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Trade And Commerce

Volume 161: debated on Tuesday 13 March 1923

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asked the President of the Board of Trade what was the total quantity of pitch manufactured in Great Britain in 1922; what was the quantity of pitch exported from Great Britain in 1922; what quantity of pitch was manufactured in South Wales in 1922; and what quantity was exported from South Wales to France and Belgium in 1922?

According to returns furnished to the Chief Inspector of Alkali, etc. works, the total quantity of pitch produced in the United Kingdom in 1922 was 514,236 tons, of which 16,248 tons were produced in South Wales. The total exports of pitch in 1922 amounted to 428,317 tons. Twenty tons were registered as consigned to France from ports in South Wales. No consignments to Belgium were registered at South Wales ports.


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that France is placed in a specially advantageous position with her supplies of reparation coal from Germany, which she salads with best British small coal, and binds with British pitch to manufacture a cheaper briquette than can be produced in Great Britain; and whether, to prevent the transference of the British patent fuel industry to France, he will take steps to restrict the exportation of pitch to France and Belgium on similar lines to the restrictions on the exportation of scrap iron from this country now in force?

The hon. Member is under a misapprehension in thinking that there is any restriction on the export of scrap iron from this country. I am aware that the patent fuel industry is passing through a difficult time, but I do not think that it would be in the interests of industry generally to restrict the export of pitch; nor have I any power to do so without authority from Parliament.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the patent fuel industry of this country, 95 per cent. of which is situated in the South Wales coalfield, is a great asset for the development of industry generally, and uses up some 4,000,000 tons of small coal, which otherwise would be useless, and that a large number of men are unemployed owing to the depression in this industry?

Is it not the fact that the correct explanation of that is that the patent fuel manufacturers last summer were offered large new contracts for pitch, which they did not accept, and that they are suffering in consequence?

I am aware of the importance of the industry, but I think that the time has not yet come to adopt the line which the hon. Member suggests. With regard to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Clarry), I do not know what are the facts.

In reference to pitch, is not the position due to the use of the altogether out-of-date system of taking the gas through the mains, and blowing the dust in such quantities with it that the pitch loses much of its value because of the dust which it contains?

Internal And External Trade


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he can state the total value of internal trade and external trade, respectively, in goods produced in Great Britain for the year ended 31st December, 1913, and for the year ended 31st December, 1922?

I regret that I am unable to furnish the hon. Member with any figures of aggregate internal trade in Great Britain during the years 1913 and 1922 for comparison with the published figures of exports.

British Capital (Investment Abroad)


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will arrange for the publication by his Department, either monthly or quarterly, of statistics showing the investment of British capital in the industrial and commercial undertakings and Government and municipal loans of Germany, Austria, and the other succession States, as well as in Poland and the Baltic States, such statistics to show not only the total so placed but the amount for each industry and type of private or public undertaking?

I am not in possession of the data necessary for the preparation of the very complicated statistics for which the hon. Member asks.

Would it not he possible that the data should be obtained, seeing that it is so necessary?

Coke Exports


asked the President of the Board of Trade, if the s.s. "Agene" sailed during the week ending 2nd March, 1923, from Maryport Dock, Cumberland, carrying 600 tons of coke; if the s.s. "Avigot," during the same period and from the same place, left with 500 tons of coke; can he say what was the port or ports of destination of these vessels; and can he say at what these cargoes were valued for the purpose of export?

I am informed that no ships named "Agene" or "Avigot" can be traced as sailing from Maryport during the week ending 2nd March, 1923; but the s.s. "Agate" left that port on the 23rd February with a cargo of 704 tons of coke for Antwerp and the s.s. "Avocet" left on the 27th February with 547 tons of coke for Dunkirk. I regret that I am unable to give information as to the value of the cargoes.

If these figures cannot be given now how does it come about that the Board of Trade obtain the figures which are given in the statistics regarding the value of exports?

