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Trade And Commerce

Volume 236: debated on Monday 10 March 1930

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Portuguese Port Dues (Discrimination)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the reason why embarkation and disembarkation charges are to be made against our goods at the port of Lisbon; and whether His Majesty's representative has reminded the Government of Portugal of the signatures of the Portuguese representatives at Geneva in 1923 and of the undertaking given by Portugal in 1928 to abandon discrimination against our goods and ships?

I am unaware that any changes are contemplated in the existing port dues levied on vessels loading and unloading at Lisbon. These dues are at present greater in the case of foreign than of national vessels, and so involve discrimination against the shipping of all foreign nations Calling at Lisbon. His Majesty's Ambassador at Lisbon has been instructed to make comprehensive representations to the Portuguese Government on the general question of flag discrimination. These representations will cover the question of port dues. The only relevant international Convention signed at Geneva during 1923 is the Convention on Maritime Ports, but this was not signed by Portugal. The Portuguese Government have, however, been reminded more than once of the assurance given in January, 1928, by the then Minister of Foreign Affairs that all measures of flag discrimination would shortly be abolished.

Will the right hon. Gentleman keep a careful eye on this matter, in order that we at any rate may not be prejudiced in our trade with Portugal?

If representations can be made in the case of Portugal, why is it that they cannot be made in the case of Russia?

Export Credits


asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department the number of cases during the 12 months ended to the last convenient date that the Government have been called upon to pay under its guarantee on bills lodged with importers that were given under the exports credit scheme; and can he give the nationality of the defaulters or where they were domiciled?

122 separate claims were paid under the Export Credits Guarantee Scheme during the 12 months ended 28th February. The acceptors of the dishonoured bills in question were domiciled in 41 different countries.

Are the ordinary commercial trade inquiries made before these transactions are completed?

Does any loss fall on the British taxpayer, and, if so, what is the amount?

The final loss falls on the British taxpayer. Last year the amount was about £18,000 to £20,000.

So that it would be true to say the British taxpayer has really guaranteed any loss that may arise from Russian defaults?

If the bill has been guaranteed and the acceptor does not pay the Government make good the loss.


asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department why he anticipates that the cost of implementing guarantees during the coming year under the export credits scheme will rise by 50 per cent.?

The anticipated rise in the cost of implementing guarantees under the Export Credits Guarantee Scheme during the coming financial year is due in part to the expectation of heavier claims owing to the world wide depression of credit conditions, and in part to the expectation of an increasing turnover. In this connection, the hon. and gallant Member will also, no doubt, have observed that the Estimate for Export Credits provides for a 50 per cent increase in premium receipts.

May I take it that that applies to the countries which take out guarantees and that it will presumably be Russia?

Russia (Export Credits)


asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department if he will state how many applications have been received under the Export Credits Guarantee Scheme for facilities in respect to exports to Soviet Russia; how many of these applications have been acceded to; and the total amount of money involved in those approved for guarantee?


asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department whether he can state the total amount applied for under the Exports Credit Scheme for trade with Russia; what are the amounts which have been granted; and why applicants who desire credit for more than 12 months are being refused?

The hon. Members will realise that a number of inquiries, which may or may not crystallise into definite proposals, are discussed with the Export Credits Guarantee Department. Moreover many inquiries and proposals relate to the same business. It is impossible, therefore, to give any reliable figures as to the number or amount of applications received. 144 definite proposals in respect of exports to Russia, involving £3,142,090, had been approved up to 4th February. It is not the practice to give reasons for the refusal of facilities.


asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department if he has received representations from the Leeds Chamber of Commerce Journal to the effect that since 1st January engineering contracts to the value of £3,500,000, which could have been secured from Russia had credits been available, have been turned over to foreign competitors against British firms; and whether he proposes to take any action in increased credit facilities to meet such cases?

Though I have seen the statement in the "Leeds Chamber of Commerce Journal" to which my hon. Friend refers, I have received no representations from the Chamber itself on the matter. Under the Export Credits Guarantee Scheme, guarantees are given on the recommendation of the advisory committee to whom applications for facilities are referred. I do not propose to interfere with their discretion in the consideration of such applications.

Does my hon. Friend notice the very strong contrast drawn by Mr. Metcalfe, who was one of the delegation to Russia last year, between the British and the North American methods of dealing with this business?

Yes, Sir. I have had an interview with Mr. Metcalfe, and he has given me all the information on the matter.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is still a large unfilled market for British goods in Russia, and will he give ample notice of the date when he expects to hear of our having received those orders which the Socialist party told us were going to put unemployment right?

Is it not a fact that Russia has a large credit balance in this country to-day?

