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Trade And Commerce

Volume 415: debated on Monday 12 November 1945

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Export Trade (Information)

1.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department if special instructions have been issued to the commercial secretariats and consular services in foreign countries to devote special effort to the encouragement of British export trade, to promote contact with local demands and maintain contact with agencies representative of British export organisation, and transmit immediate information on potential opportunities for entry into foreign markets.

Commercial secretariats and consular officers have received instructions in that sense. Moreover, officers of the Board of Trade and of any Department, among them the Comptroller-General himself, have recently visited several markets to consider and discuss on the spot with our commercial diplomatic and consular representatives and with trade commissioners problems connected with United Kingdom export trade. In addition, many other of these officers have been recalled for consultation on these and allied problems.

Is the Minister in consultation with the trade organisations in this country concerned with export trade, and taking their advice; and is he satisfied that the machinery for overseas trade is adequate for the purpose of stimulating export trade?

I am in constant consultation with organisations in this country. We have had meetings, two or three times a week, with separate industries reviewing their export problems. So far as the overseas prosition is concerned, I am not completely satisfied. It is impossible to buildup an adequate overseas service without recruiting men, and we are waiting, in some cases, for men to be discharged from the Forces in order to take up these posts.

Will the Minister see that his Department give direct backing to representatives of business enterprises, who wish to go overseas, to take advantage of the organisation he is creating, and thus break the bottleneck which exists?

During the last quarter, the average monthly exit of British businessmen going overseas was 1,600.

:If firms have orders from abroad will they have priority, so that they will be able to manufacture the goods ordered from them? I am referring particularly to the paper industry.

Egypt (Good-Will Mission)

2.

asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department what special steps he is taking to promote trade with Egypt in view of our close and friendly relations with that country; and the great opportunities for trade expansion afforded by the Egyptian market.

:I am very conscious of the importance of the Egyptian market and of the desire of the Egyptian Government, which His Majesty's Government warmly share, to increase and extend our mutual trade relations. Towards that end my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, after consultation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, has invited Mr. Hanbury Williams, who is managing director of Courtaulds and a director of the Bank of England, to lead a good-will mission to Egypt, and I am glad to be able to inform the House that he has accepted this invitation. The mission is being sponsored by my Department, and I hope soon to be able to announce the names of the other members of the mission, which is expected to leave for Egypt before the end of this month.

May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether this applies to trade in general or only to particular interests?

To trade in general. This is described as a good-will mission. The other members of the mission will cover a wider variety of interests.

Will the Minister consider taking the same action with regard to Allied countries, such as China?

Yes, we hope to send more missions of this kind as soon as we can gather the personnel together.

Surplus Government Stores

81.

asked the Minister of Supply and of Aircraft Production if he will place the British Legion Car Attendants Company, a non profit-making organisation having for its object the employment of disabled men, on the list for the purchase of surplus Government stores.

I have been risked to reply. Government surplus second hand clothing, which I understand my hon. and gallant Friend has in mind, is sold to the Reconditioned and Salvaged Clothing Merchants' Association and the company should apply to them to see whether their requirements can be met.

China-Clay Industry

83.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the china-clay industry has over £250,000 worth of orders for export trade to America which they are unable to execute owing to the direction of labour away from the industry; that the livelihoods of many Cornish people depend upon this industry; and how many officials of his Department have any knowledge of, or experience in, the china-clay trade.

We have taken special steps, with the help of the Ministry of Labour, to assist this industry. The labour force has been increased by 750 workers during the last 16 months and exports to the U.S.A. are now at the rate of 98,000 tons per annum, against 62,000 last year. For over three years my Department has had the most valuable advice of Professor W. R. Jones, of the Royal School of Mines, who is an expert on china-clay, and at one time managed china-clay works.

Is the Minister aware that the industry is still desperately short of labour, and having regard to his well-known concern about the export trade, can he take any further steps to see that £250,000 worth of orders are not thrown away?

Could not the Minister take much more energetic steps than he is taking in this matter?

Patent Law (Legislation)

84.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he intends to introduce in the near future any amendment in the Patent Law.

:Steps are being taken to prepare a Bill to implement the recommendations contained in the First Interim Report of the Swan Committee as to the procedure for extension of term of patents in cases where the patentee has suffered loss or damage as a result of the war, and to make other provisions to deal with war circumstances, but I cannot say when the legislation will be introduced.

Utility Cloth

85.

asked the President, of the Board of Trade whether for the benefit of those who make their own clothes he will arrange for a larger proportion of utility cloth to be supplied through retail shops.

I regret that this is not possible at present since any increase in the share for the counter trade at the expense of makers-up would cause unemployment in clothing firms, including those in the development areas. Addiitonal quantities for the shops will be made available as soon as supplies permit. I am arranging for them to receive a substantial quantity of surplus parachute cloths in the near future.

