Trade And Commerce
Petrol Distribution And Supply Of Accessories
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will now request the Monopolies Commission to inquire into the subject of exclusive dealing in the distribution of petrol and ancillary agreements restricting the supply of accessories to garages.
I have nothing to add to my hon. and learned Friend's reply to the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. George. Craddock) on 24th July.
I am, of course, aware of that. I am also aware that the Restrictive Trade Practices Bill reached its final stages in this House yesterday. As these exclusive-dealing agreements will probably not even be registrable under the Restrictive Trade Practices Bill, and in view of the far-reaching consequences of this exclusive dealing policy and the growth of a great many tied garages, will the Minister give an assurance that this important subject will be referred to the Monopolies Commission? If he is not in a position to say that now, can he state definitely when a decision will be reached on this question?
I will bear these factors in mind.
asked the President of the Board of Trade the value of exports from the United Kingdom of pedigree livestock, under the various categories, for 1954 and 1955.
Pedigree livestock are not distinguished as such in the Trade Accounts. With permission, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT figures of exports of livestock classified as "for breeding".
While thanking my right hon. Friend for that Answer, might I ask if, when he produces those figures, he can also give me some idea as to what percentage of the figures finds its way directly to the coffers of the Treasury as a result of these valuable exports?
I can give the figures in sterling for the particular exports, and can show the comparison between the two years. Perhaps my hon. Friend will look at the figures, and if he wants any more information I will try to let him have it.
Following are the figures:
|United Kingdom exports||£||£|
|Animals for breeding|
|Sheep and lambs||44,225|
* Not separately distinguished in 1955.
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will now anounce his decision on the future of the British Film Production Fund.
I hope to be able to make a statement later this week.
Does that mean that the statement will be made tomorrow, or Thursday?
Motor Vehicle Exports
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will introduce legislation, in order to encourage motor car exports, whereby a statutory maximum value limitation will be imposed on emoluments in cash, kind and property payable to the directors, managerial staff and their dependants of producing companies, on a scale permitting an increasing limitation proportionate to increased exports.
That Answer was not entirely unexpected, but is the President aware that I was trying to help him, as, in his own Board of Trade Journal, he and his Department are complaining that manufacturers are living on the "easy home market"? Is he further aware that it is of no use manufacturers complaining about being put out of competition because of high wages when the workers see what is going on in the B.S.A. Company, and see the "top hat" schemes in the City, whereby directors can retire on a pension of £¾ million at the company's expense?
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's motives are unexceptionable, but I can imagine few methods which would do less to increase exports, and, indeed, which would cause very considerable confusion throughout all industry, than this one.
asked the President of the Board of Trade the percentage of exports of cars and commercial vehicles combined expressed as a percentage of production fox the first six months of 1956; and how that percentage compares with the export percentage of British industrial production generally.
Exports of cars and commercial vehicles by value were about 40 per cent. of production during the first five months of 1956, the latest period for which these figures are available. Exports of all manufacturing industry—excluding food, drink and tobacco—were a little under 30 per cent. of production in 1955, and the proportion exported during the first half of 1956 is estimated to be rather higher.
As the exports of the motor industry are well above the average for British industry generally, would it not be a good idea if the attention of the House, after the Recess, were focused on those industries which are below the average? In particular, may I draw by right hon. Friend's attention to to the hosiery industry, the exports of which are about 13 per cent. of production?
Order. There is nothing about hosiery in this Question.
While it might be interesting to have corresponding figures for 1951, may I ask the President if he read the article in the News Chronicle a few days ago, written by a well-known American journalist, which reported that it is difficult even now on the east coast of the United States to buy British motor cars? Has the right hon. Gentleman inquired into that?
I have not actually seen the article referred to.
Seeds (Import Duty)
asked the President of the Board of Trade what answer he has given to the request of the National Farmers' Union for an increased import duty of 4d. a pound or 12½ per cent. ad valorem whichever is the greater, upon all seeds for sale; and what steps he has taken to consult all cultivators.
No decision has yet been taken on this application, the examination of which is still proceeding. It is open to any interested party to submit their views to the Board of Trade and a notice inviting representations was published on 16th June.
Can the President say whether he has had any answer to that notice, and would he bear in mind that only about 5 per cent. of farmers grow these seeds and that about 95 per cent. use them, and that it will be greatly against the interests of all users of seeds if the tariff is increased?
We will bear all these considerations in mind, but I do not want to comment on this matter while it is under discussion and consideration.
New Industry, North-East Suffolk
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the need for further industrial expansion in north-east Suffolk and the desire of the local authorities of Lowestoft, Beccles, Bungay, Halesworth and the parish council of Reydon to attract industries to their respective localities; and if he will increase his efforts to attract new industries to this area.
I am aware of the need for some new industry in northeast Suffolk and of the desire of a number of local authorities there to attract industries to their localities. The Board will continue to bring these places to the attention of suitable firms.
While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that Answer, I should like to ask whether his Department has ever made a survey of the sites available in the area or has consulted with the local authorities as to what cooperation they can give him.
I have consulted to this extent, that unemployment in Lowestoft has in fact fallen substantially in recent years, and new industries have contributed 2,000 jobs since 1947. I do not say that that means that no more could, or should, be done, but it does show that some progress has been made.
Tariffs (Statutory Orders)
asked the President of the Board of Trade when Her Majesty's Government propose to implement the changes in the United Kingdom tariff agreed upon at the recent General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade Conference at Geneva.
It is our intention to lay the necessary Statutory Orders in October.
Whilst recognising that it will be necessary to get the decision of the House upon this matter, would it not be wiser, having in mind the recent meeting of O.E.E.C. and the discussion of tariffs, and the discussions with the Australians about Imperial Preference, to have a general discussion on tariffs generally?
