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Volume 244: debated on Tuesday 11 November 1930

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asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Russian Soviet Government have made arrangements to dump 600,000 doors on the British market at prices considerably under the wage cost involved, quite apart from any charge for the materials used; and what action it is proposed to take in the matter in the interests of British joiners?

I have seen reports in the Press that arrangements have been made to import large quantities of ready-made doors from Russia. During the three months ending 30th September last, builders' woodwork (window frames, doors, etc.) to the value of £10,782 was imported from Russia. As regards the last part of the question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which my hon. Friend the Secretary for the Department of Overseas Trade gave on the 3rd November to the hon. Member for Kingston-on-Thames (Sir G. Penny).

Do the Government contemplate that the British market shall be permanently flooded with joinery of this dumped character, so that British joiners are put out of work?

I have given the latest figures for three months to the end of September, which amount to rather less than £11,000. No one would call that a flood.


asked the President of the Board of Trade if his attention has been called to the trade agreement recently signed between Russia and Italy, by which there is to be an exchange of goods between the two countries to an agreed amount; and if he will consider initiating similar negotiations with the Soviet Government?

I am not aware of the precise terms of the Trade Agreement in question, the text of which has not been published. The second part of the question does not, therefore, arise.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take pains to find out about this trade agreement, and, if it is on the lines suggested in, I think, the "Manchester Guardian," will he consider the application of something of the same sort by this country in regard to Russia?

I cannot at this stage make any promise regarding action, but I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that I will get the details as soon as they are available. I have not yet obtained them.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that Fascist Italy is giving Russia four years' credit; and will he see if the British Government cannot be equally businesslike?

I am afraid that that point does not arise on this question. The length of the credit, as my hon. Friend knows, is an entirely different matter.

But is not the length of the credit the main relevant point in the development of business with Russia?


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will cause inquiries to be made as to what steps have been taken in France to counteract the dumping of Russian imports?

By a decree issued on 3rd October the importation into France of certain descriptions of goods originating in or coming from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is made dependent on the grant of a licence. A special committee has been set up to control the issue of such licences. A list of the goods in question will be found in the issue of the Board of Trade Journal of 9th October, 1930.

Cannot the President of the Board of Trade consider suggesting to the Government that they should follow this very excellent example?

I have always informed the House that this is a matter of debate, and, on very close examination, I am quite satisfied that any step of that kind would do our aggregate trade more harm than good.

Are not representatives of the Woodworkers' Union included on the Licensing Committee which decides whether these goods shall come in?

Do not these embargoes on Soviet exports release far more for shipping to this country at cheap prices, and give a great impetus to our unemployment figures?

There is no doubt that a diversion of that kind would affect the aggregate amount reaching this country, but I am bound to say that, on the analysis applied to many trades so far, the quantities have been very small, and in some cases actually less than last year.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in addition to what he said as regards France taking this action, France has for a long time imposed a heavier duty on Russian timber than on other timbers?


asked the President of the Board of Trade, in regard to the official figures of the declared value of Russian imports of timber and grain, on whose information does the Board of Trade rely for the accuracy of these figures; and what is the relation between the declared values figure and the actual figure at which the British syndicate has bought this year's Russian timber?

The official figures of the declared values of imported goods are compiled from particulars required by law to be furnished by importers or their agents, who have to make a signed declaration as to the accuracy of the particulars. The value to be declared is the cost plus insurance and freight to the port of landing, except in the case of goods consigned "for sale," in respect of which the value to be declared is the latest market value of the goods. I have no information regarding the terms of any contract placed for the importation of Russian timber.

Would the right hon. Gentleman get information, because there is reason to believe that the figures are entirely inaccurate?

They follow the basis set forth in the answer and I am afraid there is no more efficient way in which we can go about it.


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he can give the total value of manufactured articles from this country exported into Russia for the 10 months of this year; and the total value of all exports from Russia to this country for a similar period?

Particulars of the trade of the United Kingdom with the Soviet Union (Russia) during the month of October are not yet available. Detailed particulars of this trade during the first nine months of this year were given in reply to a question by the hon. and gallant Member for North Hackney (Captain Hudson) on 6th November, and I am sending the hon. and gallant Member a copy.

Can the right hen. Gentleman say whether the miserable results of the exports from this country coincide with the promises of unlimited trade?


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that by the constitution of the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce half the executive committee are Russian Government officials, who thus secure effective control of the chamber to the Russian Government; and whether, seeing that an organisation so constituted can afford no adequate protection to the interests of the British traders, he will see that any new trade agreement with Russia shall provide for facilities for independent organisations of British traders to maintain their representatives in Russia?

Under the constitution of the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce the executive council must be composed in equal proportions of British and Russian members. I have noted the suggestion in the second part of the question.

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept the statement in the question that this organisation is controlled by Russian Government officials and is he satisfied with such an arrangement?

I can only define the constitution. I am not clear as how far I have any influence at all.

Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to recognise an organisation of this kind which is controlled by the Soviet Government? It is not an independent organisation to give the traders of this country the information they require.

That I am afraid is beside the point. I could not reply to that in answer to a supplementary question.


asked the President of the Board of Trade from what trades and industries he has received complaints regarding Soviet dumping?

I have received complaints from the trades concerned regarding glucose and, confidentially, regarding another material. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture has received similar complaints regarding cereals and fruit.

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman means by import prohibition, or tariff, or anything like that, the answer is in the negative.