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Trade And Commerce

Volume 649: debated on Tuesday 21 November 1961

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Fielden Bridge, Auckland (Site)

28.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what progress is being made with the development for industrial purposes of the Fielden Bridge area, adjacent to the St. Helen's, Auckland, site; and how many inquiries have been received for industrial development there.

The Board's regional office in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, has shown this site to six firms so far, as well as suggesting it to other inquirers. One firm is known to be interested in the site.

Would not one of the answers to this problem be building roads and making other improvements to this site? Would the right hon. Gentleman follow his hon. Friend's statement in Scotland and take full account of the problems of South-West Durham? May I remind him that there has been no reduction in male unemployment in this area since the passing of the Local Employment Act?

I noticed the hon. Member's Question about roads asked to the Minister of Transport on 15th November. As to employment in Durham generally, I gladly give the assurance the hon. Member asks.

Census Of Production

29.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will reallocate the items included under the different headings in the Census of Production in order to give more useful information to the metal working industries.

Representatives of industry are consulted about the Census of Production questions to ensure that the information collected is in a useful and practicable form. If the hon. Member has any suggestions to make I shall be glad to consider them.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a number of industrialists are very dissatisfied with the information which is produced? Is he aware, for instance, that under the heading, "Art Metal Ware," reproduction brass ware is merged with ornamental gates and under "Agricultural and Horticultural Appliances," brass sprays and spraying equipment are merged with apparatus for keeping chickens, and the resulting information is not very helpful to the trades concerned?

I should be very glad to look into the cases brought to notice. We try to make the information collected as useful as possible to industry, and to this end well over 250 trade associations are consulted. We shall be glad to hear other representations corresponding to those mentioned by my hon. Friend.

30.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what is the annual cost of producing the Census of Production; and why three years elapse between the end of the year to which it refers and the publication of the Report.

The average annual cost of taking the censuses of production is estimated to be about £220,000. Most of the information is made available well within three years, but the Census is a basic inquiry directed to many firms, and to collect all the returns and publish all the results inevitably takes time, though less than formerly.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that stale information is quite useless to industry, if not dangerous? In view of the costs concerned and also the fact that if we enter the Common Market we shall need quick and accurate information, will he do what he can to expedite production of this information.

The first results are made available within a period of twelve months and on the census as a whole we do quite well—much better than the United States.

Exempt Private Companies

31.

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many exempt private companies have been registered in the last 12 months for which figures are available, and for the immediately preceding 12 months.

Exempt private companies are not registered as such and exemption is often not claimed until many months after incorporation. The number of private companies registered in 1959 was 28,989, in 1960, 34,058, and in the first ten months of 1961, 28,365. On past experience some four out of every five companies on the register file exemption certificates in due course.

is not my right hon. Friend aware that one of the conclusions which one is forced to draw from these figures is that the opportunities deliberately to mislead the public are increasing every day? In view of the fact that there still seems to be no prospect of the Jenkins Committee reporting in the foreseeable future, will not my right hon. Friend now take steps to redeem the Government's promise to introduce legislation during this Session to deal with the more obvious abuses in company law?

I do not agree with the conclusion which my hon. Friend chooses to draw from my answer. The Jenkins Committee is working hard, and I do not think that it will be so very long before it is able to produce its report. In the circumstances, I do not agree with the third part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question.

Imports (Cost)

32.

asked the President of the Board of Trade how much more United Kingdom imports for 1960 would have cost if the terms of trade had remained the same as in 1954.

If import prices had remained unchanged from 1954, the goods imported in 1960 would have cost £83,000,000 more.

I am staggered by that figure, because I have seen it calculated as nearer £500 million. Could the figure be checked once more? What proportion of the extra money would have gone to the poorer parts of the Commonwealth to help raise their standard of living?

I will gladly check my figures again. It might be best if I wrote to my hon. Friend and told him how I arrived at the figures given in my Answer. It does not follow that if the terms of trade were different there would necessarily have been a bigger surplus available for overseas investment.

Internal Reserves

33.

asked the President of the Board of Trade to what extent the improvement in the United Kingdom physical trade gap is due to the running down of internal reserves; how much lower they are today than on 1st July, 1961; and if he will make a statement.

The reduction in the deficit on visible trade since the second half of last year has been associated with a sharp decline in the rate of stock-building, but total stocks in the economy continued to grow up to the end of June. Information at present available about stock movements during the third quarter suggests that there was no substantial change.

Is it fair to assume that if there has been no drop in our internal material resources, therefore the real position between imports and exports has improved and there is no fake about it?

Communist Bloc Countries

35.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what is the present rate of annual value of Great Britain's import and export trade with countries of the Communist bloc; what are the prospects for the expansion of this trade; and what estimate he has made of the extent to which these prospects would be affected by Great Britain's entry into the Common Market.

As the answer to the first part of the Question contains a table of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The prospects are that the trade in both directions will in general continue to expand steadily. As trade between the Six and the Communist bloc has increased steadily since the formation of the Common Market, there is no reason to suppose that our own trade prospects with the bloc will be significantly affected if we join the European Economic Community.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give a firm assurance that any present negotiations for the expansion of East-West trade and trade between the United Kingdom and the countries of the Eastern bloc are in no way being jeopardised by the negotiations to enter the Common Market?

Is the Minister aware of a report recently published by the Joint Economic Committee of the United States Congress advocating an economic embargo against trade with the Eastern countries in support of N.A.T.O.'s strategy. In view of the danger to this country's balance of payments, which was admitted in that Report, will the Minister take this opportunity of dissociating this Government from any such ideas of an embargo?

I have not studied the Report but I can assure the hon. Member that at present our policy of trading with the countries of the Soviet bloc remains unchanged.

Will the Minister note that neither the political prejudices of West Germany nor its dependence on American good will inhibits West Germany in developing its trade with the Communist bloc? Will he take the moral?

Following is the information:

UNITED KINGDOM TRADE WITH THE COMMUNIST BLOC
CountryCurrent Annual Rate*
United Kingdom ImportsUnited Kingdom ExportsUnited Kingdom Re-Exports
U.S.S.R.77·344·428·3
Czechoslovakia13·69·51·2
Roumania6·813·30·9
Bulgaria2·92·10·1
Albania
Hungary4·35·30·3
Poland39·520·70·5
East Germany7·17·92·1
China26·914·10·3
TOTAL178·4117·333·7

* 9 months of 1961 expressed as annual rate.

General Agreement On Tariffs And Trade

36.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what progress is being made in the current General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade negotiations for a 20 per cent. all-round tariff cut; and if he will make a statement.

Negotiations continue, but I cannot disclose details of them while they are in progress.

Will the Minister give an assurance that notwithstanding our entry into the Common Market—which, in fact, makes this more urgent—the Government will energetically pursue a policy of getting all-round reductions in G.A.T.T. in order that when we enter the Common Market the discrimination which would otherwise affect our trade with the rest of the world will be lessened?

We are anxious to secure further liberalisation through tariff reductions, as much as ever before.