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Trade And Commerce

Volume 387: debated on Tuesday 2 March 1943

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Red Cross Fur Sale (Coupons)

1.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that at a recent Red Cross fur sale the articles sold by auction only realised about half their true market value owing to the fact that the purchasers were compelled to surrender coupons; and whether, on the occasion of future sales of this nature, he will consider allowing the articles to be sold without the surrender of coupons in order that the Red Cross may benefit to the extent of the full market value?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Portsmouth (Sir J. Lucas) on 2nd February.

Utility Furniture (Manufacturers' Licences)

2.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that Messrs. Zinkins, of Mare Street, Hackney, who were fined for evading the Purchase Tax regulations, and Mr. H. Lazarus, of Stamford Hill, N., who was fined for failing to disclose foreign securities, have been granted licences for the manufacture of utility furniture; and whether he will give instructions for these licences to be revoked?

These two firms were selected for utility furniture production, after consultation with the trade associations and trade unions concerned, because they were leading manufacturers among those available in the East London area. I have given careful consideration to these two cases, but I am not prepared to revoke the licences for reasons which do not affect the efficiency of these firms as furniture manufacturers.

Does the right hon. Gentleman think it right to give preferential treatment—for that is what it amounts to—to people who have been convicted of offences against the State in war-time?

I have already told the hon. Member that these selections were made after careful consultation with the trade interests concerned. We must have some manufacturers in this area. These two firms are said by my advisers, and by the trade associations concerned, to be good manufacturers.

Boy Scouts' Uniforms

3.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether in view of the excellent work done by the Scouts, he will permit them to buy uniforms free of coupons like other similar organisations?

I much appreciate the excellent work done by the Boy Scouts, but, as I informed my hon. Friend the Member for Denbigh (Sir H. Morris-Jones) on 9th December last, I regret that, owing to the ever increasing stringency of supplies, I am unable to agree to a coupon-free issue of these uniforms either to the Boy Scouts or to other similar organisations.

They are not discriminated against. The Boy Scouts in this respect are on the same footing as the Girls' Training Corps, the Girl Guides, the Church Lads' Brigade and all other voluntary organisations, as distinct from those sponsored by the Service Departments.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider whether it will be possible to give these youth organisations coupon-free uniforms which would be the property of the organisations, only issued on loan? That would go a long way to solving the difficulty.

I should like to make a concession, but I am up against the root fact that supplies are very short indeed, and, knowing, as I do, the moral purpose of the Boy Scout movement, I do not believe, if it is plainly put before them, they will have any sense of grievance.

Hire Purchase Order (Pianos)

4.

asked the President of the Board of Trade, whether the supplementary Press notice with regard to the scope of the Hire Purchase Order, which explained that pianofortes are exempted, was due to a mistake in the original Press notice or a proposed change in the Order?

No supplementary Press notice has been issued dealing with the position of pianos under the Hire Purchase (Control) Order, nor are pianos mentioned either in the Order or in the original Press notice. The supplementary Press notice was issued to correct a statement by a news agency that it was compulsory to sell perambulators by hire purchase.

Constructional Industries (Export Group)

5.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what results have accrued from the formation of the Export Group of constructional industries formed by his Department a year ago; whether satisfactory progress has yet been made; and what further steps he is taking to further British interests?

As my hon. and gallant Friend is aware, since the formation of this Export Group in August, 1940, the opportunities of undertaking constructional contracts overseas have been very limited. But, like other Export Groups, this Group will have a most important part to play in the expansion of export trade after the war. I am glad to say that they have already made some suggestions to my Department for post-war developments, and further discussions are to take place.

Has the Department refused any licences where this Group could have obtained business' abroad?

Discharged Service Men (Clothing Coupons)

6.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether arrangements can be made for the supply of clothing coupons to persons who are on leave from the Services awaiting discharge; and whether he is aware of the hardships involved at the present time where these facilities are not available?

Such arrangements are already in operation for the Navy and the Army. I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air that, as members of the Royal Air Forte receive their discharge papers eight days before the actual date of discharge, there is no need in their case for similar arrangements.

Cotton Board

7.

asked the President of the Board of Trade the numbers of the staff of the Cotton Board; and the latest annual cost of the organisation?

The total number of staff of all grades employed by the Cotton Board is 151. The administrative expenses of the Board for the year ended 31st March, 1942, were £38,253.

British Overseas Cotton, Ltd

8.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will make a statement concerning the activities of British Overseas Cottons, Limited; and whether the accounts of this Company will be made available to the public?

The main function of British Overseas Cotton, Ltd., is to assist, in conjunction with the Cotton Control and the merchant interests, in the planned production of cloth for export. It arranges production of suitable cloths in bulk and resells, at cost, to merchants holding export quotas. Copies of the Company's annual profit and loss accounts will, I understand, be published shortly.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that this Company is being operated really in the best interests of the industry and that the best use is being made of the services of merchants and others, who are far more familiar with the problems of the industry than most people in the Control?

The Control is under the Minister of Supply. This Company is of special service to the smaller merchants, many of whom would not be able to export at all but for having their orders grouped together through the good offices of British Overseas Cottons, Ltd., which is performing a very valuable service to the smaller people.

Is it not a fact that this Company has made a very substantial loss? Cannot we have some figures about it?

