Exports to the United Kingdom (Surcharge)

Oral Answers to Questions — Commonwealth Relations – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st December 1964.

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Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham 12:00 am, 1st December 1964

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (1) what decline in imports from Commonwealth countries he expects as a result of the imposition of import surcharges; and

(2) what studies he is making of the effect of the import surcharges on the economies of Commonwealth countries.

Photo of Mr Cledwyn Hughes Mr Cledwyn Hughes , Anglesey

The purpose of the charge is, of course, to reduce imports, but it leaves consumer choice free. Its effect on any particular category of imports and particular supplying countries will depend on the decisions of importers and consumers. The Government will keep a careful watch on the effect.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

Is not the Minister rather ashamed of having to give that reply when very little consideration has been given to the effect on the Commonwealth'? Have any talks been carried on between the Minister and the Minister for Overseas Development about special aid to offset this severe blow to Commonwealth trade?

Photo of Mr Cledwyn Hughes Mr Cledwyn Hughes , Anglesey

Other Commonwealth Governments have already in some cases indicated their confidential views on how import charges will affect them. They will probably give more detailed accounts when they have had time to consider the matter more carefully. I cannot go further than that at the moment.

Photo of Mr Robin Turton Mr Robin Turton , Thirsk and Malton

Will the hon. Gentleman explain why it was that these confidential communications were not asked for from these Governments before the charge was put on when it appears from paragraph 11 of the White Paper that the United States Government were fully consulted?

Photo of Mr Cledwyn Hughes Mr Cledwyn Hughes , Anglesey

No Government was consulted before the announcement was made about the surcharges. All Governments were informed more or less about the same time.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

Could my hon. Friend tell us for how much longer exporters in the Commonwealth countries would be prepared to export to us if we were not in a position to pay for their exports?

Photo of Mr John Tilney Mr John Tilney , Liverpool Wavertree

Is it not very surprising that, despite agreements always to consult with the Commonwealth, they were not consulted?

Photo of Mr Cledwyn Hughes Mr Cledwyn Hughes , Anglesey

The hon. Member should know that this was an extraordinary situation brought about by the actions of his Government.

Photo of Mr David Ennals Mr David Ennals , Dover

Will my hon. Friend confirm that during the 13 years of Conservative rule there was a steady decline in Commonwealth trade?

Sir F. Bennett asked:

the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what advance notification of the decision to impose a 15 per cent. surcharge on imports was given to the Commonwealth.

Photo of Mr Cledwyn Hughes Mr Cledwyn Hughes , Anglesey

I have nothing to add to the reply of my right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary to the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) on 17th November.

Photo of Mr Frederic Bennett Mr Frederic Bennett , Torquay

Can the hon. Gentleman now clarify once and for all that no advance notification whatever was given to the Commonwealth, but was given to the United States of America? Can we have a straight answer to that, as it is a question which we have found it difficult to get answered?

Photo of Mr Cledwyn Hughes Mr Cledwyn Hughes , Anglesey

All Governments were notified. There was no consultation. I can assure the House that any difference in timing of the messages to Commonwealth and other Governments was not significant.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

Will my hon. Friend take the opportunity to congratulate the hon. Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett) on the honour which he has just had bestowed upon him for political services? At the same time, will he reject the patronising attitude which we are now witnessing day by day from hon. Members opposite and in plain language reject it? If he does not have a sufficient supply of plain language, let him come to me and I will lend it to him.

Photo of Mr Cledwyn Hughes Mr Cledwyn Hughes , Anglesey

I have a sufficient supply of plain language in both English and Welsh, but as this is my first appearance at the Dispatch Box, my right hon. Friend will excuse if I do not use it today.