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Trade And Commerce

Volume 415: debated on Monday 5 November 1945

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Cutlery And Jute Webbing (Distribution)

1.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that since the cancellation of Orders affecting distribution certain goods, notably cutlery and jute webbing, are unobtainable through the normal trade channels; if he will ex amine the position and, if necessary, reinstate the controls and ensure equitable distribution.

I should be glad if my hon. Friend would send me particulars of the difficulties he has in mind so that I can have them looked into.

Factories (Allocation)

2.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will make a statement in regard to the present position at the Ford Motor Company's Barton factories; and what are the future plans in regard to these factories in view of the distress that is being caused by redundancy of labour and the uncertainty of their future activities.

It is intended that all three of the Government factories occupied by the Ford Motor Company in this area shall continue to be used for production. The main factory at Eccles has been allocated to Messrs. Platt Brothers for the production of textile machinery. Details of the allocation of theremaining two will be announced in the near future.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that this factory was allocated to Platt Brothers many months ago and that they have received no security of tenure, as a result of which orders for plant for the production of textile machinery have been held up, and some 2,000 people have been discharged as redundant? Will my right hon. and learned Friend take steps to ensure that Platt Brothers receive security of tenure almost immediately so that they can place orders for their plant, and thus avoid unnecessary unemployment?

The factory has been allocated to Platt Brothers and they are aware what the position is.

Retail Licence Application, Cupar

3.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he has considered the case brought to his notice of the ex-Serviceman discharged through being medically unfit, whose application to open a small business on his own account in Cupar, Fife, has been disallowed by the local price regulation committee, though an Italian, interned during the war, has recently been allowed to do so; and what action he is taking.

I am having the case examined, in consultation with the local price regulation committee, and will write to the hon. Member.

Can my right hon. and learned Friend indicate whether the Board of Trade now propose to take a more generous view of the applications of these ex-Servicemen who want to set up in business, and have every right to do so?

German Plant And Machinery

4 and 5.

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) how many trade or business representatives have been given facilities to proceed to Germany to select any plant or machinery to be brought over to this country; who granted such facilities; and what authority these representatives have;

(2) if it is proposed to bring over from Germany to this country any plant or machinery; if so, what is the nature and extent thereof; and by whom will the selection be made.

35.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that manufacturers are unable to get any decision from his Department as to what plants, machinery and tools in Germany are available for use in this country; and whether he will appoint a Board to give prompt decisions and to facilitate inspections.

It is proposed to bring certain German plant and machinery over to this country as reparations. The Potsdam Agreement on Reparations provides that 75 per cent. of such industrial capital equipment in the Western zones of Germany as is unnecessary for the German peace economy shall be made available as reparations to the United Kingdom, the United States of America and other countries entitled to reparations other than the Soviet Union and Poland. The amount of plant to be so removed is to be determined by the Control Council for Germany by 7th February, 1946, and provision is made for certain advance deliveries. Arrangements for allocating this plant amongst the countries entitled to reparations are now under discussion by the Governments concerned.

Limited numbers of technical experts selected in consultation with industry are being sent by the Government to visit Germany to inspect and report on certain plants. These experts will act on behalf of the Government and not in a personal or business capacity, and their reports will be made to the Government. Under the Potsdam Agreement, it is the duty of the Control Council in Berlin to determine what plant and equipment in Germany is available for Reparation deliveries. This task must be finished by 7th February next, but in the meantime certain plants are being declared available and arrangements have been made for the claimant countries to put in claims in respect of them. When they have been decided upon it is hoped that certain plant will become available for importation into this country.

Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman decided to appoint a committee of some organisation in this country to take charge of the allocation of this plant when it comes to us; and has he received a report from the Economic Commission in Germany on the amount of plant that will be available for this country?

As regards the second part of the question, only the plant that has already been announced by the Control Commission in Germany is known to be available. The rest will not be decided before 7th February.

