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Trade And Commerce

Volume 393: debated on Tuesday 9 November 1943

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International Cartels

21.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been directed to the arrangement made by the I. G. German monopoly for its agencies in the British Empire to continue business during the war; that after the declaration of war they cabled instructions and carried on world trade through an American firm until the United States of America were involved in the war; that the I. G. had an office in Manchester; and whether he can make a full statement on this giving the names of persons involved and who made the arrangements?

As I have already said in reply to previous Questions, under the Trading with the Enemy Act, all relations between United Kingdom and enemy firms have been prohibited since the outbreak of war, and any agreements in existence between them have been legally frustrated. Similar legislation is in force throughout the British Empire. In addition, I. G. Farben companies carrying on business in neutral countries, including the American firm to which my hon. Friend refers, were, early in the war, specified in the black list of enemies published by my Department. I. G. Dyestuffs Ltd., Manchester, were inspected by order of the Board of Trade under Section 3 of the Trading with the Enemy Act in October, 1939. The Directors were Messrs. A. H. George, Frederick Taylor and John Dalby, all British subjects, and Mr. H. G. Kohler, a German, who resigned shortly before the outbreak of war. As there was reason to believe that the majority of the ordinary shares, held in the name of a Dutch company, were held on behalf of I. G. Farben, these shares were vested in the Custodian of Enemy Property. Imports from Germany having been cut off at the outbreak of war, I. G. Dyestuffs Ltd. went into liquidation.

Is it the policy of the Government that no payment shall be allowed in future in connection with any of these arrangements, and can my right hon. Friend give us an assurance that no payment will be allowed in future for any patent or manufacturing rights in connection with the matter?

As I have already stated, these arrangements entered into by enemy firms are frustrated during the war. What happens to them afterwards will have to be determined by the Peace Treaty. I cannot say in advance what will be in the Peace Treaty, but I hope that my hon. Friend will keep his eye on the matter and help us along.

Can the Minister say whether, in the investigation which took place after the winding-up of this company, he found that there had been any association with South American firms to carry on the business that had been carried on in this country?

Perhaps my hon. Friend will put that question on the Paper. We have full information, and it can be checked, but I have not got it with me.

Will my right hon. Friend see that an arrangement is arrived at which will avoid this situation in future and so that any arrangements which are needed shall be made through the Board of Trade?

I have already said that the Government have under consideration what steps are needed to be taken, apart from the provisions of the Peace Treaty, with regard to international arrangements of this kind. I am not yet in a position to announce a decision on the matter.

22.

asked the President of the Board of Trade who were the directors of the Trafford Chemical Company and I.G. Farbenindustrie A.G., Companies; what percentage of the shares were owned or controlled by Germans; and have they now any interest in the company?

Before the outbreak of war the directors of the Trafford Chemical Co., Ltd., were Messrs. Francis Walker, C. J. T. Cronshaw, D. R. Mackay, A. H. George, H. G. Kohler and 0. E. Loehr, and the directors of I.G. Farbenindustrie numbered between 40 and 50, of whom all but two were domiciled in Germany. Before the war I.G. Farbenindustrie held 49 per cent. of the issued capital of the Trafford Chemical Co. They have no interest in this company now.

Clothing Coupons (Coal Distribution)

27.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what provisions are made for extra clothing coupons for persons engaged in the distribution of coal; and whether any improvement can be made in the present arrangements?

Persons engaged in coal distribution received in the last rationing period 10 extra coupons. They will receive the same supplement in the present period. I regret that, owing to the shortage of supplies, I cannot see my way to increase this allowance.

Second-Hand Furniture (Prices)

29.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the high and increasing prices being charged for second-hand furniture, often of poor quality, and the possibility that the situation will get worse since the production of new non-utility furniture is now prohibited, he will consider taking steps to bring second-hand furniture prices under effective control?

Yes, Sir. The Central Price Regulation Committee, who advise me on these matters, have recently made proposals to me for tightening up the present arrangements for controlling prices of second-hand furniture.

Yes, but the difficulty is to get an Order which is both fair and enforceable. We have an Order on the matter which lays it down that a dealer in furniture may add 5o per cent. to the buying price and may sell it at that figure, provided that the figure does not exceed the first-hand price. The difficulty is to determine what the first-hand price was. We are looking at the matter to see whether we can get some new control which will be effectively enforceable.