Oral Answers to Questions — British Embassies (Trade Centres)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd August 1965.

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Photo of Mr Julian Snow Mr Julian Snow , Lichfield and Tamworth 12:00 am, 2nd August 1965

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will examine the possibility of constructing, within suitable British embassies, accommodation for permanent trade centres.

Photo of Mr Walter Padley Mr Walter Padley , Ogmore

Perhaps my hon. Friend would give me a more precise indication of what he has in mind. We are certainly anxious that embassies should give all appropriate assistance in export promotion, but I think that non-official organisations would prefer that nonofficial centres overseas should be kept separate from official missions.

Photo of Mr Julian Snow Mr Julian Snow , Lichfield and Tamworth

Is my hon. Friend saying that our trade centres are not a Government responsibility? In that case, may I draw his attention to the conclusion of the Plowden Committee, which clearly stated that commercial and economic responsibilities must be a first charge on our overseas missions?

Photo of Mr Walter Padley Mr Walter Padley , Ogmore

I devoted a substantial part of my speech in the last foreign affairs debate to explaining how the Government were seeking to implement the Plowden Committee's view that export promotion should be a first charge on the Diplomatic Service; but the plain fact is that the National Export Council, the Confederation of British Industries and the Association of British Chambers of Commerce all consider that it would be preferable for unofficial organisations overseas to be kept separate from official missions.

Photo of Mr William Baxter Mr William Baxter , West Stirlingshire

Would my hon. Friend look again at this matter, as most of our trade attachés have little knowledge or understanding of the problems confronting Scotland? Would not trade attaches well versed in our problems be able to help in the development of our trade?

Photo of Mr Walter Padley Mr Walter Padley , Ogmore

Our overseas missions which I have personally inspected in the last nine months have been admirable and do not bear out my hon. Friend's contention.

Photo of Sir Albert Costain Sir Albert Costain , Folkestone and Hythe

I agree that commercial counsellors in our embassies are doing a very good job. However, will the Minister see that when they come to this country they take ample opportunity to visit industries in order to familiarise themselves with British products?

Photo of Mr Walter Padley Mr Walter Padley , Ogmore

That is well in accord with established practice.