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Walkie-Talkie Sets (Imports)

Volume 720: debated on Thursday 18 November 1965

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25.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will seek powers to prohibit the import of walkie-talkie sets operating in the 27 megacycles band, which it is illegal to use in this country because no licence to use them can be obtained, thereby preventing fraud on the public by the sale to them of useless articles; and if he will make a statement.

No, Sir. The Board of Trade cannot, because of the practical difficulties involved, use their powers to control imports of goods which might in certain circumstances prove useless to the purchaser. Legislation to control imports of the walkie-talkie sets in question would be a matter for my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General.

Is it not preposterous that foreign currency should be used to import goods which it is illegal to use in this country, thereby encouraging the public to act illegally or shopkeepers to commit a fraud on the public by selling them things which they cannot use? Surely it is in the interests of the economy to prevent such a thing? Does it not come within the existing powers which the Board of Trade has for protecting our economic interests?

To the last part of the supplementary question the answer is "No". The Board of Trade's activities, in so far as it has supervision over the import and export trade, cover a tremendously wide field, and the Board of Trade's actions in regard to control of imports must properly be taken on a commercial basis. If the allegations in the Question of the hon. Member are correct, it is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General to deal with, and if he states that the import of sets should be banned because if they are brought in they will not be licensed, then he can take the appropriate action.

Will the Minister bear in mind that this problem arises to a great extent owing to the fact that neither the citizens nor the trade are kept properly informed as to what bands are available? Will he consult the Postmaster-General to see that greater knowledge is given of these bands? This is very important.

To the second part of the question the answer is, Yes. As to the first part, dealers who are known to be selling these sets have been reminded by the General Post Office that they will not be licensed for speech transmission, and I hope that this answer to the questions which have been put to me will give wider publicity to that fact.

Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.