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Surplus Goods And Factories (Post-War Disposal)

Volume 393: debated on Tuesday 2 November 1943

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17.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has a statement to make regarding the post-war disposal by the Government of surplus goods and factories?

Yes, Sir. As I have already stated in the House, there must be, after the war, an orderly disposal of surplus goods, which, on the one hand, will not allow profiteering at the expense of the consumer, and, on the other hand, will pay due regard to the interests of producers and distributors. The Government have decided that disposal shall be carried out, in each particular case, through the agency of the Department mainly concerned with the supply of the goods during the war. Before working out the plans for disposal, the Board of Trade, together with other responsible Departments, will consult with representatives of the producers and distributors concerned.

The Government have further decided that the Board of Trade, through its Factory and Storage Control, shall co-ordinate the disposal of all surplus Government factories. With a view to decisions being taken as to the best use to which these can be put in the national interest, the Control will compile lists of factories and of applicants for them. The Government recognise the importance of reaching such decisions before the end of the war in as many cases as possible, but much must depend on the course of events, including future programmes of war production. Special attention will be paid to the release of factories urgently needed for peace-time production and to the possibility of converting into trading estates some of the premises no longer required for Government work.

Arising from that reply, for which I thank the right hon. Gentleman, may we presume that it is possible within the ambit of the reply that the Government will retain in their own possession some of the factories that are necessary? Will the Government be good enough to bear in mind, in disposing of these factories, their location, in relation to those areas that were depressed between the two wars and into which no new industries have entered before?

Yes, Sir, and I am much obliged to my hon. Friend for asking this question. Certainly, it is not ruled out that the Government will retain these factories. We are anxious, in the first instance, to have information as to the alternative uses to which each factory can be put, whether by Governmental, private, trading estate or any other agencies. There are many possible agencies who desire to avail themselves of these very valuable premises, in which, in many cases, much Government money has been sunk. In reply to the second part of my hon. Friend's question, we shall certainly have particular regard to the employment aspect of the case in each particular locality.

Bearing in mind the importance of the distribution of surplus stocks, will the right hon. Gentleman have regard to the desirability of not making the avenue of distribution too narrow, because in so doing he may create a new vested interest?

Certainly. We are anxious that all legitimate interests should be fairly and properly represented, and it is largely with that object in view that consultation will take place between my Department and other Departments on the one hand, and representatives of producers and distributors on the other. When I say "producers," I include the representatives of the trade unions and of the industries concerned.