Office Premises (Tenure)

88.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will give an assurance that in cases where his powers under Regulation 51 cannot be applied, he will use other means to give immediate protection to small professional and commercial concerns in London who have been, or may be, given notice to quit or to pay increased rentals by large-scale organisations buying and leasing their buildings.

I cannot give such an assurance since I have no powers to control rents and tenancies.

Are we to understand from the reply that the right hon. and learned Gentleman proposes to remain quite inactive while this very difficult position is maintained?

I do not think I have any justification at present for asking for urgent legislation upon the matter.

Export Credits Guarantees

89.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will inform the House on the measure in which the Export Credits Guarantee Department is making contribution to export trade development; and if he will indicate the amount of guarantees which are now operative as at the latest convenient date.

As a wartime measure, the Export Credits Guarantee Department by its War Emergency Policies covered exporters for a high percentage, up to 85 per cent. or 90 per cent., of loss arising, such as the insolvency of the purchasers and their inability to transfer sterling. This cover has been still further improved in the light of experience, and revised Guarantee Policies embodying these improvements were introduced on 1st May last. The export turnover coming under cover of the Department's guarantees is running at roughly the same level in value as just before the war. It shows an increase of nearly 30 per cent. for the first seven months of this year as compared with the corresponding period of last year. Policies issued for those months total £30,500,000 and the Department's present liability on all guarantees given is £27,000,000.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman intend to further and develop the work of the Export Credits Guarantee Department and Corporation?

Utility Furniture

90.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the inadequate apportionment of utility furniture in Northumberland and Durham; and what steps he is taking to speed up delivery of such goods in the Northern area.

92.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the shortage of utility furniture in Northumberland and Durham; that deliveries are from four to nine months in arrears and, in some cases, orders are returned or the wholesalers must wait 12 months; and if he will endeavour to speed up supplies for these districts and bring them into line with the Midlands and the South which have delivery in 14 days.

95.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware of the supply position as far as utility furniture in the North-East is concerned; and what steps he proposes to take to see that the people of the North-East get a fairer apportionment in the near future.

103.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the insufficiency of designated furniture factories for the making of utility furniture in the North-East; that out of 40 recent appointments not one supplier is for Northumberland; that three of the few manufacturers who served this area have notified the trade that they are so inundated with orders that they ask distributors to send orders elsewhere; and whether he will give more designations to manufacturers in the North-East.

I would refer the hon. Members to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Willey) on Friday last.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend, in addition to the statement to which he has referred, make a more general statement now affecting every area, and telling housewives and returning Service men what particular items of furniture may be available, because it is of the utmost importance that people should know this, and the position varies in different parts of the country?

Can the Minister justify the immense difference in the time which it takes to deliver goods in the North of England and the time it takes in the South and the Midlands? In the North it takes 14 months, whereas it is 14 days elsewhere.

That arises because of difficulties of getting equal distribution owing to the location of the factories. As I stated in my previous answer, steps are being taken to remedy that.

Indian Army (Officers' Release)

4.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India why officers of the Indian Army in Release Groups 22 and 23 have been instructed that their release is postponed till February, 1946.

The reasons which induced His Majesty's Government reluctantly to postpone release of the groups in question in the British Army apply with equal force to the Indian Army, since the release arrangements for the Indian Army follow as closely as possible the release arrangements for the British Service.

Would not the Minister agree that officers who volunteer for service with the Indian Army have received very harsh treatment with regard to leave, and could they not receive special treatment in the matter of release?

I agree that those who have served in the Far East have been handicapped, so far as leave is concerned, as against those who served in other theatres of war; but I think the House will agree that it is desirable that a uniform policy should be followed on the question of release with regard to both Services.

I am referring to those officers who transferred to the Indian Army, and not to those who served especially in the Far East.

I think that whether we are dealing with those who transferred or not, it is desirable that a uniform policy should be followed on the question of release.

When the right hon. Gentleman speaks of uniformity, however desirable it may be, will he also bear in mind that I do not think that the House would wish to see these men continue to serve solely for the sake of uniformity?

Is the Minister aware that these officers have been informed that their release would be accelerated?

Burma (Imphal Trunk Road)

7.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Burma whether it is intended to keep in full running order the all-weather trunk road from Imphal-Tamu-Kalewa constructed by the 14th Army.

I regret that I am not yet in a position to make any statement.

May I ask the Minister for an assurance that the necessary maintenance work will be carried on, while the Government are making up their mind?

Obviously, I cannot answer that without its being put down on the Order Paper.

Rashid Ali Gailani

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his investigations have yet satisfied him that Rashid Ali Gailani on his escape from Germany entered Syria without the knowledge of the French authorities.

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is now able to state by what means of transport Rashid Ali travelled from Beirut to Saudi Arabia; and who assisted Rashid Ali to make this journey.

