22 Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
asked the President of the Board of Trade, in regard to the new Regulation that steel certificates for the export of steel or articles manufactured there from must be signed by the manufacturer and not by the consignor of the goods, as formerly, whether he has considered that this will compel British merchants to divulge to customers abroad their sources of supply, with the result that their customers may in future trade direct with the sources of supply; whether he has considered the fact that this knowledge of 2047 markets and sources of supply is one of the most valuable assets of British merchants; whether, in view of these considerations, he will revert to the former practice of permitting consignors to sign the certificates or devise some means whereby the sources of supply need not be divulged to customers; (2) in regard to his instructions that steel certificates for American steel and articles manufactured therefrom in the United States and being exported ex the United Kingdom to British Dominions and India, can only be signed by the actual manufacturers in America, whether he has considered that in fulfilling these conditions British merchants will be compelled to divulge to American manufacturers the ultimate destination of the goods with the result that the direct market may be captured by American manufacturers; whether he has also considered that such goods may be shipped from America to the Dominions and India direct without any such declaration, and that such consignments are invariably transhipped to Liverpool; whether he has also considered that this regulation imposes a disability upon home merchants selling from existing stocks as compared with merchants carrying no stocks whatever and shipping direct from America; whether he has also considered the fact that a consignor who makes a false declaration may be prosecuted under the Defence of the Realm Act, whereas an American manufacturer who makes a false declaration is outside the jurisdiction of British Courts; whether, in view of these considerations, he will permit certificates to be signed by the consignor; (3)in regard to the new regulation that steel certificates for the export of steel or articles manufactured therefrom must be signed by the manufacturer and not by the consignor of the goods, whether he has considered the case of a British general merchant receiving a general order from a Colonial buyer of tools of various makers and manufacturers, English and American, say a set of carpenter's tools; whether this merchant would be required to obtain perhaps twenty certificates, English and American, for a shipment the total value of which might not exceed £5; what procedure is to be adopted in such cases; and (4) when his attention was called to the difficulties of traders with regard to the requirement that steel certificates for the 2048 export of steel or articles manufactured from steel must be signed by the manufacturer and not by the consignor as formerly; at what date he entered into communication with the War Trade Department on the subject; and whether he anticipates that a decision will soon be arrived at?
My attention was called some time ago to certain difficulties arising out of the Regulations in connection with the issue of these certificates, and I have been in communication with the War Trade Department and the Ministry of Munitions, which are the Departments specially concerned. I now understand that, in the case of consignments of small articles, such as carpenters' tools of various makes, and also in the case of articles of foreign manufacture, a declaration that the steel in the articles does not contain certain prohibited alloys is only required from the consignor and not from the manufacturer, and moreover that if there is any difficulty in furnishing such a declaration the War Trade Department can, if they think fit, issue a licence, the requirement as to a certificate being dispensed with. The general requirement of declarations from manufacturers as to the nature of the steel is based on the obvious consideration that they are the only persons with the necessary knowledge, but such declarations are regarded as confidential documents and only the names of the actual consignors appear on the certificates issued by the Chamber of Commerce or other body concerned. There is thus no revelation of sources of supply to traders or customers abroad.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is now six weeks since I raised this question, that it is a very simple matter, involving merely the question whether the certificate is to be signed by the exporter or the manufacturer, and that during the whole of these six weeks these manufacturers have been kept in considerable doubt?