The discussions will be upon these particular tariff alterations which I am now referring to. Whether there should be some other debate of a wider character is a matter, no doubt, for discussion between the usual channels.
Waste Paper (Salvage)
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will give an assurance that it remains the policy of the Government to encourage the salvage of as much waste paper as possible.
The policy of the Government is to encourage the salvage of as much waste paper as can be collected and used economically.
May I ask my right hon. Friend to explain what he means by "collected and used economically", in view of the fact that he is now allowing free imports of wood pulp and paper-making materials from all over the Continent, which have put an end to the incentive to collect in this country?
I mean that there is a limit to the amount of waste paper which can be economically used.
How can the President say that the Government are giving encouragement? If I can give a personal experience, I would say that, having been told, when at the Board of Trade, to save paper, I have offered paper to the dustman for three weeks in succession, and he has said, "Put it in the dustbin in the ordinary way; there is no demand for paper".
Milk (Half-Pint Bottles)
asked the President of the Board of Trade in view of the annoyance and waste caused to single persons who are unable to buy milk in quantities of less than a pint, whether he will introduce legislation to amend Section 7 (1) of the" Sale of Food (Weights and Measures) Act, 1926, with a view to ensuring that a dairyman shall have milk in half-pint bottles available at all reasonable times.
No, Sir. This Section permits a trader to sell milk in half pints or multiples thereof. It would be outside the scope of weights and measures law to require him to keep milk available in any particular quantities,
Is the President aware that many single people and old-age pensioners are compelled at present in many areas to purchase a pint of milk when they either cannot afford it or have no facilities for keeping it fresh? Can he suggest any way in which his influence can be brought to bear upon retailers to have half-pints available for these people?
So far as my Department is concerned, all I am saying is that there is no power under the Weights and Measures Act to compel someone to keep milk in particular measures.
asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to increase trade between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Viet-Nam.
My Department keeps in close touch with trade developments in Viet-Nam and provides a regular service of commercial intelligence. There is a Commercial Secretary in the Embassy in Saigon whose advice and help are available to traders interested in that market. The value of our exports to Viet-Nam in the first six months of this year was double that of the same period in 1955.
asked the President of the Board of Trade what increase in the volume of trade between the United Kingdom and Hungary it is estimated will take place as a result of the conclusion of the present trade agreement.
Under the trade agreement recently concluded with Hungary, provision has been made for the issue of import licences for about £3 million worth of Hungarian goods over the next twelve months and for Hungarian purchases of about £4½ million worth of United Kingdom goods in the same period. Some other Hungarian products may also be imported into the United Kingdom under open general licence arrangements.
Birmingham Small Arms Company
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will hold an inquiry under Section 165 (b) (iii) of the Companies Act, 1948, into the affairs of the Birmingham Small Arms Company.
Is the President aware that this Section of the Act permits him to hold an inquiry if information is being withheld from shareholders? Is he further aware that the ex-chairman of the company has publicly stated that the present board is deliberately trying to hide essential information from the shareholders? If these accusations are being made by two sections of the board, is there not a case for the right hon. Gentleman to hold an inquiry?
I have no official information about these matters; but I should have thought that one thing at least was clear, namely, that there is no shortage of information for the shareholders at the present time.
Company Directors (Expenses And Pensions)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will introduce legislation to amend the Companies Acts so as to limit the amount of expenses and pension contributions which may be allowed for individual directors.
I do not think that amendment of the Companies Act would be an appropriate way of dealing with these matters.
Does the President really think it reasonable that amounts as great as £9,000 and £11,000 annually should be paid to individual directors as pension contributions and expenses free of tax, and does he not really think that there ought to be a little more public accountability for these public companies?
There is, of course, accountability to the shareholders.
Soviet Trade Delegation
asked the President of the Board of Trade what progress has been made in the placing of trade orders by the Soviet trading delegation now in this country; and whether he will make a statement.
asked the President of the Board of Trade into what categories he divided the goods and materials that the Soviet trade delegation wished to buy here; and whether he can now make a statement about the progress so far made in negotiating mutual trade.
Both Her Majesty's Government and British industry have welcomed Mr. Malyshev's visit to this country. The object of this visit was to find out what United Kingdom industry has to offer in the light of the Soviet purchasing programme submitted last April, and to seek clarification about the coverage of the strategic controls. As to the latter, we have divided the programme into two categories of goods, those subject to control and those free. There is a large area of trade which is free from the controls. As to the former object of the visit, it is too soon to expect orders to have been placed, but I am confident that the visits to factories which we have arranged will be most useful, and I look forward to an increase in trade between our two countries.
Whilst thanking the Minister for his reply, I should like to ask him to pay special attention to this matter. These export orders can be worth hundreds of millions of pounds which are vital to this country. I hope he will see that this opportunity for East-West trade is not lost.
May I assure the hon. Gentleman that I have given constant personal attention to this particular matter?
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the trade delegation appreciated the reception which it received from industrialists in this country? Secondly, is he aware that in the two categories into which he divided the trade, millions of pounds worth of those categories covered things useless to Russia, like toothbrushes and boot brushes—[Laughter.]—and will he, in view of the fact that, while we are offering toothbrushes, Russia is sending us hundreds of thousands of tons of manganese, now break down these silly restrictions and get free channels of trade between East and West?
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the goods which are available cover a rather wider and more important range than that envisaged by him in his question.
Is the President aware that there is at least one large Scottish firm which has been negotiating a contract of a very large size for nearly two years, and I understand that it is not the fault of the Scottish firm that a contract has not been placed?
