HC Deb 15 May 1918 vol 106 cc407-10

It is also proposed to do as is done by e Ministry of Munitions in many thousands of oases. Where extensions of plant and buildings are necessary immediately, and where there is difficulty owing to the excessive costs of making these extensions, the Government will make some provision to meet the cost of these extensions, so that they may be immediately dealt with, and thus afford the additional facility that is required for the manufacture of these special dyes. It is also proposed to make certain Grants in respect of research work. Those who have a knowledge of this industry realise the enormous amount of research work associated with the manufacture itself. There is a further proposal, and that is that, in order to safeguard this particular industry_ against the efforts which the great German dye-making firms are certain to make after the War to destroy all we have accomplished through the War and to make this industry again subservient to Germany, we will adopt a course which I believe I am right in saying was carefully considered by a Cabinet Committee of the last Government, and recommended to and approved by the Government of that day, and which has since been approved by the present Government. It is that importation of all foreign dyestuffs shall be controlled by a system of licences for a period of not less than ten years after the War.


Can my right hon. Friend say at this stage what will be the licensing authority, and if consumers of dyestuffs will be represented on that authority?


I am very glad my right hon. friend has raised that question because it is important, and I desire to give him an answer. We have been in consultation with representatives of the dye users, and they, I am glad to say, are in agreement on this matter. I have agreed with them that a licensing authority shall be established by the Board of Trade, which will have a free hand in deciding as to the grant of licences. That Committee is to be composed of an equal number of representatives of dye makers and of dye users, in each instance nominated by these interests. There will be an independent chairman of this Board, a man of good business standing, appointed by the President of the Board of Trade. This Committee, as I have said, will have a free hand in dealing with licences, but it must, of course, be subject to the final authority of the President of the Board of Trade.

As I have already stated, it is of the greatest importance that progress should be as rapid as possible, and that overlapping and dispersion of effort should be avoided and the greatest possible use made of our existing facilities, and of the limited number of trained chemists available for this work. I understand that, with this object in view, negotiations have for some time been in progress for the amalgamation of the British Dyes, Limited, and Messrs. Levinstein, Limited. These are, I believe, the most important of the dye manufacturers of this country.


Will these Grants and advantages offered by the Government be confined to British Dyes and Messrs. Levinstein, or, in spite of difficulties, will an opening be left to other people who intend to explore the dye situation?


I understand that definite proposals have been considered, and are about to be placed before the shareholders of these respective concerns for their consideration. I have no desire to interfere or to prejudice their decision, but I think I may say that the Board of Trade have been consulted as to the bearing of the proposed amalgamation on national interests, and that I have indicated to both companies the conditions under which we shall be prepared to approve the amalgamation and to agree to the transfer to the proposed new company of the Government's financial arrangements with British Dyes, Limited. I may briefly summarise these provisions as providing that the proposed new company shall be permanently under British control; providing for Government representation on the Board of Directors; and for securing reasonable prices and the equitable distribution of the company's products to the consumers. There are one or two other matters of detail with which I need not trouble the House, but I should like to say this: It is not proposed that the new company shall have any monopoly or privileged position in respect of Government assistance, which I have outlined, and which is to apply to all approved undertakings in the country alike.

I have attempted to deal, I am afraid very imperfectly, with the various activities of the Board of Trade. There are many others to which I might make reference. There is the question of road transport and the steps which have been taken with the object of securing co-operation between the different road transport services. There is the question of the control of tobacco and of matches which I think has been very successfully done notwithstanding many difficulties, particularly in the case of matches, owing to the shortage of materials. There is the question of the Tramways Committee which has been recently established, and of the purchase of meat for our Army and for the Armies of France and Italy, which still continues to be one of the responsibilities of the Board of Trade.