Is not this spoliation of a defeated enemy people, depriving them of their means of livelihood, altogether contrary to all good Socialist principles?

As I said in my answer, it is such machinery as is unnecessary for the German peace economy which will be made available.

:Does not my right hon. and learned Friend think that, until there is an agreed economic settlement—

I am afraid that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is asking for an opinion and not for facts. I am always suspicious of a question starting, "Does not the hon. Member think.…?"

Women And Children's Footwear

9.

asked the President of the Board of Trade, in view of the continued shortage of children's shoes in Birmingham, whether he will take immediate steps to ensure that Birmingham receives its fair share of available supplies.

I am satisfied, from the information given by my area distribution officers, who keep a close watch on the distribution of goods in limited supply, that Birmingham is receiving its fair share of the available supplies of children's shoes.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that there are no Wellingtons, sandals or gym, shoes available in Birmingham, which is causing a great strain on the supply of ordinary shoes? Is he aware that, in one instance, it was necessary to turn away 100 regular customers, and that children are having to go to school without proper footwear? Will he take steps to increase these supplies so as to ease the demand on the ordinary supplies of shoes?

We are taking every step necessary to increase the supply of children's shoes. If my hon. Friend will give me details of the case he has in mind, I will look into it.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend take steps to improve the quality of the shoes?

10.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will extend to nurses the facilities for obtaining shoes, at present enjoyed by women officers in His Majesty's forces.

I regret that I cannot give one group of civilians special priority. I appreciate that nurses may have difficulty in buying suitable shoes, but the only remedy is increasing production. I am doing all I can to secure this, including types of shoes suitable for nurses.

Export Markets

11.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what indications he has given as to the overseas countries to which exporters should especially direct their attention.

As our needs of most overseas currencies are great, it is not at present necessary to concentrate on some export markets to the exclusion of others. Our objective is to build up stable markets from which there is likely to be a continuing demand for British goods. Apart, therefore, from exports of certain essential goods in very short supply, it is left to exporters themselves to distribute their exports over the markets most likely to prove of long term value. This policy has been fully explained to exporters in the course of discussions with my Department. We shall watch carefully the detailed development of our trade with every oversea market and will give guidance and advice to exporters whenever that seems to be desirable.

Surely the Board of Trade must give some general indication to the exporting community in this country of the markets which are available to receive our goods?

The position is that all markets are available, and we ask exporters to choose those which are likely to persist after this period of shortage of supplies.

Is it not a fact that exporters do not know to what countries they can export until their licences are granted or refused?

Wireless Sets (Adaptor Units)

12.

asked the President of the Board of Trade when adaptors will be available to enable utility wireless receiving sets to receive long waves.

Arrangements have been made with the manufacturers under which the wartime civilian receivers can be modified to receive the long wave programme. Those who wish to have their sets adapted should get in touch with their retail suppliers. A separate adaptor unit for the sets is also on the market at a price of 43s. including Purchase Tax.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that these adaptors are not so far available, with the result that a large number of owners of utility sets will be unable to hear the broadcasts of the Royal Command performance tonight?

Clothing (Shop Window Displays)

13.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will give an approximate estimate of the amount of cloth and ready-made suits immobilised in the shop windows of tailors and outfitters in Great Britain at the present time.

No, Sir. The quantities in shop windows are negligible and I have no reason to suppose that any supplies are being immobilised in this way.

Is it not a fact that some 200,000 suits or the material for them are so frozen?

Hairdressers' Equipment

15.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will allow an increase in the number of coupons available to hairdressers for towels; and why it is proposed to introduce a purchase tax on scissors and clippers supplied for use by licensed hairdressers.

Ex-Servicemen reopening their hairdressing businesses are given coupons to obtain an initial stock of towels. I am discussing the possibility of extending this concession with the National Hairdressers' Federation. As regards the second part of the Question, hair clippers and scissors are chargeable under the Seventh Schedule to the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1940, at 33⅓ per cent. ad valorem. The law provides no relief from tax on any kind of articles in favour of any particular class of purchaser.