It may not be; but I would only say that I think it is the general experience of British industry that the Russian trade delegations to this country are extremely easy to deal with, and business can be carried on on an ordinary commercial basis over a very wide field.
European Trade And Tariffs
asked the President of the Board of Trade, in view of the setting up of the two Organisation for European Economic Co-operation study groups on European trade and tariffs, whether he will set up within his Department complementary study groups to prepare definite proposals for submission to the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation so that Her Majesty's Government may give a lead in the move towards a reduction of tariffs in Europe.
All necessary work has been, and will continue to be, undertaken within my Department to enable Her Majesty's Government to participate fully in this branch of activity of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation.
May I ask the President if he can give the House an assurance that positive proposals are being prepared by the Government, and that their policy is not to go to the next meeting with no positive proposals and, as they did at the last one, merely to negative proposals put up by other nations?
All proposals by Her Majesty's Government are positive in character. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has pointed out, no party is going into this meeting with commitments; this is an inquiry which is to take place. But I am quite certain that we shall make a useful contribution to the discussion.
asked the President of the Board of Trade what reciprocal arrangements have been considered recently in respect of the fostering of trade between this country and the Federation of Malaya.
I have nothing to add to the Answer which my right hon. Friend the Minister of State gave to the hon. Member on 24th July.
Surely the right hon. Gentleman remembers that on that occasion it was suggested that reciprocal arrangements might be unwise until a certain Colonial Territory emerged into self-government. As this Territory is now in that position, does the right hon. Gentleman not feel that at least tentative arrangements might be considered with a view to some firm reciprocal arrangement of this nature?
I am in constant touch with my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary on these matters. What really matters is not what is written down in some paper treaty but the general sense and relationship between us and the Federation of Malaya. If that remains on as good a basis as it is now, I foresee substantial trade continuing to flow between our two countries. I am not, however, saying that under no circumstances should any particular trade agreement be reached, and I will bear these matters in mind.
Umbrellas (Imports And Exports)
asked the President of the Board of Trade to what extent the import of umbrellas into this country has affected our own production and export of these articles during the past three years; and what representations on this matter have been made to him during the last year.
Information as to total production of umbrellas in this country is not available and I have no evidence that production or exports have been adversely affected by imports. I have had no representations on this matter during the last year.
Is the President of the Board of Trade aware that in certain parts of the country, including my own constituency, where umbrellas are made, complaints have been expressed concerning competition with what are alleged to be much more cheaply produced articles from other parts of the world? In those circumstances, cannot the right hon. Gentleman give more information about repercussions on the trade?
If the hon. Member likes to put down a Question, I shall be quite happy to say what the trend in the imports of umbrellas has been, but I have not had any complaints during the last year.
Will my right hon. Friend remember that imports to this country are exports of other countries, just as our exports are other countries imports?
Apples (Import Quota)
asked the President of the Board of Trade why the quota for fresh apples imported from the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation and certain other countries, for the period 1st July to 31st December, 1955, as announced in Notice to Importers No. 733, was exceeded by £44,000 cost, insurance and freight; and if he will make a statement.
I have no reason to think that it was.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is certainly the impression of the growers' organisations in this country that it was so? Will he bear in mind particularly that the two months in which there were the highest imports last year were those which are vital to home growers for the disposal of their crop? In view of the big crops this year, will my right hon. Friend ensure that that does not happen again?
I hope that my Answer will have reassured the growers. I do not think that there was an excess. Some of the figures are difficult to follow owing to delays, to a strike in one period or another, and to other matters of that kind, but I am satisfied that there was really no excess.
Before fixing the quotas of imports for the coming winter, will my right hon. Friend take steps to consult the home industry and hear its views before deciding what those quotas shall be?
It has to be remembered that these quotas are imposed for balance of payments reasons.
Former Hungarian And Roumanian Property (Distribution)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will direct the Administration of Enemy Property Department to delay the distribution of former Hungarian and Roumanian assets, in order to avoid the injustice of irretrievably depriving of their own property those victims of Nazi persecution who have complied with every condition prescribed by the said Department for the release of their own assets, except that they have so far been prevented from crossing the Iron Curtain, but who may, in view of the improving travel facilities from Eastern Europe, fairly soon become able to do so.
No, Sir. The Administrators of Hungarian and Roumanian Property have a duty to make distributions to the United Kingdom creditors as soon as they are in a position to do so. With every sympathy, therefore, for these unfortunate victims of Nazi persecution, I cannot agree to prejudice the claims of these creditors by deferring their long-awaited dividends for a further indefinite period.
While thanking my right hon. Friend for his obvious awareness of the human tragedies behind this situation, may I ask whether he thinks that the creditors, many of whom, although perfectly legitimately, are several stages removed from the original transactions with Hungary and Rou-mania, would not press their claim so hard if they realised that a large part of their hoped-for dividend would come from the total sole assets of these unfortunate people, whose only fault is that they are not now permitted to leave the countries behind the Iron Curtain before a certain date?
This has been a long and troublesome matter. I think it is right that, if possible, a final distribution of dividends should be made. At the same time, we have been able to make arrangements whereby the sum of about £250,000 should be made available from the remaining German assets for the purpose of providing a charitable source for help in some of the worst cases of hardship of the victims of Nazi persecution.
Timber (Strategic Stocks)
asked the President of the Board of Trade why it is still necessary for defence purposes to stockpile timber, in view of the fact that timber merchants have considerable supplies of timber in their yards and State forests have a large reserve of mature timber.
