HC Deb 26 June 1919 vol 117 cc309-10
9. Captain BOWYER

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Oversea Trade Department whether he is aware of the successful methods adopted by the Germans before the War of establishing clubs in every centre of the world where a German community existed; that every piece of information, commercial or diplomatic, which could be of value to Germany was brought to the notice of the German authorities through these clubs; and whether he will consider the advisability of taking steps without delay to promote a movement of this kind in the interests of British trade abroad, or to improve the present organisation of British chambers of commerce in foreign countries by the setting up of a central intelligence office in London?


The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative; it is probable that valuable assistance was afforded to the German Government by commercial and other information supplied to them by clubs of German residents in foreign towns. Inquiries have been and are being made of His Majesty's Diplomatic Representatives in various countries abroad as to the possibility of encouraging similar institutions among the British colonies in foreign countries, and a Committee has been set up for the purpose of expressly examining this and certain other kindred questions. The hon. and gallant Member is doubtless also aware of the existence of the. Overseas Club, which is a most valuable unofficial institution serving as a connecting link for bodies of this kind abroad.


Is it the policy of the Oversea Trade Department adequately to support chambers of commerce abroad, as asked in the question?


Certainly; and the whole question of the better utilisation of all forms of organisation of British citizens abroad is one of the subjects specially referred to the Committee.