Clause 3. — (Charge of Temporary Customs Duty.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st December 1964.

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Photo of Mr Julian Snow Mr Julian Snow , Lichfield and Tamworth 12:00 am, 1st December 1964

I listened with very great interest to the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) this afternoon, because in a curious way and as opposed to my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) I was myself strongly in support of the Common Market. I think that the time is long past when one need apologise for that sort of attitude, because things are different now and I do not think that the attitude of the Opposition has been particularly helpful.

7.45 p.m.

The more I listened to the right hon. Gentleman's speech, the more I came to the conclusion that he was speaking very much with his tongue in his cheek. No one has had more experience than he has of the effort-taking, time-wasting, frustrating sort of negotiations that he had when he tried to negotiate our entry into the Common Market. Therefore, when he spoke about the possibility of our having consulted countries abroad about the proposed action, I suggest that he knows perfectly well that that would have been time-wasting, time-absorbing and, in the end, completely frustrating, because no one seems to have calculated, so far as I am aware, what would have been the position had such negotiations taken place.

Supposing that they had taken, as might well have been the case, three, four, or five weeks to produce any sort of agreement to disagree, with all the various consultations—I would have thought that a reasonable supposition—what would have been our imbalance of trade at the end of that period? I do not know whether one can delve into these highly speculative calculations as to run down in stock and the estimated improvement in the balance of trade that has been talked about, but is it too great a stretch of the imagination to say that if the imbalance of trade was between £700 million and £800 million six weeks ago by now would it be running at £1,000 million? I think that that is a reasonable calculation. There is a case for brutal action and again the right hon. Member for Bexley has been a victim of brutal action. Is it not about time that this country stopped being shoved around? [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh, but we have been shoved around.

What trouble did the late Government take to demonstrate to the public the developing imbalance of trade between ourselves and other countries of the world? It was always taken as one cohesive figure. The right hon. Gentleman frowns as though he misunderstands what I am saying; let me explain further. I say that the late Government should have taken action to show the public just what countries were being greedy, to put it in simple terms, and the developing imbalance of trade between ourselves and other countries which should have been rectified by bilateral consultations.

Take the position which I see is now developing—perhaps I know a little more about this country than other countries—of Japan, the subject of a trade and navigation treaty less than two years ago. If we study the figures of British-Japanese trade at present, we see a very alarming situation developing with imports from Japan mounting steadily as compared with the increase of exports to Japan. That situation has been reproduced in many other countries over the last ten years. The situation was never brought home to our home manu- factures—the situation where there could have been remedial action taken to stimulate industry to make us relatively if not entirely independent in certain categories.

The right hon. Gentleman said in effect, that this is a protectionist Measure. Of course, as a side effect, it must be, but surely there is a case for saying that we ought to have a breathing space in order to bring home to those industries which are negligent and sluggish what they ought to do to help us in our present state. I must be frank and tell the Committee that the more I listened to speeches by hon. Members opposite this afternoon, the more I came to the conclusion that the Tories in opposition had turned themselves into some sort of importers' lobby.