Is any increase intended of the purchase price of these scissors and clippers?

Synthetic Rubber Manufacture

16.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether any progress has been made in the building of a plant for the manufacture of synthetic rubber under a licence which was granted to the British Celanese Corporation in 1943; and if so, what types of rubber are being manufactured and what is the out put per month.

I understand that in May, 1945, the company decided not to continue with their original proposals but to proceed with the erection of a pilot plant.

Plastics (Prices)

17.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what are the wholesale prices of Perspex, Diacone, Polystyrene, cellulose acetate and Beetle plastic in the United Kingdom and the sterling prices of the same materials in the U.S.A., respectively.

Polystyrene is not at present being made in this country. The other materials are sold in a variety of forms, and if my hon. and gallant Friend will let me know what descriptions and specifications he has in mind, I will endeavour to furnish him with the prices in this country and to obtain information as to prices of similar materials in the U.S.A.

Furniture (Dockets)

18.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will consider the issue of dockets for furniture of married couples serving in His Majesty's Forces prior to their securing the living accommodation required to set up homes.

Yes, Sir. This is the present practice, provided that these couples have reasonable prospects of getting accommodation and of setting up home within two or three months.

Clothing Coupons (Service Personnel)

20.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will arrange for an issue of clothing coupons to other ranks who have been in His Majesty's Forces for a long period, have volunteered to continue in the services as Regulars, and are anxious to wear civilian clothes while on leave.

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply given on the 30th October to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cambridge (Major Symonds).

Office Premises, London (Rents)

21.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the hardship to small professional and commercial concerns in London as a result of being given notice to quit or to pay increased rentals by large scale organisations buying or leasing their buildings; and whether, as a measure of protection to the people concerned, he will consider exercising his powers under Regulation 51 (1) and (5), of the Defence (General) Regulations, 1939, and delegate to local authorities power to requisition such premises or necessary parts thereof.

My attention has been drawn to a number of cases of increased rent demanded for office premises. I can only exercise the powers under Regulation 51 if it appears to me to be necessary or expedient to do so for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community. At present, I have no evidence that the action suggested by my hon. Friend is necessary for the purpose stated.

If I were to supply the right hon. and learned Gentleman with numerous cases in London, would he arrange to look into them?

I have looked into a number of cases but they did not convince me that it was necessary or expedient to do something towards maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community.

Surgical Appliances

22.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will arrange for the purchase of surgical appliances to be coupon free.

Surgical appliances which are not a substitute for ordinary clothing are already coupon free. In other cases, coupons must in fairness be surrendered. Supplementary coupons are, however, normally given to people who have to wear surgical appliances for the first time and in other cases of exceptional difficulty.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say on what date these appliances were made coupon free?

If the hon. Member will put that down on the Paper, I will let him know.

:Why will not the right hon. and learned Gentleman look at the list, and realise that nobody wears any of these things either for show or for entertainment; and will he reconsider the question of making the whole list free of coupons?

Wool Textile Industry

24.

asked the President of the Board of Trade when he in tends to visit the West Riding to discuss the future of the wool industry.

I hope to visit Bradford on 30th November to discuss with representatives of the wool textile industry the question of establishing a tripartite working party for the wool industry.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend not aware that they do not make woollens in Bradford, but worsteds?

Sanitary Towels

25.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is now able to make a statement regarding the supply of sanitary towels and to indicate the steps he is taking to remedy the general shortage of these articles.

Normally demand for sanitary towels runs at a rate of just under 5·3 million dozen a month and production was held rather above this level until the end of last June. But largely on account of factory and V.J. holidays, production fell to 5.2million dozen in July and to 3·9 million dozen in August. Although there was recovery to 5·6 million in September, it was insufficient to prevent shortage in the shops which caused anxiety and forward buying which in turn led to more widespread shortage in October.

