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Trade And Commerce

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 3 May 1949

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New Factories, London And Se Region


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will state the number of new factories and extensions, respectively, that have been erected in the London and South-Eastern Region, also the number approved since December, 1944, up to the latest available date.

A total of 148 new factories and 337 extensions to existing factories of 5,000 sq. ft. and over were approved in the London and South-Eastern Region during the period December, 1944, to February, 1949. Of these, 42 new factories and 98 extensions have been completed.

Imports (Statistics)


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether in order to provide a better basis for comparison with exports, he will, each month, publish the approximate f.o.b. value of monthly imports in addition to the c.i.f. value.

No, Sir. In accordance with the International Convention relating to Economic Statistics signed by this country at Geneva in 1928, the statistics of imports into the United Kingdom published monthly in the Trade and Navigation Accounts must include the value of insurance and freight, and it would be very confusing if, in addition, estimated figures of imports on a f.o.b. basis were also published regularly. There are, moreover, difficulties in establishing a reliable estimate in the difference of the value of imports calculated on a f.o.b. and c.i.f. basis. We are, however, having the difficulties investigated, and hope that it may be possible to assess the relative importance of the value of insurance and freight included in the published figures.

Exports (Europe And Canada)


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will state the quantity and value of steel, machinery and other goods desired by Canada, which have been sold to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Poland, Czechoslovakia and other European countries during the past two years; and why these goods were allocated to those countries rather than to Canada.

With the hon. and gallant Member's permission, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT figures showing actual United Kingdom exports of steel, machinery and other goods to the countries in question for 1947 and 1948, but he will appreciate that these figures do not provide any general assessment of what Canadian importers desired to buy from United Kingdom exporters. As regards goods subject at the time to allocation or analogous arrangements, I may say that, with the exception of finished steel, I have no evidence that, if we had failed to send the quantities in question to Europe, they would necessarily have been purchased by Canadian importers. By selling small quantities of steel we secure in return the entry to these markets for much larger quantities of goods which are not readily saleable in Canada and thus increase our power to purchase essential foodstuffs and raw materials. I may add that exports are not now allocated by markets, but, in the guidance exporters are given about the relative desirability of the various markets, we have repeatedly emphasised that Canada and the United States should come first.

Can it be denied that Canada has not received those articles from this country to the full amount she desired, and that some of those articles were sold to other countries unfriendly to us, that they might send back other goods that we did not want? In view of the fact that it is necessary to increase our dollar savings to the utmost amount possible, and also in view of the immense contributions of Canada to this country since the war, is it not incumbent on us to meet the wishes of Canada, and to let her have all the goods she desires to take from us?

I do not accept all the implications of the hon. and gallant Member's remarks. The figures of exports to Canada for 1947 and 1948, respectively, were £44 million and £70 million, which, by comparison with the figures for our European exports, were high, and so I think that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree that it is quite wrong of him to suggest that we are neglecting the Canadian market. Nevertheless, I accept his main conclusion that it is our business to expand this market in every way we can.

In view of the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the baffling problem of the dollar deficit, and the fact that America and Canada demand dollar payments, is it not desirable that the greatest possible measure of trade should be developed with the Soviet Union and other countries of Eastern Europe?

To clarify this position, may I ask whether what the hon. Gentleman has said covers the question of tinplate, in respect of which, certainly in January, I found a good deal of Canadian anxiety, because of the belief that it was going to Russia and Poland, and Canada would have liked it for the tinning of salmon?

Following are the figures:

Iron and Steel (a)MachineryOther GoodsTotal
Soviet Union2,54416821,31447447,30710,4088,9623,5381,6961,29812,2725,310
All Other European Countries (b)629,73828,116659,52534,200187,49449,435255,08573,206282,711390,656360,262498,062
(a) Comprises in addition to iron and steel, certain manufactures thereof. Separate figures for iron and steel are not readily available.
(b) All countries in Europe, including Iceland, the Faroes, Turkey (European and Asiatic), Cyprus, Azores, Madeira and Malta.

Colliery Tip, Wales (Removal)


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will state the number of acres of land that will be made available for other purposes upon the removal or levelling of the Beiliglas colliery tip at Gwaun-cae-Gurwen, Wales.

The first proposals for the clearance of this tip were rejected because we did not consider that the results would justify the expense. The local authority have been invited to submit amended proposals, but these have not yet reached the Board of Trade, and I am therefore unable to state what acreage of cleared land may result if it should be decided eventually to make a grant in respect of the scheme.

Children's Clothing (Supplies)


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the great shortage and increased prices of children's shoes, clothing and underwear; and what steps are being taken to augment the supply of these goods.

There is no general shortage of these goods; for example, supplies of children's shoes to the home market are about one-third higher than pre-war. There are, however, shortages of a few kinds and qualities for which all practicable steps to improve home supplies are being taken. As regards prices, there have been some increases, due mainly to increased raw material costs, but there have also been some decreases.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the widespread discontent there is over this matter, and especially because there is a large number of fancy articles at very high prices but a shortage of the more ordinary things children want?

If my hon. Friend will give me examples of cases he has in mind I will gladly look into them.

"The Times" (Students)


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the decision of the Newsprint Rationing Committee that the scheme of "The Times" newspaper enabling students to buy it at reduced rates must cease, although the sales so made are not included in the circulation figures of "The Times," he will instruct the committee to amend its regulations so that the scheme may continue.

One of the considerations which influenced my right hon. Friend in agreeing to the restoration of the unrestricted circulation of newspapers at the beginning of this year, was the rule of the Newsprint Rationing Committee prohibiting newspapers from canvassing for orders by any method and offers of any benefit to members of the public as an inducement to purchase. In the circumstances, he has not felt called upon to intervene in the case to which my hon. Friend refers, although he has observed a reference to it in the Press.

Is the Minister aware that students have now enjoyed and valued this concession for over 20 years? Is it not really a little unfair of the Labour Government that we should be put into this situation, in which we are taking away a concession for which we have to pay nothing, from a very important and sometimes indigent section of the community?

I have every sympathy with my hon. Friend's point. Indeed, I once profited by this arrangement myself. However, this is a matter primarily for the newspaper industry. If either "The Times" or anyone else cares to refer the case to us, we will consider it, but it is a matter in the first instance for them.

Was this particular regulation put before the President of the Board of Trade and sanctioned by him before it came into operation?

This is an arrangement which is made by the newspaper people themselves, and is not a matter for which the Board of Trade takes the responsibility.

In view of the seriousness of any further rise in the cost of living to the clergy of the Church of England, can my hon. Friend say whether this decision of the Newsprint Rationing Committee will alter the present arrangement whereby clergy can buy "The Times newspaper at a reduced rate?

In view of the fact that this concession does not come within the category to which my hon. Friend has drawn attention, could not the President of the Board of Trade make representations, without giving directions, that he regrets this decision, to see if it can be withdrawn?

I should not be willing to suggest my right hon. Friend's intervention in the case. It is a matter for the newspaper people themselves, unless they wish to bring it in front of us. It is not our business but theirs in the first instance.

Would the hon. Gentleman make it clear that this kind of concession cannot by any means be described as canvassing for orders? Could he not make that clear to the Newsprint Rationing Committee?

In view of the fact that there is fairly strong feeling on this matter, would my hon. Friend be good enough to receive some hon. Members about it, to see if he can use his good offices to restore the concession?

I should be very happy to discuss the matter with hon. Members on either side of the House, but I cannot agree to commit my right hon. Friend to intervention.