Search Warrants

9.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will give an undertaking not to use the powers assumed by the Board under paragraph 2 of the Board of Trade (Information and Inspection) Order, 1943, S.R.O. 1943, No. 102, without notice to the principals of the trade or business against which they are invoked and unless something may have been done by or in relation to the carrying on of that trade or business which constitutes an offence against some Statute, Regulation or Order?

It is not intended under this Order that my officers should enter any premises without asking to see the person in charge; but I cannot give any undertaking to confine its use to cases in which an offence has been committed. As I explained to my hon. Friend on Tuesday last, the Order is not designed to detect crimes, but to assist the Board of Trade to carry out their day-to-day duties in relation to the general war-time control of industry.

Are we to understand the object is to introduce a new form of snooping?

No, Sir. The hon. Gentleman is constantly seeking to sow ill will between the Board of Trade and the trading community, but he is singularly unsuccessful. These visits are welcomed in the great majority of cases.

How can the right hon. Gentleman say that the traders welcome these visits, having regard to the fact that none have taken place?

12.

asked the President of the Board of Trade the occasions to date on which he has found it necessary to invoke the machinery of Statutory Rules and Orders, No. 102, of 1943?

In view of the welcome to which the right hon. Gentleman has just referred does he not think there has been extraordinarily little co-operation in the exercise of these large powers on only one occasion?

No, Sir. This is one particular Order. We are not talking about other Orders.

Having regard to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has said these visits are welcomed, is he aware that the only one who has been visited has written me a most indignant letter?

Does the right hon. Gentleman not know that on the contrary to any welcome to this Order, all sober-minded traders who have considered it regard it as the most monstrous piece of Gestapo machinery his Department has yet introduced?

14.

asked the President of the Board of Trade for what reason an official of his Department sought to search the premises of Delaney & Son, Limited, 18, Tib Lane, Manchester 2?

16.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has any statement to make about the forcible entry of a Board of Trade official into the premises of Delaney & Son, Limited, tailors, of Manchester?

17.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has any statement to make upon the forcible entry of a Board of Trade official into the premises of Messrs. Delaney and Son, Manchester?

No officer of the Board of Trade has sought to search, or has forcibly entered, the premises referred to. An officer paid a routine visit to Mr. Delaney's shop recently to inspect his coupon records and give any advice he might require about the Consumer Rationing Order. Such visits are primarily intended to assist traders and are normally welcomed by them.

I have a full report of the visit that was paid and of what Mr. Delaney said. I do not want in any way to prejudice Mr. Delaney, but I would ask the hon. Lady to take it from me that Mr. Delaney had no ground whatever for complaint with regard to the interview.

Did Mr. Delaney refuse the request of the right hon. Gentleman's official?

No, Sir; Mr. Delaney and my official got on perfectly well together so far as the business about which the call was made was concerned. If I am pressed, I can give more statements about this matter, but it would not help Mr. Delaney, and I would much rather not do so.

Is it not a fact that Mr. Delaney refused admission to the official unless he was accompanied by a police officer and a search warrant?

Does that mean that the letter Mr. Delaney has written to me contains a series of untruths?

If he said that, it undoubtedly does, and if my hon. Friend will send it to me, I will have it examined.

Retail Traders (Licensing)

11.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether it is his intention to give special powers to chambers of commerce in respect of the licensing of retail trades after the war; and, if so, what are they to be?

No decision has yet been taken by His Majesty's Government regarding post-war licensing of retail traders.

Do I understand that no arrangements have been made through the chamber of commerce or any other agent?

Towels

13.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that clubs and licensed houses holding a catering licence from the Ministry of Food are entitled to an issue of coupons for the purchase of towels, whereas clubs and licensed houses not holding such a licence do not receive coupons for this purpose; and whether he will take steps to remove this anomaly, in view of the large number of premises which do not hold such a licence but which use a considerable number of towels?

I regret that, owing to the shortage of supplies, I cannot at present make any provision of tea-towels for the use of clubs and licensed houses which are not licensed by the Ministry of Food as catering establishments. I shall review the matter again a little later in the light of the supplies then available.

15.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is yet in a position to make any statement about the provision of towels for people whose occupational requirements necessitate an exceptionally heavy use of these?

Yes, Sir. In addition to the existing facilities for hospitals, I have now made arrangements to provide a special allowance of towels up to the end of December for factories and certain medical users. The factory allowance will be at the rate of four coupons for every 10 manual workers employed, with a further four coupons for every 10 engaged oh particularly dirty occupations. These towels are to be kept for communal use by those entitled to them. The allowance for doctors, district nurses, midwives, registered masseurs and veterinary surgeous will be at the basic rate of four coupons each, and for dentists and registered chiropodists at the basic rate of eight coupons each. Additional coupons will be issued to doctors, dentists and veterinary surgeons with exceptional needs. I propose also to make a special allowance for dairy farms and certain food trades. Details of this are under discussion. I regret that I cannot see my way at present to make any other special allowances.

Production of towels is limited by the need to conserve shipping space, cotton and labour, and these special allowances will absorb no less than one-fifth of the maximum production likely to be available for the civil population. In view of the shortage of supplies, I earnestly hope that those who become entitled to these allowances will not apply for them until their need is really urgent. By deferring their applications they will help to ease the strain on supplies.

Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to extend the concession to the hairdressing trade, as thousands of hairdressers are having to refuse head-cleansing treatment, as a consequence of which there is a serious danger to public health?

I have had the hairdressers very much under consideration with regard to this. If my hon. Friend would like to see me, I shall be glad to have a talk with him.