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Trade And Commerce

Volume 467: debated on Tuesday 19 July 1949

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French Wines (Imports)


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether applications from private persons to import wine from France will now be favourably considered.

Private individuals may be licensed to import two cases of wine as a bona fide unsolicited gift. Commercial imports by private individuals are not, in general, permitted.

As we have just reduced the duty on wine in order to increase the revenue, may I ask why the Govern- ment puts difficulties in the way of the private importer who would like to benefit the Revenue in a big way by importing a cask or a barrique and doing his own bottling?

We can import certain limited supplies but, for balance of payments reasons, we do not want to extend it too fully because of repercussions in other sections of the industry, and in industry generally.

Flannel Trousers (Price)


asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will state the factors that justify the increase from 32s. last year to 69s. 1d. now in the price fixed for 209F men's utility grey flannel trousers.

The retail ceiling price for men's utility trousers made of cloth 209F was increased from 62s. 6d.—not 32s.—to 69s. 1d. in July of last year. The increase in price was due to the removal of the subsidy on the cloth.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that utility flannel trousers could be bought for 32s. last year and that they now cost the price which I have mentioned?

The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong if he supposes that trousers of this quality could have been bought last year for 32s. The lowest ceiling price for this quality—[Laughter]—I should say, of course, the controlled price—was 51s. 9d.

Ussr (Grain Contract)


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will announce the details of the Provisional Grain Contract that has been concluded with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; and when the first cargoes of grain under the agreement are anticipated to arrive.

We have reached agreement with the Soviet Government about coarse grains, but the contract is linked with the rest of the trade agreement on which negotiations are still proceeding. I would prefer to wait until they are concluded before announcing details about any particular part of the negotiation.

Will this delay delay the increase in the foodstuffs ration that the agricultural industry requires?

I am not talking about delay. I said that trade negotiations are still going on. This is only part of the negotiations. When the negotiations are complete, we can talk about whether it is an early settlement or a late one.

Will not the result be that the coarse grains will not arrive in this country early enough to allow the feedingstuff ration to be increased?

Timber Imports, Malaya


asked the President of the Board of Trade to what extent he has now been able to increase the imports of hard and soft wood from Malaya.

I am glad to say that imports of hardwood from Malaya were 137,000 cubic feet in the first six months of this year as against 86,000 cubic feet during the whole of 1948. There are no softwoods of commercial significance in Malaya, though some light hardwoods are locally termed softwoods.

If there is likely to be a still further increase will the hon. Gentleman say how the price compares with the price for the purchase of similar hardwoods in other parts of the world?

It is possible there may be an improvement, but on the question of price I cannot give an answer. If the hon. Gentleman will put a Question down I will endeavour to do so.

Utility Clothing


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether increased quantities of utility clothing have been available in the last six months, compared with the previous six months.

Figures of supplies of utility garments are not, in general, collected, but I understand that there has been some improvement, particularly as regards men's clothing.

Will my hon. Friend remind the President of the Board of Trade that when the matter of Purchase Tax on clothing was under consideration it was promised that supplies of tax-free utility clothing would be increased, and that this is now a matter of urgency?

I cannot give precise figures, as we do not collect figures of clothing production. It is figures of cloth production to which I have referred my hon. Friend.