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Trade And Commerce

Volume 437: debated on Thursday 22 May 1947

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Carbon Black Production

19, 20 and 2I.

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) on how many occasions the Inter-Departmental Committee on the Production of Carbon Black has met since it was set up; and who has been appointed as chairman of that committee since the resignation of Sir Charles Bruce Gardner;

(2) when the Interim Report on the production of carbon black referred to in a letter by the Parliamentary Secretary to the hon. Member for Bolton, on 23rd January, 1947, will be available;

(3) if he will make a full statement on the discussions which have taken place between the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and his Department regarding the erection of plant in Persia for the manufacture of carbon black suitable for tyre production.

The Inter-Departmental Committee on Carbon Black has held 17 formal meetings. Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner has kindly consented to continue as ohairman. The committee has presented an interim report which shows that it has assembled much valuable information, that a great deal of exploratory work has been done and that plans for the production of carbon black in this country are being explored. I have received confidential information from the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company which I am not at liberty to disclose.

In view of the fact that this committee was set up as long ago as April, 1946, for the purpose of developing other sources of supply of carbon black, both at home and in the sterling area, will my right hon. and learned Friend justify its existence? Will he also say how it is that he pays lip service to the necessity for conserving our dollar resources, when we spent last year 5,250,000 of our precious dollars on this commodity in the U.S.A., while at the same time millions of cubic feet of natural gas are being blown into the air every day in the Middle East which could be burned to produce the carbon black we require?

It is not necessary for me to justify the proceedings of this committee, which has done a very useful service in inquiring into what is a very complicated matter.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend think that that is good enough? Would he say why we are spending our reserve of valuable dollars on the purchase of carbon black, when it is not necessary to do so?

On a point of Order. I propose to raise this matter further on the Adjournment.

Perambulators

23.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the shortage of various raw materials used in the manufacture of perambulators will involve a substantial decrease in the production of perambulators; and what steps he proposes to take to prevent this unsatisfactory development.

The main bottleneck at present in the output of perambulators is the shortage of steel, and I am hopeful that we may be able to obtain more steel for this purpose.

Is the President of the Board of Trade aware that there are also other materials which have been cut, notably plywood and cotton? Can he hold out similar hopes in respect of these, and can he hold out hopes of the speedier meeting of the allocations than in fact is made even when they are reduced?

For the moment I understand that steel is the main bottleneck. When that is solved we will try to solve the others

Will the President of the Board of Trade say what the deficiency of perambulators is over the whole of the rest of this year? Is the figure of 150,000, which has been given in the Press, correct?

It is quite impossible for anyone to estimate the deficiency of perambulators.

Electricity Generator Exports

25.

asked the President of the Board of Trade the total value of electricity-generating equipment exported during each month January, February, March and April, 1947; and when the export of this equipment is likely to cease until home requirements are met.

The value of electrical generators of more than 200 K.W. capacity exported during January, February, March and April, 1947, totalled respectively £402,212, £437,241, £166,524 and £692,239. It would not be practicable to divert current export orders to home use but arrangements have been made to give preference to orders for home power plants.

Why is it necessary to export what are really raw materials without which we cannot produce goods for export at competitive prices?

These particular articles are not suitable for the home market. They have been made for export orders.

Is the export of these amounts of equipment holding up the erection of any plant in this country?

No, Sir, they are in fact expediting it, because they are clearing factories of export orders to make them available for others.

Mining Machinery Factories

26.

asked the President of the Board of Trade in which development areas have factories been approved for the production of milling machinery; and what progress has been made in their erection.

Factory building projects for the production of mining machinery have been approved in the North-Eastern, West Cumberland, South Lancashire and Scottish Development Areas. The project in the North-Eastern area comprises three extensions to an existing factory, two of which have been completed. The projects in the West Cumberland and Scottish areas are at present under construction. Work has not yet started on the project in the South Lancashire area.

27.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what progress has been made with the projects for the manufacture of opencast mining equipment in South Wales; where these projects are to be located; and how many men they are expected to employ when they are in production.

Projects for the manufacture or repair of opencast mining equipment are located at Cardiff and Aberdare. They consist of two extensions to an existing factory and a new factory at Cardiff and the allocation of a section of a Government-owned factory at Aberdare. Preliminary work on a small scale has started in the section of the Government factory. Construction of the new factory and the two extensions has not yet commenced. When in full production these schemes may be expected to give additional employment to about 450 men.

28.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what Government factory in South Wales has been allocated for the production of mining machinery; is the size of this factory; and when it is expected to be in production.

A factory at Rhymney has been made available for the production of mining machinery. The factory has an area of 40,000 square feet. The factory is in production and at the end of March, 1947, was employing 157 men. When in full production, it should employ about 300 men.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend regard the projects referred to in this and my two previous Questions as matters of special urgency, partly to provide machinery for the collieries and partly to provide employment for people who are unemployed in the development areas?