It is not customary to reveal the strategic purpose or the amount of materials in the stockpile. As my hon. Friend knows, however, our strategic stocks of timber are now being reduced, as foreshadowed in the White Paper on Defence.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that that is similar to an Answer he gave me on 28th July, when he referred me to the Minister of Defence? I put down a Question to the Minister of Defence and was referred back to the Board of Trade. Does my right hon. Friend think that I should ask the Minister of Supply a Question?
I do not think that my hon. Friend will have much success with any Minister: the question of what is or ought to be in a strategic stock is not a matter for public debate.
asked the President of the Board of Trade what progress has been made with Australian Ministers in reviewing trade developments of mutual interest, including the operation and cost of the 15-year agreement under which the Commonwealth ships to the United Kingdom a major part of her beef exports and receives a guaranteed price.
Our discussions with Australian Ministers, including the separate talks about the operation of the meat agreement, have not yet finished and I am not able to make any statement about them at present.
As the Commonwealth of Australia has proved herself to be one of our best friends in the world, will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that he will do his best to reach a mutually satisfactory arrangement with our Australian friends?
I can certainly give my right hon. Friend that assurance.
Is it the intention of the Government to continue with the 15-year agreement which has been referred to?
I would rather not make any comment on these arrangements at present.
Can we have any idea when these talks between the Australian Ministers and the President are likely to be ended? For three years we on this side have raised the question of Australian trade, pointing out that Ministers over there are extremely discontented. Can the right hon. Gentleman say that it is not Her Majesty's Government who are holding up the matter?
Nobody is holding up the matter. When one is dealing with trade matters over a wide area between two very good friends, it is right that they should be given adequate and, if necessary, prolonged consideration in order to arrive at the best arrangements.
Statistical Services And Information
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he has taken to improve the statistical services and information at his disposal.
I hope to make a statement on this question tomorrow.
Economic General Staff
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will set up an economic general staff.
I observed in the Budget speech that as one grows older one gets a little shy about these high-sounding nomenclatures. Nevertheless, the general idea is sound enough.
Does my right hon. Friend consider that it would be a good general idea if Sir Roger Makins had an adequate staff at his disposal, because he cannot do the whole of this business by himself?
Yes, Sir; we shall, of course, try to make any changes and improvements in the staffing which are required.
Does the Chancellor's Answer mean that his reference to this matter in the Budget statement was just one more of those airy generalisations which when examined turns out to mean nothing? Will the right hon. Gentleman also turn his mind to this point: in view of the widespread feeling in the country that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not taking any real grip on the situation but is busy passing the buck to somebody else, will he recognise that what we need is not an economic general staff, but action by the Chancellor of the Exchequer?
Those questions are both more in the nature of imputation than questions. All I can say is that I reject both of them.
Cheque Endorsements (Committee's Report)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has yet received the Report of the Departmental Committee on Cheque Endorsements; and whether he will publish the Report.
I have not yet received the Report but I understand that it is likely to be ready very soon. I cannot at this stage make a statement about publication.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the taxation per head of population for each of the years from 1938–39 to 1956–57.
As the Answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
When hon. Members have the opportunity of seeing those figures, will they find that they show, as a famous Prime Minister once said, that they are "going up and up and up and on and on and on?" Will the right hon. Gentleman, in future, when he is helping the Conservative Central Office to produce "All the Answers "ensure that it gets accurate figures and statistics rather than the mythical ones when Labour was in power?
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will read the figures when they are published.
Do the figures include those showing the reductions in the numbers of those paying tax?
This is a limited inquiry, but it would be very tedious to read out this very long table. That is the only reason why I am not reading it.
Following is the Answer:
Receipts from Inland Revenue duties, Customs and Excise duties and motor vehicle duties per head of the population in each of the years 1938–39 to 1956–57, are as follows:
Potato Imports (Customs Figures)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why the Customs and Excise authorities refuse to make available to the Potato Marketing Board the weekly figures for imports of potatoes.
The Customs figures for imports of potatoes, as of all other goods, are compiled monthly. The Department is therefore unable to supply weekly figures, but I understand that up-to-date information about weekly potato imports is available to the Potato Marketing Board from other sources.
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that some weeks ago heavy losses were sustained by the potato trade and the country through lack of up-to-date information? Is he not aware that the potato trade feels that in such circumstances the Government could do more? If the information is available, will the Chancellor make contact with the potato trade and inform them? If it is not, will he see that it is available next year in order to avoid a repetition.
As I said in my reply, the information is available to the Potato Marketing Board, but it would need a rather big change in the method of preparing these statistics, which are partly prepared by mechanical methods, to publish them weekly instead of monthly.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the average Government expenditure per day for each year from 1945 to 1956 with a comparison for the year 1938.
As the Answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Can I have now the last two sets of figures?
I could read them all out, but it is a very long list. The last are £12·3 million and £12·6 million.
Very useful information.
Following is the Answer:
Average expenditure per day by the Government in 1938 and in 1946 to 1955 was as follows:
I regret that comparable figures for 1945 and for 1956 are not available.
The figures relate to expenditure by the Central Government (excluding the National Insurance Funds) on goods and services, both on current and capital account, and expenditure on grants, subsidies and Debt interest. The expenditure figures are those used in (he National Income Blue Book for 1956, which is to be published in mid-August.
Gold And Dollar Reserves
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the total of our gold and dollar reserves on the latest available date.
The gold and dollar reserves stood at $2,385 million on 30th June, 1956.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the real total reserve may well be about double the figure that he has just given? Is he aware of the discrepancy between the Treasury figures and the estimates of the United States Federal Reserve Board? Is there any way of reconciling the two sets of statistics? In any event, can my right hon. Friend say what he believes to be a satisfactory working reserve in the Exchange Equalisation Account?
