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Imported Timber (Shipbuilding)

Volume 436: debated on Tuesday 15 April 1947

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asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that all timber, including African mahogany, now imported, which is suitable for shipbuilding is being allocated to furniture and toy manufactureres; that, in spite of the fact that one third more timber suitable for shipbuilding is being imported than before the war, shipbuilders who receive an allocation obtain only unsatisfactory wood, while many others cannot obtain any allocation and that, as a result, unemployment is created and no small boats are being exported and whether he will take steps to alter this method of allocation.

I think the hon. Member is misinformed. It is not the case that all imported timber suitable for shipbuilding is being allocated to furniture and toy-making, nor is more timber suitable for shipbuilding now being imported than before the war. In a strong sellers' market, it is not always possible to obtain timber of prewar quality, but shipbuilding re- ceives its share both in quantity and quality of the limited supplies of particular kinds of timber, including African mahogany, which are also required for furniture or other essential purposes. The answer to the last part of the Question is, "No, Sir."

Is the Minister aware that very many small shipbuilders in this country are severely embarrassed by not having any supplies of timber at all, and that, thereby, a good deal of unemployment is created?

Yes, of course, the embarrassment spreads outside the shipbuilding industry to the furniture and toy making industries, and unemployment would be created if we were to take timber away from them and give it to the shipbuilding industry.

Would the hon. Gentleman consider licensing certain work on ships, to be done in certain countries where we have sterling balances, such as Belgium, so that the ships can be returned to be completed in this country?

I should be interested in having any conversation with the hon. Gentleman that might help in solving the problem.