asked the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs on what dates, at what times, by what methods, and where, notification of Her Majesty's Government's unilateral decision to impose a 15 per cent. surcharge on imports was given to the United States of America, the European Free Trade Association, and other European countries, respectively.
Messages were sent through British Embassies over the weekend of 24th and 25th October to the Governments of the countries of the European Free Trade Association and of the United States, in which full notification was given of the measures to be announced on 26th October. Messages were sent to the Governments of other European countries at the same time as the measures were announced.
Could the hon. Gentleman be more forthcoming? Could he tell us the true facts of this case? Were our American allies in fact informed about this matter 48 hours before our E.F.T.A. partners? Can we have an answer, yes or no?
Could the hon. Gentleman make plain what, in these circumstances, he regards as a significant delay? If it was 48 hours, is he saying that 48 hours in these circumstances was insignificant? Is it not a fact that the Americans themselves questioned the wisdom of their having been informed before our E.F.T.A. partners?
No doubt the hon. Gentleman refers to the fact that Sir Eric Roll was in Washington. The duties of our Executive Director in the I.M.F., who is also Economic Minister in Her Majesty's Embassy in Washington, were to discuss monetary questions with that body and the United States authorities responsible for the other reserve currency, the dollar. In the course of discussions over the weekend, the I.M.F. and the U.S. authorities were informed of Her Majesty's Government's economic measures.
Frankly, in view of the fact that all was due to the bungling—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—of the British economic problems by the party opposite, these supplementary questions really are impertinent.