There are many questions contained in my hon. Friend's supplementary question, to which, as, I am sure, he will recognise, I should like to make very careful replies if they were put on the Paper. I will content myself with saying that they are 265 million dollars higher than they were six months ago.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, before approving the United Kingdom contribution, he will obtain an assurance that the award of the contract for the building of the Kariba dam granted or to be granted to an Italian consortium would include a penalty clause to provide against incomplete fulfilment together with a bank or State guarantee to assure the carrying out of the terms of such a clause.
The award of contracts for the Kariba project is a matter for the authorities in the Federation, who have naturally satisfied themselves that the contracts contain all necessary safeguards. I understand that there are full safeguards of the kind my hon. and gallant Friend has in mind.
While thanking my right hon. Friend for that assurance, may I ask him whether he would agree that this country is making by far the biggest contribution, both by direct contributions and through the guarantee of the World Bank?
That is the next Question.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to state the full extent of the commitment of the United Kingdom in the loan of £28 million made by the World Bank for the building of the Kariba dam.
Service of the loan has been guaranteed by the United Kingdom. We have also agreed to the use of up to £10 million from our sterling subscription to the Bank as part of the loan.
In view of this very heavy commitment, would my right hon. Friend not agree that it would have been better to have tried to obtain all the money in the Commonwealth, and to have avoided putting the contract out to international tender?
That raises, of course, important questions. I would point out that the expenditure in the United Kingdom to be financed by the loan will be at least as much as the amount of the loan, the £10 million. If my hon. Friend has in mind that we ought to consider the question of tied loans, that is quite another matter. On the whole, I think it would be to our advantage to continue with the present system.
While we are all disappointed that British firms which tendered for this contract were not more competitive, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will take time off to explain to his hon. Friend that the course which the hon. Gentleman is pressing on him is just the one that all of us of both parties have criticised so bitterly when it has been applied by the American Government against us?
Yes, but this is a question where advantages or disadvantages have to be weighed. It is, of course, quite true, as the right hon. Gentleman says, that the Import-Export Bank is operated on a tied basis.
Purchase Tax (Wool Cloth)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what percentage of the annual revenue from Purchase Tax comes from the tax on wool cloth.
Just under ·5 per cent.
While thanking the Chancellor for that information, may I ask him whether he has given further thought to means of overcoming the problem that stands in the way of removing this tax? Will he not consider removing Purchase Tax on clothing, rather than allow this unjust discrimination against wool cloth to remain?
That is a larger question which, of course, I have under consideration all the time.
Surely the right hon. Gentleman realises that the yield from this tax is out of all proportion to the damage done to the industry?
The yield is about £2 million. I have to take that into account in considering the general problems involved.
European Atomic Agency
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the United Kingdom will participate fully in the European Atomic Agency which the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation decided on 18th July to establish.
As the Agency does not yet exist, it is too early to define the extent of the United Kingdom participation, but the United Kingdom will play a full part in the Steering Committee for Nuclear Energy which, under the decision of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation on 19th July, is to draw up a draft statute for the Agency.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury was reported on 18th July as giving a very different impression of what Britain's intentions were in the matter? Is he further aware that this sort of disingenuous dodging of the issue will do nothing to restore his shattered reputation on the Continent of Europe?
The hon. Gentleman can leave me to take care of my reputation without any assistance from him. At the last meeting of O.E.E.C. not only were the British proposals welcomed by everybody concerned, but a special vote of thanks was carried by all the other countries to us for our work in the Chair.
Banking Organisations (Meeting With Chancellor)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what replies were made to him by the representatives of the banking organisations in response to his appeal for no relaxation of the credit squeeze; whether he is now satisfied that the nationalised industries and the big borrowers are being treated with the same severity as the small borrower; and if he will make a statement.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on his recent official talks with representatives of the banking interests on the country's economic situation.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what additional measures he proposes to take to reduce the present excess liquidity in the financial system.
I would answer these Questions by referring hon. Members to the statement published on 24th July after my meeting with the representatives of the banking organisations. I am circulating a copy of the statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of the small traders, while they are prepared to carry their share of the burden of the squeeze, and will willingly do so if it is a cure for inflation, have a feeling that the bigger borrowers and the nationalised industries are not bearing an equal proportion of the burden? Will my right hon. Friend assure them on that one point?
As my hon. Friend knows, new arrangements for nationalised industries are being made and will come in as the Finance Bill becomes law. They will receive capital from the Exchequer, and they will, therefore, be subject to that degree of control. In general, while, of course, any form of restriction of credit is a burden to those who wish to receive it, I am absolutely convinced that it is in the broad national interest that we should not relax in our efforts to reduce the total amount of credit available.
As the communiqué to which the Chancellor referred tells us almost nothing, would the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is a fact or is not, as suggested in the Financial Times this morning, that he gave a pretty broad hint to the distinguished gathering he called together on that occasion that there would be no further increase in the Bank Rate?
The communiqué set out what it was thought right to set out as the result of the discussions. I am rather surprised that it should be regarded as something not allowed to a Chancellor of the Exchequer that he should have discussions with bankers. Neither bankers nor Chancellors of the Exchequer are such mysterious people that they cannot have a private talk.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we all welcome the fact that he called together that meeting? Is he not aware that he should not feel himself bound by old conventions, such as that his only approach to the City must be through the Bank of England? But if the right hon. Gentleman holds another meeting, will he draw the attention of the Bank of England to the fact that it could help him a great deal more in what he is trying to do if it would operate on the cash basis of the joint stock banks instead of relying purely on the liquidity ratio?
I receive every possible assistance from the Governor and the other authorities of the Bank, who work in close harmony with the Treasury. I am glad to know that in general my reputation is rising in these matters.
Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that inflation cannot permanently be checked without a considerable reduction in the floating debt? Does he not intend to take additional measures to achieve that in the near future?
I have put forward certain additional measures, the first of which was the £76 million reduction in expenditure, but they are not always well received by those who urge me to reduce the amount of the floating debt.
Following is the statement:
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, with the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, today met the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, the President of the British Bankers' Association, the Chairmen of the eleven London Clearing Bankers, the Chairmen of the Accepting Houses Committee, the Chairman of the Committee of Scottish Bank General Managers, the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Bankers' Association, the Chairman of the British Overseas Banks Association, and representatives of the Foreign Banks and Affiliated Association and of the American banks in London.
The meeting discussed the economic situation. The Chancellor emphasised that the control of inflation was an essential condition of success in dealing with all other economic problems. It was recognised that effective action could only be taken if the Government and the banking organisations worked in close co-operation. The Chancellor reviewed the measures taken by the Government before, in and since this year's Budget, including measures influencing the supply of money. He indicated that the Government would press on with these measures, the effectiveness of which would increase as the year went on. The Government recognised the valuable part already played by the banking system in maintaining credit restrictions in the face of considerable difficulties. But the Chancellor asked that the contraction of credit should be resolutely pursued and that there should be no relaxation in the present critical attitude towards applications for bank finance. The representatives of the banking organisations took note of the Chancellor's statement and undertook to meet the Chancellor's wishes and the national needs.
Interest Rates (Voluntary Schools)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will take special measures to assist the voluntary schools by providing capital at 3½ per cent. instead of the higher rates which have followed as a result of the increased Bank Rate.
I regret that this proposal is not practicable.
Does the Chancellor not realise that the managers of voluntary schools are in a very grave position? Does he not know that in one case brought to my notice the interest rates have gone up from £115 to as much as £200 a week? Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that he has disrupted their plans, broken their hearts and sacrificed them to the financiers of the country in his dear-money policy?
I realise that the problems exist, and I regret them, but I do not think that the Government could lend at a lower rate than they have to pay themselves.
In view of the fact that these people are providing a national necessity, is it not possible for the right hon. Gentleman to arrange for them to borrow money on at least as good terms as through the Public Works Loan Board?
I think that the rate of interest is the same as the long-term rate of interest of the Public Works Loan Board.
Company Directors (Expenses)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is satisfied that company directors' expense claims are adequately scrutinised by the Inland Revenue officials before being allowed; and if he will make a statement.
Yes, Sir. As I have previously pointed out, there is frequently a wide difference between the amount of expenses claimed and the amount allowed.
Does my right hon. Friend not think it true that the amount of publicity given to the unpleasant Docker case indicates that it is a most unusual case?
I am confident that the Revenue carries out its task efficiently. I remember that a year or two ago there was some feeling that it was carried out rather too vigorously. Now sometimes it is thought that the Department may be a little lax. One must remember that there is no publicity given at all to all the cases where claims are disallowed.
In view of all the evidence produced from this side of the House, and indeed from all parts of the House, during the debates on the Budget and the Finance Bill, will the Chancellor, instead of sticking to the stalling reply which he gave last Tuesday, say whether he has had time to consider the proposal which we made in April that a percentage, say 50 per cent., of the money paid on directors expenses and other deductible expenses should no longer rank for Income Tax exemption?
I am satisfied that this part of the law is being carried out by officers of the Revenue.
asked the Secretary to the Treasury how many and which pictures with their names and artists now in the custody of or belonging to the Tate Gallery are not on public exhibition; why they are not on public exhibition; where they are; and how long they have not been on public exhibition and why.
There are over 4,000 pictures at the Tate Gallery, of which about 1,200 are exhibited at present. I regret I cannot supply a complete list of the remaining 2,800 which are either in the reserve collection—where they can be viewed on application—or on loan. I cannot say how long each particular picture has been in the reserve collection, as individual records are not kept.In replying to the hon. Member on 26th and 30th July I have explained why some pictures are exhibited while others are not.
Does the Minister not really think that this non-disclosure of large numbers of pictures is inconsistent with the purposes of the Tate, and unfair to the artists and to the public? Will he take steps to see that pictures are sent to galleries which can and will exhibit them, such as, for instance, the Lane pictures to the Dublin Art Gallery?
The pictures are freely lent to galleries in this country. The same pictures do not always remain on exhibition. The object is to provide for visitors a varied collection of exhibits, changing from time to time. As to the Lane pictures, the hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware that I answered a Question of his on that matter yesterday.
Is it not rather odd that no records of these pictures are kept? What happens if one of them goes astray, if there is no record kept?
We keep records of the pictures but I did not think I could very well circulate in HANSARD a list of 2,800 pictures and the names of the artists. What we do not keep is a record of the exact period during which each picture is on exhibition or in store.
asked the Secretary to the Treasury whether he will allow a small allocation of dollars to students for the purpose of visiting the United States of America and Canada.
Dollars are already provided in certain cases to enable students to pursue a course of study in the U.S.A. and Canada. But while there is no basic travel allowance for North America dollars cannot be granted for ordinary visits.
But now that Russia has said that she will encourage at great expense tourists from this country, would it not be a good thing for ordinary British people to have an opportunity of seeing what goes on in the United States and in Canada?
The question of a general travel allowance is a different one but, until our balance of payments position is more secure, we cannot afford to take on an additional commitment of this kind.
May I press the hon. Gentleman about this point? Is he aware that there is a point of no return if we refuse to give opportunities for, say, our engineering or architectural students to visit the United States of America, and that this may well be one of the best ways of investing what few dollars we have, so will he not reconsider this matter?
I cannot add to what I have said already on this point.
