Skip to main content

Industrial Controls (Removal)

Volume 463: debated on Tuesday 22 March 1949

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Mr. ERROLL

65. To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will now announce a further general revocation of industrial controls.

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to answer Question No. 65.

Yes, Sir. I have recently given special attention to quota controls, that is the arrangements which limit, firm by firm, the volume of materials they may acquire, or use, or sell. So long as there is a serious shortage of any important industrial material, it has to be rationed. It is often the case that a trade has no common measure by which it may be rationed except that of past performance —sometimes going back to pre-war years. Other quota systems derive from the need to restrict hard currency purchases by import licensing.

All quota arrangements tend to hold back efficient firms and sustain the inefficient. It has therefore been the Government's policy progressively to do away with quotas wherever the supply position permits. Since last November, 25 materials for use in more than 100 industries have been freed from this form of control.

I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate the details in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Some of these controls have already been relaxed; and I informed the House about paper in reply to a Question from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) on 18th January. The removal of export licensing from cotton piece goods, the abolition of furniture permits, and the relaxations of the control of asphalt, building board, leather, footwear repairs, packaging, surgical rubber gloves, willows, photographic stills, and silk goods have already been announced. The most important items in the list are paper; most types of leather; a number of paint materials; the industrial uses of cloth, formerly rationed; and nearly all types of hardwood.

About a dozen species of hardwood are still scarce and most of them cost us dollars. These species account for 10 or 15 per cent. of total usage but they will have to remain subject to licensing. Hardwood will continue to pass through Government stocks as at present and the Timber Control will exercise discretion in selling their stock by paying special attention, in the case of the better grades, to the use for which the buyer seeks to acquire them. Neither the price control of hardwood nor its purchase on Government account will be affected.

I have also decided on some further relaxations of other kinds of control the most important of these is the decontrol of the distribution of matches which will take effect in about four months. Some commodities—tanning materials, synthetic rubber, rosin, pin oil, turpentine, oak veneers, and building board will revert from public to private purchase.

The amendment of the relevant statutory instruments cannot all be done at once. The date from which these relaxa- tions will take effect will therefore be announced separately.

Can the Minister give the non-political reason for revoking these controls en masse and not one by one as each becomes redundant; and can he say how many civil servants will be freed by these revocations?

In answer to the first question I think I made it pretty clear that a large number of these controls—cotton piece goods, asphalt, building board, leather, footwear repairs, packaging, surgical rubber gloves, willows and photographic stills—have already been revoked case by case as soon as it became possible, without waiting to do it en masse. So far as the release of civil servants is concerned, I estimate that the total number involved, apart from the 1,000 released by clothing rationing, will be about a further 300.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in following the doctrines and policy of the party on this side of the House, and in carrying out in a hesitant way, measures which we have repeatedly urged upon the Government, he will find general support on these benches, and may we also ask him to continue with a little more boldness the good work he has begun?

I am aware that in these decontrols we are, as always, a few steps ahead of the Opposition. In fact, the committee which the Tory Central Office set up in 1946 has still not reported on the controls they want to take off. Indeed, with one or two exceptions, not a single one of the decontrols announced this afternoon have ever been suggested by any responsible leader of the Opposition?

Will my right hon. Friend explain why he held up the announcement until after the election?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the supplementary answer I gave to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) a week ago.

Would my right hon. Friend tell the House his intentions in this field in respect of the wool textile industry, particularly the Wool Control Board?

Yes, Sir. I am watching this situation on wool very carefully. I am reviewing the degree of control required by the woollen and worsted industries. The supply position in respect of worsted yarns is still very difficult, but I hope I can make early progress on the decontrol of woollen yarn and cloth, provided that we can find a way of doing that while still leaving the utility programme properly safeguarded.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he proposes to continue the present system of steel rationing, and whether he can hold out any hope, that because of increased steel supplies, he can alleviate the present situation at an early date?

I would ask my right hon. Friend to put that question to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply.

Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that he is retaining sufficient power to maintain the control of maximum prices with minimum qualities for hardwoods, and would he ensure that, when hardwood is released freely for the furniture industry, there will be no leakage to other industries?

I hope I have made it clear from my answer that, as soon as this Order comes into effect, hardwood will be quite free for consumption by all purchasers, and not only the furniture industry. Certainly, we have kept on the fullest possible control of prices of hardwood. So far as quality is concerned, my hon. Friend knows the position in respect of the furniture utility scheme.



Main end-use


Main end-use

North AmericanBrake liningsBoraxAdhesives
AsphaltCar batteries(non-statutory)Glass
(import quotas)Floor compositionsLeather
Printing inkMetal and flux
Tank liningsVitreous enamel

plies of hardwood will be sufficient to ensure the manufacture of sufficient utility furniture?

I would not have taken off this control, or any other control, unless I had been satisfied that the supplies are sufficient, and, indeed, when hardwood supplies are sufficient, I hope there will be a substantial substitution of hardwood for softwood and steel.

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that he has now discovered that the Willow Control Order was completely useless?

No, Sir; as with all other cases, we have removed the control at the first moment that it was safe to do so.

Will my right hon. Friend take the precaution to see that the removal of these controls will not adversely affect the prices of the various commodities concerned?

