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Ministry Of Supply

Volume 355: debated on Wednesday 6 December 1939

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Jute (Price)


asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware that the increase in the price of jute is having a serious effect upon the carpet trade in this country; and what steps he is taking to enable firms in that industry to obtain the necessary raw materials at reasonable prices?

I am aware of the increase in the price of jute. It is, of course, a world price applying to all users, and does not so far appear to have affected consumption by the carpet industry in this country. The situation is, however, being carefully watched.

Wool Control


asked the Minister of Supply what steps he has taken to control and to fix prices for the sale of wool; is he aware that the voluntary organisations who are engaged upon providing comforts, mainly involving knitting, for men serving in all branches of His Majesty's forces are finding great difficulty in purchasing wool, and that the prices charged are nearly prohibitive; and what is he doing to remedy this?

The sale of wool is regulated by a number of Orders made under the Defence Regulations, 1939, which specify maximum prices for wool and certain derivatives up to but not including yarn. Wool acquired by His Majesty's Government is supplied to the industry by the wool control at fixed prices. Demands for yarn by voluntary organisations and others engaged in knitting comforts for the fighting Forces have been very heavy, but arrangements have been made for special allotments of wool to spinners engaged in the supply of wool for such organisations. If the hon. Member has any evidence of unfair prices being charged for knitting yarns, I would suggest that it be brought to the attention of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the retail price of wool has, since the commencement of the war, risen by 3s. a pound, making the purchase of wool practically prohibitive for voluntary organisations?

No, I am not aware of that, but if there is any suggestion that that price is unfair it ought to be brought to the notice of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade.

Why is there difficulty in getting wool for the market when Scottish crofters and farmers cannot get anyone to take their wool?


asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware of the number of cases of textile manufacturers and exporters who, while anxious to observe all reasonable restrictions laid down by the Wool Control, have their trading problems considered and decided by persons with little or no knowledge of the trade; and whether he will do anything to prevent such happenings?

The staff of the Wool Control has been recruited from the trade, and I have no reason to doubt that they possess the knowledge to deal with the problems coming before them.

Has not the Minister received complaints from manufacturers of the kind that I mention in the question?

Area Officer, Scotland


asked the Minister of Supply whether he will indicate the status enjoyed by his representative in Glasgow; whether his duties are confined to post-contract matters; and, if so, the reason for this restriction?

I have interpreted the hon. Member's question as relating to the Ministry's area officer for Scotland, whose headquarters are in Glasgow. His duties are not confined to post-contract matters. They embrace also such matters as finding new capacity for the manufacture of munitions and reporting thereon, and acting as liaison officer with area representatives of other Government Departments; with the raw materials controls; with representatives of such bodies as the Federation of British Industries and employers' federations; and with responsible representatives of labour.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the gentleman who holds this position has told a number of contractors in Scotland that on the instructions of officials in London he has to confine himself to post-contract matters only, and will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to rectify that?

If we are referring to the same gentleman, Major Jackson Millar, he is a qualified engineer whose business in private life is in Glasgow, he is well known and well fitted for the duties of his office. I have never heard anything to the contrary.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there have been four gentlemen in this office and it is difficult to keep track with them?



asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware that timber merchants are refusing to supply certain grades of plywood in quantities of more than £15 at a time, irrespective of the amount they have in stock, so as to be able to charge the extra 20 per cent. allowed by the Timber Order (No. 1) for quantities of less than that amount and what he is doing to prevent this?

I am not aware of any general abuse of the provision of the Control of Timber (No. 1) Order referred to by the hon. Member. As I stated in my reply to a question by the hon. and gallant Member for Handsworth (Commander Locker-Lampson) on 15th November, I shall be glad to receive particulars of any case of suggested evasion of this provision.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are cases affecting furniture manufacturers who are performing Government contracts which involve large purchases, but are not able to take delivery unless in lots of £15 and under in order that the 20 per cent. increase shall be collected?

I am not so aware, but if the hon. Gentleman has any case of that kind I shall be particularly glad to receive the details and look into them.