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Trade And Commerce

Volume 463: debated on Thursday 14 April 1949

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

Molasses (Price)

18.

asked the President of the Board of Trade how much of the £4,783,000 profit he hopes to make on molasses for the year 1949 is the result of a reduction in the price given to the West Indian producer.

My hon. Friend is under a misapprehension. The figure he quotes is not a trading profit. It is the estimate of the excess of cash receipts over expenditure in connection with the purchase and sale of molasses, etc., during the year 1949–50, as shown in the Civil Estimates published recently.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the price in the West Indies has been cut by half, and is havng a serious effect on the sugar producers in the West Indies?

19.

asked the President of the Board of Trade how much molasses he intends to buy from dollar sources during 1949; and at what price.

Is my hon. Friend aware that by withholding this information, the worst possible impression is being created in the West Indies, which are absolutely dependent upon the sugar industry for their livelihood? Will he urge on his right hon. Friend to cease treating this as a purely economic question and to consult with his other right hon. Friend, the Colonial Secretary, to see if they cannot arrive at some better arrangement?

Could the hon. Gentle-say the reasons why it is not in the national interest to disclose this information?

Control Of Exports (Eastern Europe)

20.

asked the President of the Board of Trade to what extent imports of grain, feedingstuffs, timber and other necessities from the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics and other countries of Eastern Europe are likely to be diminished by the restriction on exports to such countries announced recently.

As stated by my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury on 7th April, it is not expected that the control of exports of certain classes of goods for security reasons will restrict the scope for mutually useful trade between ourselves and Eastern Europe.

Will my hon. Friend always bear in mind that the recovery of this country and Western Europe, and our independence by 1952, depend in part on an intensification rather than on any diminution of this trade?

21.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will publish in HANSARD a list of the main exports, especially required by the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics and other countries of Eastern Europe, which will not be affected by the restriction on exports to such countries announced recently.

It is not practicable to furnish this information, since I cannot surmise what United Kingdom goods are especially required by the Governments of Eastern European countries.

Could the Minister say whether the other O.E.E.C. countries are adopting the same commercial policy in regard to these lists of prohibited goods, or are we doing it on our own?

I cannot say precisely what is happening but, of course, there is a general understanding.

But could the Minister make an estimate based on the needs of the Soviet Union as indicated in the Anglo-Russian Trade Agreement of last year? Their needs will probably be similar now, and he could possibly make an estimate on that. Would he do so?

No. We are discussing these matters with the Soviet Trade Delegation at the moment, and they have said they will let me know what they require.

Referring to the answer the Minister gave me, is it not absolutely essential that there should be a common policy?

There is a desire for a common policy, but each sovereign Power has its own responsibilities and must accept them.

Anglo-Soviet Agreement

22.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what is the position now regarding the talks relating to the extension of the Anglo-Soviet Trade Agreement of 1947.

My right hon. Friend and I met the Head of the Soviet Trade Delegation on 12th April and had preliminary discussions about the principles on which a one-year Trade Agreement might be based.

Does my hon. Friend think that the President of the Board of Trade appreciates that if he gives way to the pressure now being exerted from the opposite side of this House, and from America, to diminish, even to end our trade with the Soviet Union, he gives a guarantee that Great Britain will be engulfed in a major economic disaster, with mass unemployment and all the misery attendent upon it, and that that position is even now approaching our country?

It is not our side alone that is holding up these negotiations. We are anxious to get an agreement.

In view of the statement made by the Chancellor in introducing his Budget about the baffling dollar deficit, would not the Minister help the Chancellor to get out of his mess by developing alternative sources of supply with the Soviet Union and the Eastern countries of Europe? It is the only solution of the baffling problem of the dollar deficit; it is not a rouble deficit.

My right hon. Friend and I have been trying for many months to get these supplies.

Germany (Discussions)

23.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what progress has now been made in the discussions with the Joint Export/Import Agency regarding British trade with the Bizone of Germany; and when it is expected that a bilateral trading agreement will be concluded.

Detailed discussions on trade during the first half of this year were concluded on 8th March, and I am sending to the hon. Member a copy of a note published in the "Board of Trade Journal" of 26th March on the results. General discussions on trade during the second half of this year and the first half of 1950 were held at the end of March and will be resumed, in further detail, in May or June.

Does not my hon. Friend accept this long delay in getting us any right to trade with Western Germany as certain proof that the Americans, holding Western Germany as a puppet, are intending to use her industrial potential as a weapon to knock Britain clean out of the European market?

Japanese Wool Production (Subsidy)

24.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the United States of America is subsidising Japanese wool production to the extent of 20 per cent. on yarn and 40 per cent. on cloth; and, in view of the effect of this, in addition to the low wages paid to the workers, on the competitive price on the world market, whether he will immediately take up this matter with the United States Government.

I understand that new yen exchange rates recently announced have brought an end to the concealed exchange subsidies to which the hon. Member refers. The new rates will, I understand, give a small subsidy to Japanese exports of woollen cloth but it is too early to say what the effect of this subsidy will be.

