Household Textiles (Prices)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the substantial increase in the cost of towels, sheets, curtains and similar materials since these were taken off points; that most of the present available supplies are priced higher than utility goods; and what steps he is taking to secure a reduction in the prices charged to the consumer.
I am not aware of any increase in the price of household textiles since the removal of coupon rationing of these goods on 15th March, 1949. Since rationing was abolished the considerable demand for these articles has been principally for utility goods and the result is that until stocks are replenished there is a higher proportion of non-utility household textiles in the shops. As these bear Purchase Tax and are often made of more expensive yarns, they are dearer than utility lines. We hope to increase the volume of utility production and this will enable housewives to buy more of the cheaper utility goods.
New Factories, Wales
asked the President of the Board of Trade the number of new factories and extensions, respectively, that have been erected in Wales and Monmouthshire; also the number approved since December, 1944, up to the latest available date.
One hundred and fifty-eight new factories and 225 extensions to existing factories of 5,000 sq. ft. and over were approved in Wales and Monmouthshire during the period December, 1944, to February, 1949. Of these 83 new factories and 91 extensions have been completed.
asked the President of the Board of Trade how soon the hon. Member for Maldon may expect the reply concerning imports of flower seeds promised him shortly in a letter from his Department dated 25th February.
I am sorry that I cannot yet give my hon. Friend a final reply. I am still in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture about seed imports generally, including flower seeds, and I hope to be in a position to send him a reply shortly.
Could my right hon. Friend say how he defines "shortly," since he said "shortly" on 27th February?
As soon as possible.
Italian Estates (Release)
asked the President of the Board of Trade on what grounds the £10 million, held in London for the House of Savoy, has been released for payment in sterling, when all other financial deposits owned by Italians have been made available in lire.
This estate has not been treated specially but was dealt with strictly in accordance with the arrangements agreed with the Italian Government for application to the estates of Italians who died during the war. The property was released from the control of the Custodian of Enemy Property to the Attorney-Administrators so that, upon obtaining letters of administration, they could deal with the estate in the normal course. I may add that my hon. Friend has been misinformed as to the amount of the estate which was very much less than the figure quoted by him.
Nevertheless, is the President of the Board of Trade aware that what has been done has created an extremely unfavourable impression with all Italian Republicans as well as large sections of public opinion in this country, and why should preferential treatment have been given to these people who at the time appeared to be nothing but the tools of Mussolini?
I am not so aware, and as I have stated this case has been dealt with exactly as any other case would be dealt with under the arrangements agreed to with the Italian Government.
Could the right hon. Gentleman say why some of this money has not been taken to meet the obligations of the Italian Government on Austrian bonds held in this country?
Not without notice.
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that provincial newspapers with page sizes above 250 square inches are being penalised by the current regulations of the Newsprint Division of his Department; and whether, with a view to righting an anomaly, he will now consider rationing paper to such concerns on a. basis not of pages as such but of Demy equivalent.
The present basis of newsprint rationing which has been in force since 1940 does not distinguish between provincial and other newspapers, and I am unable to accept the suggestion in the first part of the Question. Rationing on a Demy equivalent basis would be much more difficult to administer than the present scheme, and I am not aware that there is any considerable body of opinion in the trade which would welcome the change.
Is not the President aware that during the war a large number of these smaller newspapers agreed to reduce the size of their pages and that the size of the page was then frozen by the Board of Trade? Since then increases have been made on a page basis, and surely that is very unfair?
No, Sir, it was not frozen by the Board of Trade but was dealt with by the Newsprint Rationing Committee. I agree that, whatever the size for rationing, it would have created anomalies and hardship in that particular size.
Will the Minister do something about it?
Wool Textile Industry (Development Council)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will now make a statement on the outcome of the discussions which have taken place concerning the establishment of a Development Council for the wool textile industry.
Yes, Sir. The negotiations which Sir Richard Hopkins has been carrying out in Bradford at my request with both sides of the wool textile industry have not led to agreed proposals for a central body for the industry. A compromise proposal which was suggested by Sir Richard Hopkins and which I was prepared to endorse was not accepted by one side of the industry. I am satisfied, however, after most careful consideration of Sir Richard Hopkin's report and of the separate views which have subsequently been expressed to me by each side of the industry that it is in the best interests of the industry that a Development Council should be set up. I have, therefore, decided to proceed with the arrangements for the establishment of a statutory Development Council which will have the functions of promoting exports, research and design and of advising the industry and the Government on matters reviewed in the Working Party Report. I shall publish detailed proposals on these lines with a draft Order as soon as possible and invite comments from interested parties.