I have been asked to reply. Inquiries are being made into the means of transport used, and the assistance given, to Rashid Ali, during his journey from Germany to Saudi Arabia. The French Government have assured my right hon. Friend that they have no evidence that he travelled through France and the Lebanon. At their request, we have given them all the information which has reached His Majesty's Government in order that further inquiries may be made.

Would the Minister see that precautions are taken to ensure that the Mufti of Jerusalem will not adopt a similar plan to that which has been adopted by Rashid Ali?

M Michael Padev

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will inform the House of the considerations which have led him to request the withdrawal from this country of M. Michael Padev, a Bulgarian journalist.

I am making a close examination of this case, and will communicate with my hon. Friend.

Dutch East Indies (Situation)

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, whether he can give any further information about the situation in the Dutch East Indies.

:It had been hoped to arrange a meeting, under the Chairmanship of General Christison, between Dr. van Mook and Indonesian leaders including Dr. Soekarno on the 8th November, but before the meeting could take place Dr. Soekarno informed General Christison that he felt it necessary to attend two meetings in the interior and would not therefore be available for discussions before the 15th November. While no serious incidents have been reported elsewhere the military situation remains tense in Sourabaya where reinforcements have continued to arrive. Following upon the issue of a warning by the Allied Commander at Sourabaya on November the 9th, Indonesian strong-points in Sourabaya were dealt with on November the 10th.

Will the right Hon. Gentleman say whether he has noted the expression of disloyalty to our Dutch Allies in Question 5 on the part of one of his supporters?

[5. Mr. SORENSEN.—To ask the Under-Secretary of State for India, if he is aware of the public resentment expressed in India against the employment of Indian troops in Indonesia; what action has been taken in respect of the refusal of Indians to load ships bound for Indonesia; whether recognised leaders of Indian political life have been consulted in the matter; and why Mr. Nehru has been refused a pass.]

Will the Minister say whether it is not possible to have consultation with the major Allies—the Soviet Union, the United States and others—with regard to this very serious situation in Sourabaya; and as this attack by sea, land and air is a major action taking place in a war, I would like—

It seems that the most desirable thing is to secure agreement among those on the spot; and His Majesty's Government hope that that may be done, and law and order may be restored with the least possible bloodshed.

Why should the odium of these attacks on the Indonesians be laid on our shoulders?

A representative of the Dutch Government has agreed to meet Dr. Soekarno, and I hope that the meeting will very shortly take place.

Will His Majesty's Government in any representations that may be made to the Dutch Government, endeavour to strengthen the hands of Dr. van Mook in his attempts to negotiate with Dr. Soekarno and protect him against repudiation and publicrebuke by the Dutch Foreign Office?

We shall do everything in our power to secure a settlement by general agreement.

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind that it will not assist a settlement to try to differentiate between representatives of the Dutch Government and the Dutch Government itself.

Korea (Status)

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will now make any statement about the future status of Korea, mentioning the kind of assistance which is to be given by Great Britain in the reconstruction of that country, as forecast by President Truman in his declaration of 18th September, 1945.

:As the hon. and gallant Member will recall, the Governments of the United States, China and the United Kingdom declared at Cairo on 1st December, 1943, their determination that Korea should in due course become a free and independent state. The Soviet Union subsequently adhered to that declaration. The help which may be given to Korea for the reconstruction of her national life is now under consideration, and I regret that I cannot make any further statement at the present time.

Great Britain And Russia

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he is taking to remove the differences of policy between the U.S.S.R. and His Majesty's Government.

It is very important that the differences between His Majesty's Government and the Soviet Government should not be exaggerated. It would indeed be miraculous if agreement could at once be reached on all the great matters which in this after-war period arise for decision between the victorious Powers. His Majesty's Government will use the various normal means of discussion between governments, as and when appropriate, in order to reach agreed solutions, by a process of give and take on both sides, in the spirit of the Anglo-Soviet Treaty of Alliance and Collaboration.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that matters are not being allowed to drift, and that active steps are being taken by His Majesty's Government to bring about a settlement of the differences? Can he say whether there are any prospects of a Big Three meeting soon?

The hon. Member's Question was very wide, and I gave him a considered answer. I will only add that in a number of international meetings we are working with success with the Soviet Union delegates, and I hope we shall continue to do so.

What is the use of asking other people to put their cards on the table, face upwards, if we keep an ace up our sleeves?

Is it not desirable that steps should be taken to ensure free access in the territories at present under the control of Russia, so that information can be made public as to what is happening in those countries?

I have answered questions previously on that point, and I have shown that a considerable number of Press representatives have been allowed or will be allowed access.

Europe (British Visitors, Accommodation)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will take steps to provide hotel or other accommodation in Paris for British visitors, official and commercial, in view of the impossibility of finding accommodation privately at present prices compatible with the amount of sterling allowed to be taken out of this country; and if he is contemplating arrangements to assist British citizens travelling on urgent business in other European countries, including occupied territories.