Because the figures are obtained by the Board of Trade for aggregation and for the collection of statistics, but the Board of Customs never allow the value of individual cargoes to be given.

If they have not got the individual cargoes how can they give the aggregate?

Trade Ships


asked the President of the Board of Trade if his attention has been called to the trade ship project; and, in view of the serious state of unemployment in the port of Hull and the fact that the reconditioning of the s.s. "British Trade" is giving employment to 450 men there, and in view also of the advantages which trade in all parts of the country will derive from this venture, whether the Government is prepared to support the project?

Yes, Sir, the Department of Overseas Trade has been in frequent communication with the promoters of this project. I am in full sympathy with any well-considered scheme for assisting British trade, but it is not possible for His Majesty's Government to give their official support to this or any other particular scheme until they are satisfied that the proposed exhibition has secured a substantial measure of support from, and is fairly representative of, British industry, and that the whole venture is on a sound footing.

Registration Of Business Names Act


asked the President of the Board of Trade what, was the amount of the loss to the Treasury in the working of the Registration of Business Names Act during the year 1922; and what was the number of firms registered during that year?

The loss in the working of the Registration of Business Names Act, 1916, during 1922 amounted to £1,475. The number of applications registered during that year was 17,174.



asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the British combine of cement-makers makes it a condition that in order to secure the most favourable terms their customers must give an undertaking not to buy cement from any foreign source or from any British maker not in their combine; and whether, seeing that this attempt to crush out all competition by selling at a lower price to those who will give this undertaking than to those who refuse is a practice at variance with the best interest of the community and, in effect, an illegal restraint upon trade, he will say what steps he proposes to take in order to combat this evil practice?

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him on 3rd November last, to which I have nothing to add.

Is the Noble Lord not prepared to take action to prevent trusts from putting up the price of building material so excessively, on the lines of the Government Inquiry, as suggested some time ago?

The Government are watching the situation very carefully, but the facts at present in our possession do not lead us to believe that the steps suggested by the hon. Member would be appropriate now.

Is the Noble Lord aware that under the housing schemes in certain parts of Scotland we were asked to take cement from a trust in London, whereas we could manufacture it for much less?

I should be very much obliged if the hon. Member will give us all the information at his disposal.

Knitting Machines (Export)


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will state the number and value of knitting machines exported from the United Kingdom in the years 1913 and 1922, respectively?

The exports of hosiery and knitting machines from the United Kingdom during the year 1922 amounted to 269 tons valued at £155,277. Corresponding figures for 1913 are not available, as hosiery and knitting machines were, in that year, included under the general heading "Textile Machinery."

Flour (Imports And Exports)


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will state the quantity of flour exported from this country for the last period for which figures are available, and the quantity of flour imported during the same period?

During the month of February, 1923, the quantity of wheat meal and flour registered as exported from the United Kingdom was 167,215 cwts., and the quantity registered during the same period as imported into this country was 1,112,491 cwts. The corresponding figures for the calendar year 1922 are 2,329,087 and 13,481,021 cwts. respectively.

Coast Erosions, Millom


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he has received representations from the Millom Urban District Council on the question of coast erosion; and whether, having regard to the fact that this is a national service, he will consider the question of making it a charge upon the finances of the nation?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative. In reply to the second part of the question I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Torquay on 19th February.

Is the Noble Lord aware of the fact that many of these local authorities have reached their rateable limit and that this national work cannot, will not, and ought not to be done at the expense of the ratepayers?

May I draw attention to the fact that in many parts of the country this is a very serious matter indeed, and will the Noble Lord not do something to try to prevent it?

The matter was carefully considered by a Royal Commission some years ago, and no new reasons have been put forward to depart from the course which they recommended.

Has not very very serious damage been done, especially in Lincolnshire, since the Royal Commission sat, and is not that sufficient reason for reconsidering the matter?

I do not think that the damage done since the Royal Commission sat is more than was done before it sat.