Entertainments Duty (East Coast Festival Dances)
asked the Secretary to the Treasury if he is aware that entertainment tax is now being demanded for the East Coast Festival Dances that have been arranged every year since the war by a private committee of the Cleethorpes Corporation; and, since the festivals were known by the Customs and Excise department for many years before the question of taxation was raised, and in the light of the correspondence sent to him by the hon. Member for Louth, if he will give instructions for this belated claim to be dropped.
These dance festivals are liable to Entertainments Duty under the law. But as regards arrears, the Customs is able to modify its claim, and I will write to my hon. Friend.
Hydrogen Bomb Tests
asked the Prime Minister what reply he has sent to the resolution forwarded to him by the Provincial Assembly of Presbyterian and Unitarian Ministers and Congregations of Lancashire and Cheshire on the dangers of hydrogen bomb tests and the need for international agreement to abolish them.
I received a printed circular from this body containing a resolution, which I acknowledged.
Does the Prime Minister not think that an expression of anxiety by a serious body like this warrants more careful attention, and more courteous attention? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Is the Prime Minister aware that this resolution was passed in June and he received it three weeks before the meeting of the Disarmament Commission in New York at which the hydrogen bomb tests were discussed? In view of this plea to the Government to take the initiative to secure international agreement, why was not action taken?
I cannot accept that any discourtesy of any kind was shown. Very large numbers of communications are received in Downing Street, with a great many of which I deal myself, but this was a printed circular signed by the reverend gentleman in print. If he wished to draw my personal attention, I do not think that it would have been asking too much of him that he should have signed his name to the document.
Would the Prime Minister answer the last part of the supplementary question in which my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) asked why no initiative was taken by Her Majesty's Government's representative at the United Nations discussion on disarmament?
I have several times explained our attitude to limitation, and if the hon. Member wishes to raise that matter he should put it on the Order Paper.
Private Bill Procedure (Committee's Recommendations)
asked the Prime Minister what action the Government propose to take on the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure.
The Report of the Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure, presided over by the right hon. Gentleman, contains valuable recommendations which have engaged the close attention both of the Government and of the authorities in the two Houses. The right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Ways and Means has informed me of the progress made on the recommendations which concern him. I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement indicating the action taken on a considerable number of the recommendations. Those not referred to in the statement are still under consideration.I should like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the members of both Houses who served on this Committee.
Can those parts of the Joint Committee's recommendations which require legislation be included in any legislation which the Government may promote later on the White Paper which is now in the Vote Office?
I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman would let me consider that. What I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT indicates the action which we have already taken on a considerable number of these recommendations. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, there are more than twenty of them. I think that I should like consideration about the legislation point.
Following is the statement:
Report Of The Joint Committee On Private Bill Procedure (H C 139)
The Chairman of Ways and Means has indicated that he prefers the existing procedure, which, though open to some criticism, effectively safeguards the rights both of the individual Member and of the promoters. He has added that he is unwilling to exercise the discretion which the second part of the recommendation seeks to give him. The exercise of a discretion such as that suggested by the Joint Committee would, in his view, often conflict with the non-political character of the office of Chairman of Ways and Means.
This recommendation has been carried out.
The Chairman of Ways and Means has indicated that the difficulty of obtaining a quorum in Committees on unopposed Bills has been overcome by other methods, and in his opinion no action on this recommendation is necessary.
The Chairman of Ways and Means has given instructions that, from the beginning of next Session, a sufficient record of the decisions taken by Committees on unopposed Bills in this House, and the reasons therefor, should be kept and made available to Members of the Committee who wish to consult it.
The Chairman of Ways and Means takes the view that this recommendation should not be carried out. The double Committee stage proposed by the Joint Committee would add to the expense of the promoters; and the view of the Chairman of Ways and Means is that consistency in private legislation is sufficiently ensured by the fact that the advice of the Speaker's Counsel is by Standing Order made available both to unopposed Bill Committees and to opposed Bill Committees which contain local legislation clauses.
This recommendation was carried out by the amendment by the two Houses of the relevant Standing Orders on 21st February, 1956.
The principle of this recommendation has been accepted. Acting in conjunction with the authorities of the House of Lords, the Chairman of Ways and Means has proposed that the saving which results from re-arranging the printing charges in pursuance of this recommendation should be divided equally between the Stationery Office and the promoters of Private Bills.
Recommendations (11) and (12)
The Chairman of Ways and Means takes the view that these two recommendations should not be carried out.
The Chairman of Ways and Means has indicated that the revision of the fees charged by both Houses has been completed, and it is hoped to give notice of the necessary amendments to the Standing Orders of this House before the summer Adjournment.
This recommendation has been carried out in both Houses; completely revised and modernised lists of Agents' charges have now been agreed to by Mr. Speaker and the Clerk of the Parliaments respectively.
Recommendations (17) and (18)
The Chairman of Ways and Means and the Lord Chairman of Committees have agreed that a review of the Standing Orders should be undertaken by the officers of both Houses.
The Model Clauses Committee, which operates under the direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means and the Lord Chairman of Committees, has decided to carry out this recommendation in future editions of Model Clauses. The Committee has already drawn the attention of all the Parliamentary Agents to the recommendation.
The preparation of the material for this Bill is well advanced. No indication can be given at present as to its introduction.
asked the Prime Minister what consultations he has had with the Commonwealth Prime Ministers on the question of the Suez Canal.
I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the statement I made yesterday.
Is the Prime Minister aware that his statement yesterday has only created confusion? Is he aware that the Manchester Guardian financial correspondent says today that the business world is in confusion as a result of the statement yesterday, and that people trading with Egypt do not know what to do, and that the restrictions are unworkable? Is not this the first proof of the failure of the economic war against Egypt?