Why cannot the hon. Gentleman give a straight answer to a very straight question: Are the Americans

"subsidising Japanese wool production to the extent of 20 per cent. on yarn and 40 per cent. on cloth,"
as the Question asks? Is that the case, for a well known authority on the matter in this country stated it only last week? If that is the case, what steps does the Minister propose to take in the matter of this unfair competition?

I thought I had already indicated that in my answer. With regard to any further consideration, that will have our attention and we shall make representations, if necessary.

Film Industry

25.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to ensure the fulfilment of the film quota, in view of the widespread closing of film studios.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given him on 10th February on this subject.

Is the Minister aware that large numbers of studios are now vacant and that we are losing a great many dollars as a result of the accumulated sterling; and will the Minister be good enough, in those circumstances, to recommend to the Cabinet that we should take over the vacant studio space and let it to co-operatives of producers, actors and directors so that we may be able to fulfil the quota?

I cannot give an affirmative answer to that question, but I can say that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has the matter very much in hand.

Newsprint

26.

asked the President of the Board of Trade why the Government are not passing on immediately to the newsprint mills the benefit of the reduction in the price of pulp.

The reduced prices at which pulp is being bought have only become effective in April. As the hon. Member was informed on 24th February our selling prices are fixed from time to time at levels which should enable us to dispose of our stocks without loss.

Is it not a fact that the true price of pulp in a free market today is £18 a ton to the mills, whereas the Government are charging £26 10s. a ton, and does not this mean that they have bought too much pulp at too high a price?

We should have had the argument the other way round if we had not bought sufficient.

Does the hon. Gentleman mean that it is impossible to buy pulp at the reduced price or simply that the Government were not willing to buy it?

27.

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many tons of pulp for paper-making are held in stock by the Government; and how long he estimates these stocks will last at the current rate of consumption.

The total stocks of woodpulp at 5th March amounted to 309,000 tons or about 14 weeks' consumption at the current rate.

Can the Minister say whether there is any danger of pulp deteriorating in store if kept for several months?

In view of this large stock which the Minister says he has, why spend dollars on buying Canadian newsprint when we can spend those dollars on getting food or feeding grains from Canada, especially if it be true that this pulp will deteriorate? Surely, this is bad business.

28.

asked the President of the Board of Trade to what proportion of their capacity the newsprint mills are now working; and what proportion of the licensed output this represents.

The rate of production in March (exclusive of certain special arrangements for export) was 51 per cent. of pre-war against a general quota of 50 per cent. for the current licensing period. I am not aware that any particular change in the rate of production has taken place in April.

Does not this really show that it is high time the Government got out of this business altogether? When do they intend to do so?

Waste Paper Collection

29.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has considered information sent to him to the effect that voluntary organisations who are assisting in the collection of waste paper are now being told that no more salvage is required on account of imports of woodpulp; and what is his policy with regard to the collection of waste paper and in particular to the encouragement of voluntary efforts for its collection.

Voluntary organisations who are assisting in the collection of waste paper are not being advised by the Board of Trade in the sense suggested by the hon. Member, although I understand that one waste paper merchant has on his own initiative communicated with one such organisation. I hope that the voluntary organisations will continue to co-operate with local authorities in order that collections of waste paper may be maintained and, in this connection, I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. P. Wells) on 7th April.

Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that once these voluntary activities are carried on and maintained, the paper they collect, will, in fact be taken up and used, and that the stocks at present being accumulated will not interfere with this activity in future once stocking up can be started again?

I agree that this is a matter of co-operation between the local authorities and the voluntary organisations.

Rifle Clubs (Ammunition)

30.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will permit the import of £100,000 worth of American Remington and Winchester.22 rifle ammunition for the use of small bore rifle clubs in Britain.

No, Sir. I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply that while there has been a temporary falling off of deliveries to rifle clubs, their requirements in 1949 should be substantially met by home production and token imports.

Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that the home production is of a quality very far below what it used to be before the war, and can we have an assurance that, if he will not allow imports to come in of the nature asked for in the Question, he will facilitate the making of I.C.I. "All Range" ammunition, which was what was required before the war?

The Ministry of Supply are looking at this matter with a view to seeing if supplies can be given.

Will the hon. Gentleman answer the point put to him by my hon. Friend, that if he cannot allow the import of American ammunition, he will use his influence to see that really first-rate ammunition is produced here? This is so important for defence purposes.

—and that if supplies are available there is no need for these imports from the dollar area.

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that important training is being held up by the shortage of ammunition?

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that there is a defence aspect to this question and that if he discourages small-bore rifle clubs it will make this country less prepared.

I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that we are not anxious to discourage them.

International Trade Fair, Barcelona

31.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he has had under consideration the provision of facilities to enable British manufacturers to exhibit at the Industries Fair at Barcelona, which takes place during the month of June; and if negotiations are in process to provide accommodation for British exhibitors who desire to exhibit at that Fair.

The usual facilities are available to manufacturers who wish to exhibit at the Barcelona International Trade Fair. Negotiations for space take place between the exporter or his Spanish agent and the Fair authorities without the necessity for intervention by His Majesty's Government.

Are the Board of Trade taking any steps at all to advertise this exhibition and to offer facilities to those who would like to exhibit British goods there; and would not this help to bring us closer to Spain, which is so desirable in the interests of Spain and of ourselves?