They will certainly be considered as matters of urgency so far as available supplies of building materials allow.

Salvage Collection

29.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he has now received the report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on the Collection of Salvage; if he intends to publish the report; and when he expects to put its recommendations into force.

Yes, Sir. I have received an interim report from the committee containing a number of recommendations which are being put into effect as rapidly as possible. It is not intended to publish the report.

Will the President of the Board of Trade take urgent action to encourage salvage, particularly of paper and glass containers, and urge the local authorities to collect them and bring them in?

Cellophane

30 and 31.

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) whether he will state the amount of Cellophane exported from this country during the years 1946 and 1947, respectively; and

(2) whether he is aware that Cellophane is practically unobtainable in this country; that it is urgently needed as a wrapper for certain horticultural products; and what steps he proposes to take to improve the position.

Cellulose film production has been substantially increased since the end of the war in order to develop our export trade, and the quantity exported in 1946 was 4,900 tons and, in the first quarter of 1947, 1,500 tons. Up to 40 per cent. of the total production is available for home requirements but, in view of the need to encourage this valuable export, I should not be prepared to increase this. If the hon. Member will give me details of the materials to which he refers for which cellulose film is an essential wrapping, I will make inquiries to see if supplies can be made available out of the quantity at present provided for home requirement.

Is the Minister aware that the large and increasing quantities of Cellophane which are going abroad, as he said, go very largely to horticultural producers in other countries who send back their produce to this country in our own material, and that we cannot compete because we have not got the proper containers?

If the hon. and learned Gentleman will let me have the information he has in mind, I will see what can be done.

Children's Underwear

32.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make an allocation of children's summer underwear available in the Faversham Division of Kent.

Underwear is distributed through the normal trade channels and is not controlled by Board of Trade allocations. I have no reason to suppose that the Faversham Division of Kent is not receiving its proper share of children's summer underwear in relation to available supplies, but if my hon. Friend has evidence to the contrary, I will gladly examine it.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that these garments were absolutely unobtainable at the date when this Question was put down?

Clothing Coupons (Service Men)

33.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will cause civilian clothing coupons to be issued to men who have served for two years or more in His Majesty's Forces.

I cannot see my way to extend the concession already announced, under which civilian coupons are to be given to members of the Forces serving on a Regular engagement, to allow them to buy some civilian clothing during service in the Forces. Non-regular personnel who have now served for two years or more and who are released in due course under the present release scheme, will be entitled on release to receive, in addition to the civilian clothing outfit, 90 coupons as well as the current clothing book.

Is the Minister aware that many young men when they are called up are not fully developed, and that after a year or two in the Forces the civilian clothes which they had earlier simply do not cover them? Could he not reconsider this?

I am afraid we cannot reconsider it, because there is no more material available.

36.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will make a statement on the grant of additional allowances of coupons to purchase civilian clothing to members of the Regular Forces who have served continuously from 3rd September, 1939, and who are still serving.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. G. Jeger), on 13th March.

I am aware of that reply, but may I ask the President of the Board of Trade to contact the Secretary of State for War to make that reply widely known to men in the Forces, because they do not know of this information?

Book Production

37.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that large printing plants suitable for book production are standing idle in Germany; and if he will take steps to enable these to be utilised to ease the book production difficulties in this country.

Owing to scarcity of fuel, paper, and other necessary supplies, printing and binding plant in the British zone of Germany may well be idle at present. Import licences will be given to firms in this country willing and able to buy such machinery if it is suitable for use here. It is also open to firms to find out whether the plant could be used in Germany for printing, or for binding printed matter sent there for the purpose. They would, of course, have to assure themselves that the necessary supplies of paper, binding cloth, etc., were available.

38.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what are the obstacles which prevent the purchase from Canada of a substantial quantity of paper, suitable for book production, at under £40 a ton.

I am not aware of any substantial quantity of paper which would be available at the price stated without detriment to our current supplies, but if my hon. Friend will let me have further details I will investigate the matter.

Light Industries, Midlothian

39.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps the Government has taken to put into practice its plans for the location of light industries in the development area of the county of Midlothian.

I would refer the noble Lord to the answer I gave to his Question on 13th February. The employment needs of the district to which he refers are being met by industrial developments approved for Bathgate, Broxburn and Linlithgow. In addition, the district supplies a substantial volume of labour to Edinburgh which is within fairly easy daily travelling distance.

Is the President of the Board of Trade aware that he has given me precisely the same answer as he gave before, and the answer he has given concerns, as it did before, West Lothian and has nothing whatever to do with Midlothian? Is he further aware that many thousands of men and women in Midlothian are very disappointed about the Government delays in the past on this matter, and are facing the future with a considerable amount of anxiety?

The present position is that there are 95 men and 21 women unemployed. I understand, which is not bigh

But the answer covers West Lothian and not Midlothian. The right hon. and learned Gentleman seems to know nothing about it.