Smethwick

I have, of course, no responsibility for our relations with the Government of Jamaica. There have been discussions with the Government of Australia and the Government of South Africa.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

Does my right hon. Friend not know whether, in fact, there were consultations on this matter with the Government of Jamaica, and does not the matter intimately affect the people of Jamaica?

Photo of Mr Patrick Gordon Walker Mr Patrick Gordon Walker , Smethwick

Even if I do know, I think that that question should be addressed to my right hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd , Mid Bedfordshire

Has the right hon. Gentleman received any representations from the Prime Minister of Queensland? Second, as he is also responsible for relations with the Dominion of Canada, is he not conscious of the effect of Dominion of Canada purchases from the West Indies on the agreements entered into by His Majesty's Government with the Government of Cuba?

Photo of Mr Patrick Gordon Walker Mr Patrick Gordon Walker , Smethwick

I would like notice of the question about the Premier of Queensland. I do not remember whether we have had representations or not. I am, of course, aware of the importance of Canada and the Canadian market in this connection.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Billericay

Is not it a fact that the right hon. Gentleman could not consult with Commonwealth Governments before the negotiations were started because he himself was not consulted by his colleague, the President of the Board of Trade?

Photo of Mr Nigel Fisher Mr Nigel Fisher , Hitchin

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the trade arrangements recently concluded with Cuba.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Hon. Peter Remnant Lieut-Colonel Hon. Peter Remnant , Wokingham

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will give an assurance that the proposed trade agreement with Cuba will not be signed until it has received the approval of Parliament.

Photo of Lieut-Commander Peter Smithers Lieut-Commander Peter Smithers , Winchester

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the current negotiations with the Cuban Government, it is the policy of His Majesty's Government to increase the proportion of grapefruit imported into Britain from countries outside the British Commonwealth.

Photo of Mr Arthur Bottomley Mr Arthur Bottomley , Rochester and Chatham

I would refer the hon. Members to the reply which I gave on Tuesday last to the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans).

Photo of Mr Nigel Fisher Mr Nigel Fisher , Hitchin

How can the hon. Gentleman reconcile this Cuban arrangement with the undertaking given to me in the House on 8th February of this year by his right hon. Friend, who specifically stated that he accepted the fullest responsibility for the welfare of the colonial producers and for the retention of Imperial Preference? Have not the Government grossly betrayed our producers in the British West Indies?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Hon. Peter Remnant Lieut-Colonel Hon. Peter Remnant , Wokingham

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate the anger and dismay caused by these proposals? Does he consider that to purchase a large amount of tobacco from Cuba is the right way to help our own Colonies, and Jamaica in particular?

Photo of Lieut-Commander Peter Smithers Lieut-Commander Peter Smithers , Winchester

As the Government are asking the British taxpayer to invest large sums of money in increasing grapefruit production in the Empire, cannot we be given a statement in answer to Question No. 22 which would reassure those who have been asked to grow the grapefruit?

Photo of Mr Arthur Bottomley Mr Arthur Bottomley , Rochester and Chatham

Grapefruit is purchased on private account. Is it suggested that the Government should control private purchase?

Photo of Lieut-Commander Joseph Braithwaite Lieut-Commander Joseph Braithwaite , Bristol North West

Will the House receive a full report on the whole of this matter when the results of the Torquay conversations are reported to us in due course? In the meantime, would the hon. Gentleman convey to his right hon. Friend the anxiety displayed on this matter on both sides of the House in supplementary questions to Question No. 3 earlier today?

Photo of Mr Arthur Bottomley Mr Arthur Bottomley , Rochester and Chatham

We are already aware of that. The agreement will be submitted to the House in the usual way.

Photo of Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd , Mid Bedfordshire

When the hon. Gentleman, or his right hon. Friend, submits to the House the full agreement, will he also submit the communications he has received from the Government of Queensland and the Government of Australia, and also the communications received by the Secretary of State for the Colonies from His Majesty's West Indian Colonies, not about the merits of this proposed agreement but about the complete failure to consult with our fellow citizens in the Empire about the propriety of having any agreement at all?

Photo of Mr Arthur Bottomley Mr Arthur Bottomley , Rochester and Chatham

It would give the wrong impression to say that there has been no consultation. Mention has already been made today about consultations taking place. Today's OFFICIAL REPORT will show what my right hon. Friend has been asked to consider.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

Can my hon. Friend say whether there have been, or will be, consultations with the Government of Jamaica about this matter, and can he say what the effect of these proposals will be on the welfare and employment of the people of Jamaica?

Photo of Mr Arthur Bottomley Mr Arthur Bottomley , Rochester and Chatham

The appropriate department of the Colonial Office has considered, and is discussing with them, all these matters.

Photo of Mr Emrys Roberts Mr Emrys Roberts , Merionethshire

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that if, as a result of this agreement, we get more sugar for British housewives, the overwhelming opinion of the country will support the Government in it?

Photo of Mr Robert Hudson Mr Robert Hudson , Southport

The hon. Gentleman said that this agreement would be submitted to the House. Will it be submitted in a form in which we can discuss it before it is ratified, or will he only allow us to have a futile discussion after it has been finally decided?

Photo of Mr Arthur Bottomley Mr Arthur Bottomley , Rochester and Chatham

The right hon. Gentleman knows what is meant by the words "usual procedure," and that will be followed in this case.

Photo of Mr James Harrison Mr James Harrison , Nottingham East

Does my hon. Friend agree that, as we are taking the largest quantity of sugar that we can get from the Commonwealth countries, it is reasonable that we should attempt to increase our sugar supplies by agreements similar to this with Cuba?