I do not think that that was the point of the Question, which asked about consulting Commonwealth Governments.
I do not know whether the Prime Minister is making a statement on this matter today, but is he aware that he gave a specific answer on the point of the destroyers which seemed to indicate that it was within the province of the British Navy? Is the right hon. Gentleman still of that opinion?
I have nothing further to say. Perhaps if the right hon. Gentleman wants an answer to that question it can be raised tomorrow, when there will be a discussion.
asked the Prime Minister what consideration he has given to the need for an extra Minister for the Colonies.
I have nothing to add to what I said on 16th June, 1955.
Does the Prime Minister not think that the Colonial Office is being overwhelmed today by events—in Singapore, Malaya, Cyprus, Malta, the Seychelles, the Caribbean, the Gold Coast and Nigeria? Is there not a case for a peripatetic Minister—[An HON. MEMBER: "A sympathetic Minister."]—particularly in Africa, to go out and see what is happening, because too often we find that events are taking the Government by surprise? We are faced with these events and the Government do not seem to know what they are doing about them.
I know the hon. Gentleman's interest in this question but I really have some doubts whether peripatetic Ministers, even if they are sympathetic, would be particularly the means of dealing with this kind of situation. I think that those on the spot must advise the Colonial Office on this matter, and the staffs of Ministers must be adequate but not more than adequate for the tasks which they have to fulfill.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that a great number of us are willing to rely on Her Majesty's Government's representatives overseas, and are much more interested in being able to put Questions to Ministers who are responsible for them?
Could we not have an additional Minister in the Colonial Office, whether peripatetic or not, without extra expense if we dispensed with one of the unnecessary Scottish Ministers?
Housing And Local Government
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will arrange for a census of land ownership and the types and sizes of estates to be carried out at an early date.
May I ask the Minister if he is aware that there has been no census of land holdings and owners in this country since 1873; and is it not time that in the management of the national estate of this country the nation should know who owns the land, how big are the various plots, and all about it?
There is provision for obtaining information about the ownership of land used for agriculture, but it is not clear that the immense labour involved in a complete survey being made and kept up to date would be justified.
May I ask the Minister whether he is aware that about 90 per cent. of the value of the total land of Great Britain is in the towns, which is not agricultural? Why does he shut his eyes to the fact that the landlords of the country have been robbing the people for years and will go on doing so—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad that the Opposition recognise it—and will go on doing so until he introduces a proper tax on land values?
If that be so, it would not be disclosed by a survey of this kind.
Sir, was not that last question asked by the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) one in particularly bad taste? We all know that the right hon. Gentleman has a lot of potatoes himself.
Mr. Speaker, on a point of explanation, may I tell the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Knutsford (Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport) that I have no potatoes at all. The Minister in this case is misguided. Is he aware that my interest is to get the land values, which the people have themselves created, returned to them, instead of allowing them continually to be robbed by the land owners?
Rating Valuation (Compounding Allowances)
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will take steps to secure uniformity in the relationship of the eligibility to compounding allowances to the increased assessments due to rating revaluation.
No, Sir. Uniformity among local authorities could only be secured by legislation which abolished their proper discretion in this field.
Is the Minister aware that he told me about three weeks ago that any house which was subject to compounding before revaluation was, by the 1955 Act, still so subject, and that his answer was not correct because the local authorities now tell me that they have the right to fix the compounding limit? My object is to get a regular compounding limit to safeguard people on the revaluation,
All compounding is, and always has been, subject to resolution of the local authority, but the 1955 Act enabled local authorities, if they made a resolution, to subject to compounding any house which had previously been so subject.
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will make a statement on the prospects for slum clearance, and the response made to his proposals by local authorities; on what date the City of Stoke-on-Trent will receive confirmation for the Longton and Fenton clearance areas upon which an inquiry was conducted on 29th November, 1955; and if he will see that all such applications for confirmations are in future expedited.
During the first half of 1956, 1,184 clearance area resolutions were submitted by local authorities, involving 21,048 houses. The comparable figures for the second half of 1955 were 581 clearance area resolutions, involving 11,558 houses. I consider this response by the local authorities most encouraging.The inquiry held on 29th November, 1955, related to the Longton No. 40 and 41 Clearance Areas Compulsory Purchase Order, which included two clearance areas in Longton but none in Fenton. The Order was confirmed on 9th February last. Measures are in hand to expedite the progress of slum clearance orders at all stages, but I do not consider that the time taken to deal with this particular Order was unduly long.
Stoke-On-Trent Development Plan
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will give the dates on which he received the plan for the city of Stoke-on-Trent; when the public inquiry was held; and when the city will receive sanction to proceed with the carrying out of the plan in accordance with the decisions of the City Council of Stoke-on-Trent.
The modifications which my right hon. Friend proposes to make to the plan have been discussed with the City Council, which is now preparing revised maps giving effect to these modifications. As soon as these maps are ready my right hon. Friend will formally approve the plan.The Answers to the first two parts of the Question are 29th June, 1951, and January, 1952.
Tree Planting (Circular)
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will give a report on action taken or proposed, as shown by the replies to his circular concerning tree planting, litter prevention and removal, and the general tidying up and beautifying of towns and cities.
The circular on tree planting, a copy of which I am sending to the hon. Member, did not ask for replies from local authorities. The circular was issued only five weeks ago; but there is already evidence that it has stimulated a great deal of helpful interest in this subject.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that some public-spirited local authorities are alleging that the credit squeeze is putting them in difficulty in this matter? Will the hon. Gentleman ask his right hon. Friend to consider this, and see if something cannot be done about it?
I should be glad if the hon. Gentleman would give me individual particulars.