I am happy to assure the hon. and gallant Member that arrangements were made some time ago to provide accommodation in Paris for official and business visitors, and I think that, on the whole, these arrangements are working well. I shall be glad to send him any detailed information he may require. In other countries, I am, of course, prepared in appropriate cases to ask His Majesty's representatives to help those who require to travel on urgent business. I must, however, add that in many of the liberated countries the shortage of food, transport and accommodation will inevitably cause difficulties to visitors from abroad.

Is the right hon. Gentleman also aware that consuls are finding it excessively difficult, on their present pay and allowances, to meet their greatly increased burdens, and will something be done to help them?

I will look into that point. It had not been brought to my attention.

Eire (Overseas Representation)

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will state the number of our embassies, legations, consulates-general, consulates, honorary consulates and vice-consulates where there are also diplomatic or consular officials directly appointed by the Government of Eire, and the number where the British representatives take care of the interests of Eireann citizens; and what financial contribution the Government of Eire makes for these services.

His Majesty's Government maintain 49 diplomatic and four political missions in foreign countries together with 363 consulates-general, consulates and vice-consulates. The Government of Eire have diplomatic representatives in seven countries and at the Holy See and a Consul-General in New York. In countries where there is no representative of Eire, the citizens of Eire, like other British subjects are entitled to the help and protection of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, and no special fee for these services is made.

Is there no resentment at their being described as British citizens?

Greek Internees (Decamare Camp)

22.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that many of the Greek internees at Decamare camp have their homes in Egypt; that it is possible to repatriate them by rail or by the Phaoronic mail line ship which twice a month sails from Massawa to Suez and does so half empty; and whether he will take steps to expedite the repatriation of such internees by either or both of these routes.

I understand that there are 33 Greeks at Decamare Camp who are domiciled in Egypt. In order to avoid the charge of unfairness, they are being kept in internment until all the Greeks in the camp can be transported to their homes. Every effort is being made to provide the necessary transport without delay.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Greek authorities are placing obstacles in the way of the repatriation of the majority of these internees, and that if he persists in his suggestion that 33 internees should wait until the other are repatriated, they may suffer a great injustice thereby?

I do not think they will suffer a great injustice, and I will be glad to give my hon. Friend the reasons why I think so if he desires. If he will give me evidence as to the attitude of the Greek Government, I shall be glad to consider it.

Having regard to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Radio Luxembourg

23.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether His Majesty's Government in collaboration with other administrative powers, intends to take steps to secure Radio Luxembourg as a United Nations' broadcasting station.

So far as I am aware, there has been no official proposal to make Radio Luxembourg a United Nations broadcasting station. His Majesty's Government are discussing with the French Government proposals to negotiate with the Luxembourg authorities for the use of this station for broadcasting programmes to be arranged under the aegis of the French and British Governments. This plan would permit of its later use by the United Nations, if desired, and I will certainly bear my hon. Friend's suggestion in mind.

Ruhr And Rhineland (French Proposals)

24.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, what progress has been made by the deputies of the Big Five Foreign Ministers towards reaching a decision on the French Government's proposals at the recent Foreign Ministers' Conference regarding future control of the Ruhr and the Rhineland.

The Council of Foreign Ministers agreed that the French proposals for the control of the Ruhr and the Rhineland should be examined through the usual diplomatic channels. Informal conversations, without commitment on either side, have taken place between officials of the French and British Governments. I understand that the French Government will have similar conversations with other Powers.

Do His Majesty's Government support the French proposals, or, if not, will they support some alternative form of concerted action to internationalise those vital areas of the country?

I think it is plain why I cannot answer that supplementary question but I would like to assure the hon. Member that in the conversations which have taken place His Majesty's Government have expressed no view on the French proposals or any other proposals on this matter. The conversations have been purely exploratory in character.

Foreign Ministers' Conference

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress has been made towards reaching agreement on the questions referred by the Big Five Conference to the Foreign Ministers' deputies.

The deputies have at present no authority to proceed with the discussion of the matters referred to them by the Foreign Ministers.

May I ask the Minister whether, in view of the fact that there is no authority for the deputies to continue these matters, it is proposed to have another meeting of the Foreign Secretaries in the near future?

Germany (Central Administration)

26.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any statement to make regarding the decision of Britain, the U.S.A. and Russia to establish a central German administration in Berlin.

As the hon. Member is aware, it was agreed by the British, United States and Soviet Governments at Potsdam that certain essential central German administrative departments should be set up. Discussions are still going on as to how this decision can best be carried out. The French Government, who had no representative at Potsdam, have expressed some misgivings about the plan, but I hope that an agreement may be reached without undue delay.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to ensure collaboration between the Powers, which is so absent at the present time?