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Trade And Commerce

Volume 436: debated on Tuesday 15 April 1947

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Surgical Footwear

51.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will increase the supply of leather to manufacturers of surgical boots and shoes.

The Board of Trade is always ready to give special assistance to any surgical boot makers whose output is limited by lack of materials; and if the noble Lord will let me have details of any particular cases, they shall be looked into immediately.

52.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the fact that there is a delay between the time when a customer orders a pair of surgical boots and the time when they are delivered, he will make arrangements to see that clothing coupons do not have to be handed over until delivery has taken place.

There is no obligation under the Consumer Rationing Order to hand over coupons for any rationed goods until they are supplied. As a matter of private contract, the supplier may require coupons to be deposited as a condition of accepting the order, since he will himself have to lay out coupons to carry it out. I see no reason for interfering with such arrangements.

Imported Timber (Shipbuilding)

53.

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.

Clothing Coupons

54.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will now make a further statement on the duration of the next clothing coupon period; and whether any change in the value of coupons is contemplated.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to similar Questions on this subject on 3rd April. The answer to the second part of the Question is, "No, Sir."

Cotton Imports

55.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what quantities of K.S. and G.S. cotton, of the best qualities, have been, or will be, imported into this country during 1947.

By "best qualities" I assume that the hon. Member is referring to grades 1 and 2. In these grades of Sudan cotton, we are importing the whole 1947 production, estimated at about 10,000 bales.

We are importing it into this country, which, I presume, means we are making it available to British spinners.

Second-Hand Motor Cars (Prices)

56.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what action he proposes to take to control the prices of second-hand motor cars, in view of the excessive prices at which they are now being sold.

the Ministry of Supply (Mr. Woodburn): I have been asked to reply. The control of prices of second-hand motor cars is not considered to be practicable. As the reasons are varied and long, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate them in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Does that answer mean that this racket is to continue, and that the hon. Gentleman is powerless to do any thing in the matter?

No, Sir. The point really is that the cure may be worse than the disease; and there is a good number of problems to be solved before that can he done.

Following are the reasons:

The proposal to impose price control on second-hand cars was frequently considered during the war years and was rejected because:

  • 1. In so far as it might have been effective, it would have tended to defeat the object of making second-hand cars available at prices lower than those being paid. Owners of good cars who might otherwise have been ready to sell would have refrained from doing so and those in need of a reliable car would have found it even more difficult to obtain one.
  • 2. It would have been impracticable to fix any upper limit other than the list prices new, and this would have tended to level prices at the maximum with a consequent increase for poor cars other wise obtainable at a lower price.
  • 3. Many dealers had made bona fide purchases at higher prices and it would have been unfair to forbid them to sell except at a loss.
  • 4. A black market would undoubtedly have been created and it would have been impossible to prevent the surreptitious inclusion of additional consideration in transactions
  • 5. To make the control effective a system of licensing all sales whether by private individuals or by dealers would have been required. This would have been difficult to administer effectively, and would have required a substantial organisation.
  • These considerations still arise, though in different degrees, but the most serious objection to imposing price control at the present time is that it would be ineffective. If control were restricted to sales by dealers, as was done in the case of motor cycles, cars would continue to be sold privately at high prices. If control were applied to all sales, a black market would at once develop, and the setting up of a licensing system or other machinery necessary to check such a development would not be justified in present circumstances.