HC Deb 18 August 1919 vol 119 cc2011-2

There is another problem with which we have to deal. It is an emergency problem. I believe it is a temporary one. It has arisen entirely out of the War. It is something that was not contemplated before the War. In none of the controversies about trade, so far as I can recall them, was there any reference to it. It is the possibility that may arise from the vagaries and fluctuation of exchange. The American market is against us. The German market is simply extravagantly in our favour. The sovereign to-day fetches 82 marks, where before the War it fetched 20. If goods were sold to Germany at a price which only approximately corresponded to the nominal value of the mark, it is obvious we could not possibly stand up against what would be a gigantic bonus upon the export from this country of all kinds of commodities. That would be unfair to our industry. You might say, we should be making money. Somebody would. Meanwhile the industries that were hurt by this erruption of goods at an abnormally low rate would be thrown out of employment. It is all very well to say that they should stand by until the tide has passed. They could not do it. It might pass on to something else. It is clear that no operation could possibly bridge that chasm. There must therefore be better means of preventing the possibilities of such an emergency arising. We shall propose that the Board of Trade be equipped with emergency powers to check a sudden and undue importation of goods at prices altogether below the cost of production here owing to the collapse of exchanges. That is an emergency measure dealing with conditions which have arisen since the War, and which may, I hope, soon pass away.

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