Emergency measures have been applied. Firstly, although exports have been small, we have stopped supplies leaving the country. Secondly, the Service Departments have given up part of their small stock and this is now coming on the market. Thirdly, the cotton allocation for October to December has been increased to permit production up to a rate of 6·3 million dozen. And fourthly, as an insurance and to provide further immediate relief, dollar currency is being spent on imports; between now and the beginning of January we expect to get from 2½ to 3 million dozen sanitary towels from the U.S.A. and about half the quantity should arrive during the next few weeks. It is clear from the figures that the additional supplies now becoming available are considerably in excess of the quantities lost by the temporary setback in July and August and I have now every confidence that in the near future the shortage at home will end. I greatly regret any distress and inconvenience that may have been caused by the shortage and I can assure the House and the public that these additional supplies will be coming along soon and that there is now no need for further anxiety.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that his answer will bring reassurance to many of my constituents and to women generally throughout the country?

Coupons And Dockets (Changes)

26.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that coupons of a class with which many retail traders have not previously been acquainted are now being tendered to them; and whether he will ensure that retailers are fully acquainted with all classes of coupons or dockets, outside those in civilian clothing ration books, either through the medium of trade journals or the Chambers of Trade.

Full information regarding any changes in coupons or dockets is always circulated to the trade journals, the appropriate trade associations and to Chambers of Trade and Chambers of Commerce throughout the country. No new types of coupons or dockets have, however, been issued in recent months.

Individual Unit Traders

27.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will make a statement on the attitude of the Government on the preservation and expansion of individual unit traders in our national economy.

Yes, Sir. The Government believe that the efficient unit shop keeper has a continuing and important role to play in the distributive trade.

:Has my right hon. and learned Friend received a communication from the National Chamber of Trade on this subject; and is he giving the suggestions embodied in the communication sympathetic consideration?

I am afraid I cannot answer that question without seeing it on the Paper.

Oilskins And Rubber Boots

28.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will take steps to expedite the production of oilskins and rubber boots for bona fide fishermen.

Arrangements are being made to direct additional cloth to the oil skin manufacturers who supply those ports where the demand has recently risen. The production of fishermen's boots is being increased by 25 per cent. for the last six months of this year.

Parachute And Balloon Material (Disposal)

31 and 32.

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) whether he will give information concern- ing the stocks of silk, nylon, cotton and other fabrics now held by parachute and balloon manufacturing firms; and will he authorise the release of such materials to be used for the purposes of clothing;

(2) whether he is aware of the quantities of silk, nylon, cotton and other fabrics rendered useless in their present forms as parachutes; and will he authorise their conversion into articles of clothing.

It is estimated that the total quantities are approximately 6,500,000 yards, of which approximately 3,500,000 yards are cotton and the remainder nylon, with the exception of small quantities of artificial silk and linen. These piece goods are being released for clothing and other civilian requirements as fast as they become available. 26,000,000 yards of nylon, cotton and celanese will become available from finished parachutes which have been surrendered by the Services as surplus, and when a full review has been made these quantities may be increased. Arrangements are being made for the conversion into clothing and other goods of these parachutes.

Timber Imports

34.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what quantity of timber was landed in United Kingdom ports in October; and how this quantity compares with his estimate of timber imports for the same period.

The information asked for will not be available for some days. I will circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT as soon as it is available.

Paper Allocation (Fish Friers)

36.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the present allocation of paper to fish friers is less than at any time during the war; and to what extent this is due to any alteration in the allocations made by his Department to distributors.

I have been asked to reply. The allocation of paper for fish friers is not now less than at any time during the war. It is part of the general wrapping allocation made to the retail food trade, which has remained constant during the last two years of the war, but has been cumula- tively increased this year. A substantial increase has recently been made, the effect of which should be apparent shortly.