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Trade And Commerce

Volume 437: debated on Tuesday 13 May 1947

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Russian Timber


asked the President of the Board of Trade what deliveries of timber from the U.S.S.R. have been made and received in this country to date against the special sale of 5,988 tons of rubber.

Fourteen thousand standards of soft wood and 5,000 standards of mining timber were shipped from Russia last year. A further 6,000 standards of soft wood, which could not be lifted before the ports closed, will be shipped this year. These purchases were made as part of a wider agreement reached with the Russians last September which covered not only the sale of rubber referred to but also a settlement of certain financial questions about war-time supplies.

Does the Minister realise that that is not on all fours with the reply he gave on 29th April, when he stated that the reason for the handing over of 6,000 tons of rubber at a price 3d. below that to which it was sold to manufacturers here, was that the arrangements for receiving timber from the U.S.S.R. were being negotiated? Is he aware that his answer now tries to evade that issue by putting it on a wider basis? Would he also say whether it would not be very wise, in view of the non-fulfilment of this contract, to see that future negotiations with Russia are carried out on the basis of receiving the goods before we send ours?

It is not at all unusual for accommodations to be arrived at when parties are bargaining, whether it be a question of the State or of commerce, as the hon. Gentleman knows very well

Anglo-Polish Trade (Provisional Arrangements)


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the provisional trade agreement reached with Poland.

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey) on 8th May.

Would the Minister say whether it would not have been possible to arrange with Poland to import feeding stuffs in order that we could produce our own eggs and bacon here?

Clothing Coupons (Ex-Servicemen)


asked the President of the Board of Trade if, in view of the fact that men demobilised before 1st January, 1946, have received an additional 26 clothing coupons, he will make a similar issue to men demobilised between 1st January, 1946, and 31st December, 1946.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) on 3rd April last, to which I have at present nothing to add.

Does that mean that these men ultimately will receive the same treatment as the men who were given the 26 coupons?

Retail Drapery Margins


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is now in a position to state the result of his promised review of the margins of profit left to retail drapery and allied trades.

This matter was discussed last week with a joint committee of the retail trade associations concerned. We hope to reach a decision on the level of the margins in question in the near future, after consultation with the Central Price Regulation Committee.

Would the hon. Gentleman bear in mind the fact that this reduction was made on a presupposition that there was going to be an increased turnover, and that increased turnover has not in fact materialised?

Greek Tobacco (Government Purchase)


asked the President of the Board of Trade, whether, in view of the loss of £750,000 made by His Majesty's Government in the purchase of tobacco to assist the Greek Government, he will publish in the Official Report a list of commodities purchased from other countries in similar circumstances together with the resulting loss or profit.

The purchase of tobacco was a special one which was made in response to a pressing appeal from the Greek Government for assistance in the rehabilitation of the Greek economy. There have been no comparable purchases from other countries.

Would it not have been better to send a gift of £750,000 instead of acting in this roundabout way by purchasing tobacco?

I should hardly think so. I should have thought that from this country's point of view it was far better to buy something than to give something away and to get nothing in return.

Companies Act (Annual Report)


asked the President of the Board of Trade, whether he is aware that the last General Annual Report prepared and issued by his Department in statutory compliance with Section 376 of the Companies Act, 1929, is dated 9th August, 1939, and covers the year ended 31st December, 1938; whether he will indicate the date on which it is proposed to resume publication; and whether it is proposed to cover each of the years from 1939 onwards.

Yes, Sir. For reasons of manpower and paper saving the publication of the report was suspended in 1939. My right hon. and learned Friend has given instructions for the printing of a report to cover the years 1939 to 1945, and it will be available shortly. For the year 1946 and onwards it is proposed to issue the report in its pre-war form.

Could my hon. Friend say whether the report will be available to Members of the House before the Companies Bill is discussed?

I am afraid I could no: say that, because I do not know when the Companies Bill will be discussed.

Does this mean that, in spite of the shortage of labour and paper, the hon. Gentleman's Department is able to issue all these reports?



asked the President of the Board of Trade if he has any information regarding increasing supplies of nylon and silk stockings; when these will appear in the shops; and if the price will be controlled.

The supplies of silk and nylon stockings which have been coming into the shops during the last few months will increase steadily, though I am afraid I cannot say rapidly. Most of the stockings of both kinds now being made are Utility and are price controlled.

Will the supply of stockings be increased at those places where at present they are mainly below the counter?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that increased supplies of these goods would probably be one of the best tonics that he could give to the women of this country?

It was once said by one of the national newspapers, that my claim to recognition was that I understood the psychological importance of silk stockings. I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that that is true.



asked the President of the Board of Trade why vendors at shows and fairgrounds can display such large quantities of china, whilst shopkeepers have none at all.

I am afraid that I cannot agree with my hon. Friend that because some pottery finds its way to fun fairs there is anything unfair about distribution.

Is my hon. Friend aware that it is quite impossible for housewives to obtain china in the shops just now, and that it is a very difficult thing for a housewife to go into training for three or four months to hit a bull's-eye in order to get a set of china? Further, is he aware that it takes almost as long to train to hit the bull's-eye as it takes to get a reply from the Secretary of State for War?

I would not know a great deal about that. I do not think I have ever hit a bull's-eye in my life. I am quite certain that the amount of china that finds its way into fun fairs is trifling and that it is not the kind of china which the average housewife is anxious to buy.

Bulk Buying


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether in view of the fact that there is a widespread feeling throughout the country that the policy of bulk buying of the foods and materials which Britain needs is opposed to the best interests of the country, he will set up a committee to investigate the whole matter and to render a report.

No, Sir. I do not accept the hon. Member's premise. Nor do I think any useful purpose would be served by such an investigation.

Is it not a fact that under bulk buying we do not know what is going on save only that supplies are becoming increasingly less at ever increasing prices, and will the hon. Gentleman not consider calling in the experts to deliver the goods?

The experts are already there. I think it is not surprising that the sort of thing described by the hon. Gentleman exists in a world sellers' market.

In view of the fact that the Minister of Food refuses to dis- close details of these purchases and the taxpayer has to bear the loss, will the hon. Gentleman not consider the suggestion to set up this committee so that the whole country may know the details?

It would not be a bad idea if that question were addressed to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Food.