British Industries Fair


asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department whether he can state the nature and approximate value of any orders placed at Olympia by the one representative from Russia who attended the British Industries Fair this year?

No, Sir. It has never been the practice to inquire into the nature or value of orders placed by individual buyers.

Does the attendance of one single Russian at the British Industries Fair give any indication that the Russians are anxious to deal with this country?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is no very great possibility of trade being developed with Russia so long as the Opposition behave as they are doing?


asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department the amount of admission money taken from the general public at the Olympia turn stiles during the period of this year's British Industries Fair; how this amount compares with last year's takings; and whether he has received any complaints from the exhibitors in connection with the extension of hours during which the public were enabled to visit this section of the fair this year?

The receipts from the admission of the general public this year were £2,565 16s., compared with the amount of £1,633 9s. in 1929. The hours during which the public were admitted were the same on both occasions, and therefore the last part of the question does not arise.


asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department whether any woman has been, or is likely to be, appointed on the committee of the British Industries Fair; and whether, in view of the fact that women are the largest consumers of goods displayed at the London fair and many women are exhibitors, some such appointment will be made?

The position with regard to the Advisory Committees of the British Industries Fair is that the members are elected from among their number by the exhibitors themselves. It is always open, therefore, to the exhibitors to elect a woman representative.

Is it a fact that there are no Government representatives whatever on that Committee?

Does the hon. Gentleman accept the statement that women are the largest consumer of goods displayed, and, if so, is it not a fact that husbands sometimes pay for the goods of their wives?

I am afraid that I cannot express an opinion upon either of those points.

Imports (Prison Labour)


asked the Prime Minister whether, in the case of imports produced by compulsory labour, it is the intention of the Government to work through the machinery of the League of Nations, as in the case of sweated goods, or to deal with the matter by legislation?

I have been asked to answer this question. The importation into this country of goods which have been made or produced in any foreign prison, gaol, house of correction or penitentiary is already prohibited by the Foreign (Prison-made) Goods Act, 1897.

Does that apply to the immense amount of compulsory labour that is employed in Soviet Russia?

Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will put down a fuller question.

Is the hon. Gentleman prepared to introduce legislation to prevent the exportation from this country of goods which are being produced by sweated labour here?

Commercial Missions And Trade Investigations


asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department what commercial missions and trade investigations it is proposed to carry out during the coming financial year?

The matter is receiving my close consideration, but I am not at present in a position to make a statement.

Will the hon. Gentleman see to it that some special mission is sent to Russia to investigate the matter?

Germany And Persia (Consuls)


asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department whether seeing that there are already 29 Consuls-general and Vice-Consuls in Persia, that an additional one is being proposed, and that already there are more Consuls in Persia than there are in Germany, whereas our trade with Persia is only one-fortieth of our trade with Germany, he will increase our Consular representation in Germany or reduce our over-representation in Persia?

The number of Consuls necessary to afford adequate protection for British subjects and trade must vary in different countries and circumstances. It must, for example, depend not only on the volume of trade, but on such factors as distances, means of communication, difficulty of language, and climate. The new appointment in Persia is that of a commercial diplomatic officer and not a Consular officer. In Germany there are already two commercial diplomatic officers.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the chief work at the present time is for our Consuls to find work for themselves, and, as our trade with Germany is far greater than our trade with Persia, cannot he send some of those redundant Consuls to Germany?

Is it not a fact that many of these Vice-Consuls are purely nominal Vice-Consuls?

I do not think that that is so. I think that these are men on the staff, and that the hon. and gallant Member who put down the question has not realised that a certain number of them are employed really by the Government of India, and that the Government of India find their pay.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is practically no work for them to do?

Wireless Telephonic Equipment (Exports)


asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department whether his Department has since June last taken steps to stimulate the sale in the export markets of wireless telephonic equipment of British make; and, if so, with what success?

There are only two firms manufacturing this class of material registered in the United Kingdom and both are on my Department's list for receiving information regarding trade opportunities abroad. Whilst both these firms have received information regarding other forms of wireless equipment which they make, no information regarding wireless telephony equipment has been received for transmission during the last few months.

Can the hon. Gentleman expect British-owned firms to receive any orders for wireless telephonic equipment while His Majesty's Post Office supports an American producing firm?

I understand that most of these orders are Government orders, given by our own or other Governments, and that they are well acquainted with the firms which can supply them, and they go direct to them.

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that the greatest volume of orders which can actually be placed, can be placed by His Majesty's Government, and that they are not giving them to a British firm?

League Of Nations (Pact And Covenant Committee)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will place in the Library a copy of the procès verbal of all the meetings of the League Committee on Pact and Covenant as soon as the sittings of the Committee terminate?

Yes, Sir. I will place these papers in the Library as soon as they are received.