HC Deb 07 December 1920 vol 135 cc1906-7
48. Mr. JESSON

asked the Prime Minister if he is aware that, as a result of the appeal made by the Government in power when the War broke out to the British chemical and scientific glass ware manufacturers to help the country by developing the production of chemical ware, which was then a German monopoly, although practically indispensable to every branch of our trade and industry, the manufacturers responded by sinking over £10,000,000 of capital in the industry and training hundreds of workers, including a large number of disabled men; whether it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to honour the promise then given to the British chemical ware manufacturers that the industry would be assisted until such time as it was in a position to meet foreign competition, in consideration of their assistance in helping to win the War; whether he is aware that nearly all these newly-established businesses are now practically at the end of their resources and will be compelled to close down and discharge all their employés unless some assistance is immediately forthcoming, and that this is due to the dumping of cheap German chemical ware into this country at prices that make it impossible for the British manufacturers to compete against; if he is aware that the German chemical ware manufacturers have openly stated that they intend to ruin these new British enterprises so as to make this country again dependent upon Germany for chemical ware; that in pre-War days this German monopoly was largely based upon German prison labour, and that there is no guarantee that this class of labour will not again be used to ruin these British enterprises and cause further unemployment in this country if this German monopoly is again allowed to capture the British market; that a deputation recently waited upon the President of the Board of Trade, composed of the manufacturers and workers of this industry, together with five distinguished members of the Institute of Chemists, representatives of the X-ray Manufacturers' Association and the Iron and Steel Makers' Association, to urge upon the Government the necessity of making this country self-supporting in everything relating to chemicals and chemical ware, on the grounds that not only our industries but our very existence as a nation depends upon our control of these things for the future; and what assurance he can give to all those concerned that this matter is receiving the serious consideration of the Government?


I have been asked to reply. The Government are fully alive to the efforts which were made by manufacturers to meet the demands for chemical glassware for war purposes and of the serious position at the present time, to which they are giving earnest consideration. As has been already stated, a Bill dealing with key industries will be introduced early next Session, but the hon. Member will appreciate that it is not possible to discuss its details in advance.


Can we take it for granted that this important industry will be included in the Bill?


The hon. Member is inviting me to say in a supplementary what I have declined to say in my main answer.


IS it not a matter of supreme importance that steps should be taken to safeguard these important industries?


My hon. and gallant Friend raised the question yesterday. It would be nothing short of camouflage to introduce a Bill this Session if we could not carry it through.