Yes, Sir. Price control is, in fact, in the main maintained by the arrangement I have made.

Are we to assume from the Minister's answers that the Government are now convinced of the merits of private trading as against bulk buying?

No, Sir. I have said that, in certain specific cases, we feel that it is reasonable and right to revert from public to private purchase, but that does not prejudice the other cases where public purchase is retained.

Can the Minister say whether any alternative job has been found for the willow controller?

Following are the details:


Main end-use


Main end-use

Boric AcidFood preservationHardwood (exceptAgriculture
(non-statutory)Leathercertain species)Building
PharmaceuticalEngineering industries
Vitreous enamelHandicraft
Brace fittingsBracesMining industry
(non-statutory)Motor industry
Indian BristlesBrush-makingRailways
(import quotas)Shipbuilding
Building boardsBuildingSports and games
Calcium chlorideCementLeather:
(non-statutory)Chemicals(a) Bottom LeatherFootwear
PaintFootwear repairs
RefrigerationMachinery belting
Rubber(b) Upper leather (excluding calf imported leather and other special typesGloves
TextilesLeather goods (handbags wallets, suitcases, etc.
Caustic sodaChemicals
Rayon(c) Upper leather (certain descriptions of lower grades)Footwear and other manufactures of leather in which upper leather can be used e.g.,
ClothBias binding
(Hitherto on the clothing ration)Baize
Cot blanketsClothing
Ecclesiastical robesFancy goods
GlovesHarness and saddlery
HeadwearLeather goods (handbags, wallets, suitcases, etc.)
Household textiles
Industrial clothOccupational therapy
Leather goodsSports goods
Protective clothingUpholstery
Rugs(d) Raw Woolled sheepskins (import quotas)Clothing
Theatrical sceneryRugs
Tyres(e) Raw Goatskins (import quotas) Footwear
Upholstery(f) Raw Hair speepskins (import quotas)Gloves
Yacht sails, etc.
Cotton lintersBedding
PaperOxalic acidBleaching agents
Plastics(non-statutory)Fine chemicals
Surgical dressingsLeather
Raw CottonFor all purposes other thanplastics
spinning cotton yarn,e.g.,Textiles
AsbestosPaper and board(*)Books
CardingBoxes and cartons
Surgical dressingsDiaries
UpholsteryGeneral printing and stationery
Waste spinning
Woollen spinningPaper towels
Cotton wasteBeddingPostcards and greeting cards
BlanketsToilet paper
Cleaning wasteWrapping paper and many other uses
Pile fabric
Surgical dressingsRennet caseinButtons
Woollen spinningElectrical fittings
FurfuralAbrasivesFurniture fittings
(non-statutory)Oil refiningKnitting pins
PlasticsPens and pencils
(*) Specific licences are still required for newsprint, wallpaper, paper for sacks and bags, paper and board of the types used for fibreboard cases and double-backed corrugated board, grey felt paper, and insulating cable paper. The amount of paper used for newspapers, magazines, news bulletins, periodicals, advertising circulars, and football pools is still controlled by statutory order.


Main end-use


Main end-use

Silk bolting clothFlourmillingUreaPlastics
Screen printingWhite leadPaint
Silk yarnPiecegoods(non-statutory)Plumbing
RibbonsWillows (voluntary distribution scheme)Basketmaking
Sewing thread
Titanium dioxideLinoleum
(non-statutory)PaintWoodpulp for cellulose waddingExport of cellulose wadding
PlasticsRayon filters
Printing inkSanitary towels
TextilesSurgical dressings
Vitreous enamel



Nature of Relaxation

Imported building boardsChange from public to private purchase.
Cotton piece goodsWithdrawal of export licensing for non-utility cotton piece goods.
Raw cottonRevocation of statutory control of consumption of raw cotton for spinning cotton yarn.
Earthenware teapotsSpecialist teapot manufacturers may supply some plain coloured teapots to the home market.
Footwear repairs(a) Revocation of statutory control on the setting up of shoe repair business.
(b) Open licences to leather and grindery merchants to acquire leather for sale to shoe repairers.
Freon gasVoluntary control of use has ended.
Utility furnitureAbolition of priority dockets for purchase of utility furniture.
Gem diamondsRevocation of statutory control over the cutting, polishing and repair of gem diamonds.
Gloves (surgical rubber)Revocation of statutory control of distribution.
Hairnets and veilingsRevocation of statutory control of supplies to the home market.
MatchesRevocation of statutory control of distribution in four months' time.
PackagingCertain relaxations in the statutory control of containers and packaging.
Photographic stillsRevocation of statutory ban on the display of cinematograph stills on sensitized photographic materials.
Pine OilChange from public to private purchase.
RosinChange from public to private purchase.
Silk;Removal of 50 per cent. export condition.
sewing thread
StonewareFor the home market the range of permitted sizes has been extended and certain items may be made in plain colours.
Synthetic rubber;
(a)ButylChange from public to private purchase.
(b)G.R.S.Change from public to private purchase.
Tanning MaterialsReversion to private trade.
TurpentineChange from public to private purchase.
Oak veneersChange from public to private purchase.
VermiculiteRemoval of voluntary control use.
Wool blanketsColoured or headed blankets to be supplied for the home market.