§ 34. Mr. Braine
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what official representations have been made to him by the 236 Federation of the West Indies concerning the effects of dollar liberalisation proposals upon the West Indian citrus industry, which was developed as a result of undertakings given by this country; and if he will make a statement.
§ 36. Mr. A. Henderson
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what action he is taking to safeguard the position of the West Indies citrus industry, in view of the policy of Her Majesty's Government to liberalise trade with the dollar area.
§ 63. Mr. Fisher
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what plans he has been preparing to offset the effects on the citrus industry of the West Indies of the dollar trade liberalisation policy.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
A West Indian delegation led by the Deputy Prime Minister of the Federation is at present discussing the question of safeguards to the citrus industry. The delegation have drawn attention to the risks to which their market in this country would be open in the event of complete dollar liberalisation. The position regarding liberalisation is, broadly, that quantitative restrictions on imports can only be imposed so long as they are justified on balance of payments grounds. As the discussions are still continuing, I am sure the House would not expect me to make any further statement about the probable outcome at this stage. But I can say this. Her Majesty's Government fully recognise the importance of the citrus industry to the West Indies and are in the present Conference discussing means of helping the West Indian Governments to build it up so that it can meet fair competition from any quarter.
§ Mr. Braine
While thanking my right hon. Friend for that Answer, which, of course, one recognises has been given in the middle of the negotiations, may I ask if he would urge upon his colleagues in the Government that the minimum requirement to save this industry is to maintain the quantitative restriction on dollar imports for sufficiently long to enable the industry to make adjustments in its arrangements over a period of years?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
That is one of the matters that is being considered by the 237 Conference, and I feel that it would not be appropriate for me to give an answer now.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Will the Colonial Secretary bear in mind that in recent years some degree of progress towards viability has been made in the West Indies by long-term contracts and secure markets; and, in view of the fact that the islands have now embarked upon this great venture of federation, will he realise how very important it is that we should give them every assistance to maintain their basic industry?
§ Mr. Henderson
Does the Answer of the Secretary of State mean that in these negotiations Her Majesty's Government intend to make proposals with the object of safeguarding the economy of the West Indian Federation from the competition of economically more developed countries?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The right hon. and learned Gentleman must not read into my Answer more than I intended. I fully recognise the importance of the industry, and the historic ties of that industry with the United Kingdom. One of our tasks is to reconcile the economic interests of the West Indies with our international obligations. I am hopeful that that can be done, but I am sure that it would be premature to go beyond the Answer I have given.
§ Mr. Fisher
Will not my right hon. Friend agree that unrestricted United States competition in the United Kingdom would be completely disastrous for the West Indian citrus industry? Will he confirm, if possible, the undertaking given to the West Indian Ministers by the present Lord Chandos when he was Secretary of State?