HC Deb 03 November 1919 vol 120 cc1091-2

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) whether prohibition is enforced as to gauges in the interests of the two firms whose names have been given to the trade; and, if so, what effective steps can be taken to protect the users of such articles in regard to price;

(2) On whose advice the Government have placed gauges on the key industry list; and will he agree to the request from the trade to receive a deputation to discuss the position thus created;

(3) Whether, in view of the uncertainty as to the definition of the term gauges and the apparent inability of the Board of Trade to give a clear and definite description thereof, he is aware of the detention and consequent expense which is being occasioned at ports on arrival; whether the tools in question are a proved necessity to the engineering and metal trades, and that there is a total inadequacy of British manufactured gauges; and whether he proposes to take any action in the matter?


I will answer these three questions together. The decision to prohibit the importation of gauges, except under licence, after the 1st September, was based on the recommendation of the Committee on Commercial and Industrial Policy that the production of gauges should be treated as a key industry. I am aware that for these commodities the great engineering trades of this country were almost entirely dependent before the War, and are still largely dependent, upon foreign countries; the inadequate domestic supply was a source of embarrassment in respect of the output of munitions, and special action had to be taken to develop it; and the industry therefore complies with the four tests laid down by the Prime Minister in his statement of the 20th August. I am aware that certain difficulties have arisen as to the precise scope of the prohibition, but I trust those have now been largely removed. A deputation of merchants has recently been received at the Board of Trade, and I do not think a further deputation would serve any useful purpose. As regards the regulation of prices, I cannot anticipate the provisions of the Bill which will shortly be introduced.