Woollen Goods (U.S.A. Quota)

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Commerce – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30 April 1959.

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Photo of Mr Charles Hobson Mr Charles Hobson , Keighley 12:00, 30 April 1959

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) what representations have been made to the United States Government about the reduction of imports into that country of wool and woollen piece goods from Yorkshire;

(2) if he is aware of the hardship which will be caused to the Yorkshire woollen industry by the United States Government's action in reducing woollen imports; what action he is taking in this matter; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Donald Wade Mr Donald Wade , Huddersfield West

asked the President of the Board of Trade what further representations he has made to the Government of the United States on the subject of the wool tariff quota, in view of the decision of the United States Government to reduce the quota in 1959, thus discriminating against the British wool textile industry and impeding the expansion of international trade.

Photo of Mr David Eccles Mr David Eccles , Chippenham

I am aware of the hardship caused by this quota, though it is not applied against us in particular. We shall continue to represent the case for British wool exports to the United States Government.

Photo of Mr Charles Hobson Mr Charles Hobson , Keighley

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether this matter was referred to by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when he was in Washington dealing with the trouble which arose over the electricity contracts? Can it be stated, through diplomatic channels and otherwise, that the one thing the United States Government seem determined to do is to prevent this country from earning its living and that the United States prefer to give us charity rather than opportunities for trade?

Photo of Mr David Eccles Mr David Eccles , Chippenham

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister mentioned trade matters, but the subject of his conversation is confidential. We must remember that our exports to the United States are steadily increasing.

Photo of Mr Donald Wade Mr Donald Wade , Huddersfield West

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that this wool tariff quota creates one of the worst forms of discrimination and would seem contrary to the policy of increasing international trade which we understand is favoured by the United States? Secondly, on a specific point, as last week the right hon. Gentleman referred to a possible review of the situation on some long-term basis next year, can he say whether representations have been made to get a more satisfactory long-term arrangement and whether he sees any prospect of that being brought about earlier than next year?

Photo of Mr David Eccles Mr David Eccles , Chippenham

"Discrimination" usually means that the arrangements patently are designed to give better opportunities to one country than another. We are of the opinion that this was not the purpose of the United States Government, though it so happens—for reasons which hon. Gentlemen know—that the Japanese get a better chance under this system than we do. We understand that the United States are looking at the long-term situation and we shall continue to press for a change in the system as soon as possible.

Photo of Mr Charles Hobson Mr Charles Hobson , Keighley

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this decision affects a section of the wool trade which has been fortunate in having neither unemployment nor short-time working for many years, namely, the fine numbered yarns section, and that the decision will affect that market and will probably cause short-time working in a part of the woollen industry in the West Riding which has never experienced it before? Is it not a shocking state of affairs when they benefit Japan, their ex-enemy, against their ally, Great Britain?

Photo of Mr David Eccles Mr David Eccles , Chippenham

The hon. Gentleman is not quite correct. This is not making the situation any worse. We shall have as much chance this coming year as last year, in fact a little more, in the high-quality cloths; and I am glad to say that at the moment the rate of activity in Yorkshire is somewhat higher than it was a year ago.

Photo of Commander Charles Donaldson Commander Charles Donaldson , Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire and Peeblesshire

Is not it a fact that in the high-quality goods market which has been referred to, the imposition of a tariff does not benefit the manufacturers in the United States, who do not make the kind of cloth which we make in Scotland—and which presumably is made in the West Riding—and that it does a great deal of harm to the good relations between Britain and the United States in the higher grade wool trade?

Photo of Mr David Eccles Mr David Eccles , Chippenham

It has peculiar effects, but we must remember that the quota relates only to 5 per cent. of the United States production, and therefore there is a large proportion of the United States industry left as it was.