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British Industries Fair

Volume 465: debated on Thursday 19 May 1949

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1 and 2.

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) how many foreign buyers attended the British Industries Fair; and how the number compares with 1948;

(2) if he will make a statement on the results of the British Industries Fair; and how the number of orders taken compares with that of those taken in the previous year.

5.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will inform the House on the general results of the British Industries Fair in the promotion of British export trade; the number of foreign buyers attending the Fair; and on the efficiency of the arrangements for the Fair both in London and Birmingham.

7.

asked the President of the Board of Trade the number of visitors to the 1949 British Industries Fair.

As I indicated in my reply to the hon. Member for Royton (Mr. Sutcliffe) on Tuesday last, the character of a trade fair prevents a precise assessment of business concluded, but I am assured that the great majority of exhibitors are well satisfied with the Fair and a high proportion have reported that they are very pleased with the export orders they have taken and the nature and number of inquiries received. Undoubtedly import restrictions in many countries have frustrated the full transaction of business and prices are a vitally important factor. I am satisfied that the business which will follow this year's Fair will be above expectations and that taking into account factors beyond our control, the Fair has been the most successful for many years. The attendance of overseas trade buyers was 17,061 as compared with 14,333 in 1948 and the most satisfactory in the history of the Fair.

Is it not most misleading to describe every overseas visitor to the B.I.F. as a buyer; and is the hon. Gentleman aware that a large proportion of these people are seeking agencies? Would he take some steps in the future to have separate lists prepared of those who are genuine buyers and those who are here for other purposes? Could he also institute a system whereby his Department approached those people who are exihibiting to find out exactly what the exhibitors' reactions are to the exhibition?

In regard to the latter part of the question, that is done through the various trade associations, who are able to report on the progress made at the Fair. We can go further if it proves necessary. In connection with the overseas buyers, the numbers of these people may include some agents, but I am assured that the majority are overseas buyers.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the catering arrangements at Castle Bromwich were much better than those at Earls Court? The food was better, the prices were more reasonable and the service was excellent.

14.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that catering facilities at the British Industries Fair, Earls Court, were inadequate; the food generally unsatisfactory and expensive; and if he will take steps to see that catering arrangements at future exhibitions are more in keeping with the needs of overseas buyers.

As I indicated in my reply to the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) on Tuesday last, the catering arrangements at the British Industries Fair are the responsibility of the landlords of the building used. At Earls Court, arrangements are directly controlled by Earls Court Limited. I have taken note of the complaint of my hon. Friend, and will have it investigated with a view to improving the arrangements for future fairs. I must emphasise, however, that the Board of Trade, in common with other exhibition organisers holding short-term leases, has no direct control over the catering at Earls Court.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the previous reply concerned catering in the Overseas Club, and that the prices in the ordinary restaurants in the exhibition were just as high and that the food was just as bad? In view of the fact that the Board of Trade have overall responsibility for the exhibition, is it not their duty to see that the arrangements even by private enterprise, are such as will give satisfaction to exhibitors and the public.

The Board of Trade did make representations beforehand about the high prices to be charged. In regard to the other comments made, I have already indicated that they will be taken into account in future negotiations.

Will the Minister represent to Earls Court Limited that important national interests are affected by any unsatisfactory arrangements that they make? Will he bear that in mind when there are future exhibitions or fairs held there?

There can be no doubt about it, in view of the Question asked by the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson).