HC Deb 18 August 1919 vol 119 cc2012-3

I come now to the third proposal, and that is the shielding of unstable key industries. What does an "unstable key industry" mean? I will give four tests, not one of which, I think, hon. Members will challenge. The first is this, whether the industry was revealed to be essential for war or the maintenance of the country during the War. That is the first test. The second is this, whether during the War it was discovered that the industry had been so neglected that there was an inadequate supply of goods produced in the industry for the purpose of equipping ourselves for the essential task of war. [An HON. MEMBER: "I thought there were to be no more wars?"] I hope not; I hoped so on the 1st August, 1914, and I hope so to-day. But it would be folly to assume that human nature will never give way to passion again, and that there will be no war. A nation that worked on that assumption might regret its confidence. The third test is, whether it was found necessary for the Government to take special steps to promote and foster that industry during the War. The fourth is this, whether if that special Government support were withdrawn, these industries could maintain themselves at the level of production which war has shown to be essential to the national life.


Are these key industries limited to those which are essential for war purposes?


The War is the test. Those are the four tests which we will apply to the key industries. The two best illustrations, although they are not comprehensive, are synthetic dyes and optical glasses and lenses. They may represent a small percentage of the whole industry of the country, but their importance is quite out of proportion to their quantity. It is proposed that the Board of Trade shall have power to prohibit the import of these goods except under licence, and in order to prevent excessive imports a fee will be charged for the licence. It may even be necessary for some time to continue the assistance given to these industries, but care will be taken that no undue profits shall be made at the expense of the community.