HC Deb 17 February 1926 vol 191 cc2011-30

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £32,500, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1926, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of Overseas Trade.

Mr. A. M. SAMUEL (Secretary, Overseas Trade Department)

The explanation that I would like to give to the Committee I shall endeavour to make as short as possible on this particular Vote. The first item of £20,000 is for this year's British. Industries Fair, which in 1925 was suspended for the first time since 1915, owing to Wembley being open, for it was felt very undesirable that the two exhibitions should clash. We came to the conclusion that the exhibitors who had previously exhibited were right in asking us to re-establish this Fair this year, seeing it had done good in the past. We were able in past years to give employment arising out of it to people at home. I want to acknowledge the valuable help we have received from the Press this year.

The £20,000 (under Subhead F1) is for publicity. The Advisory Committee suggested that we should have a considerable campaign of advertising, not so much to attract buyers at home as those abroad: in order to get the type of buyers we especially want, that is to say, the overseas buyers. We are asking only for £20,000 for advertising, the reason being that in the original Estimate of 28,000, £5,000 was provided for publicity, and we therefore only have to ask the Committee now for the extra £20,000 to meet the total £25,000 for advertising.

I am glad to be able to tell the Committee that we have this year over 750 exhibitors, including a group of 50 exhibitors of rural industries, against 650 in 1924. The Dominions have come in this year for the first time. I think hon. Members understand that it is not contemplated to allow the general public to buy at all. The only people desired are trade buyers, and particularly those from Overseas. I have received news this afternoon from our staff at the Exhibition to the effect that the number of buyers attending on the second day was twice as many as on the corresponding day of the last occasion. I myself was there yesterday till 5 o'clock in the afternoon, and I made various inquiries about how sales were proceeding. One seller told me that he already had paid his expenses on the first day for the whole of the time he hopes to be open. Another said his seven assistants were all selling to buyers at one and the same time. Another said he had taken £150 on the first day, and he was more than pleased with it. Another said orders obtained at the fair would enable him to keep his men at work for a considerable time. Another said that he had received many orders from visitors, from the Argentine, and other parts. This is the very thing we want.

Many inquiries are made which do not at once result in purchases, but I trust that the firms, and especially the small firms, will personally follow up these inquiries. If a greater amount of business is to be done by our smaller firms they must keep in personal touch with buyers abroad. They must look after old customers, and make new ones, and supplement the advertising methods which we adopt in this country by more personal contact with buyers in their respective cities abroad. Speaking as one who has earned his living in trade, I think that we have in the recent past too much depended upon the printed word—which is a very good thing—we ought to keep in closer touch by visiting our customers, and then by personal salesmanship and individuality put our goods before them much more closely and clearly, and by persuasive salesmanship use every opportunity to help trade on. We can produce and make in this country, but we have not always given all the attention we should to the selling part of our organisation. This fair will help us in that direction. Goods have to be sold after they have been produced, and goods will not sell themselves after the labour troubles have been got over.

7.0 P.M.

There is an item at the foot of page 14 in the Estimates for £5,000 for the International Exhibition of Decorative Art, Paris. The reason for that sum is that on previous occasions we were given permission by this Committee to spend the sum of £5,000 in connection with this International Exhibition. The bills have not come in at the time they ought to have come, and I have not been called upon to pay that money out. It is therefore possible to appropriate back £5,000, but it will have to be revoted next year. The next item is the Dunedin Exhibition for which we are asking 27,500 more. When the expenditure for this exhibition was first thought out we made up our minds that it would cost £25,000, but the Treasury would only let us have £20,000£18,000 for this year and £2,000 for next year. We were imbaied with the wish and the spirit, of which I am sure the Committee will approve, to try to carry out this expenditure as economically as we could. We found, however, we could not do the work with the amount the Treasury allowed, and the consequence is that instead of the £20,000 which was first estimated for we shall have to get permission for £25,500 this year and £4,500 next year, making £30,000 in all; but in this Estimate we are only now asking £7,500, and the remainder will have to come in next year.

This exhibition has been a great success up to the present. It is the first exhibition since 1906–7. The United Kingdom official exhibits show the present and past history of Great Britain. We are exhibiting the recent developments of the Navy, Army and Air Force as at Wembley; the Port of London Authority have lent us exhibits, and Mr. Speaker has been kind enough to lend us historical prints and plans from the House for Dunedin. We have models of textile machines and models of locomotives. On the business side, the Federation of British Industries have organised a collection of commercial exhibits. On the whole, I think, the Committee will agree with me that it is money extremely well spent and that it will do a great deal of good. Fifty thousand people attended on the opening day. The Prime Minister of New Zealand was very pleased with it, and he said he wished every child to see it who could grasp its meaning. The amount of two sums of £500 shown for salaries, wages, travelling expenses, and allowances represent a curious piece of bookkeeping. We ask for £1,000;n two sums, but as a matter of fact it will not cost the public purse one penny, because there is £1,000 recovered from the Export Credits Scheme as shown on page 15. The Appropriation-in-Aid which we thought would pay a considerable amount of the revised estimates we are asking for will not be as much by £9,000 as we had hoped. That is accounted for on page 15 under Section H. We are getting £5,000 less from the Paris Decorative Art Exhibition than we thought we would, made up of £2,000 less for letting, £2,000 less for advertisements, and 21,000 less for sale of catalogues, making £5,000 in all. As we are taking £1,000 from the Export credits, the nett sum that appears on page 14 in the deficiency Appropriations-in-Aid item is £9,000, instead of £10,000. If there are any other points which I have not made clear, I hope hon. Members will put their question to me and allow me to reply to them.


I only want to ask a question. It is not really connected with this Vote, but it is a matter which covers many other Votes as well, and I ask it with a genuine desire to understand it. No one has been able to explain to me how this Vote has been prepared. The total expenditure in connection with the participation of His Majesty's Government in the Dunedin Exhibition was originally estimated to amount to £20,000, of which £2,000 would be provided in 1926–27. Looking back, I find that the original estimate was put down at £18,000 for 1925–26 and £2,000 for this year. Then I read: It is now estimated;that the total expenditure will amount to £30,000, of which £4,500 will fall to be provided in 1926–27. that is the same year. It therefore follows, we are told, that a further sum of £7,500 is required. I confess I cannot in the least understand that.


May I be allowed to explain at once? I said, quite frankly, that the original Estimate was £20,000, of which £18,000 was to be paid in one year and £2,000 in the next year. We did at the start not think we could do this work on £20,000, but the Treasury pressed us to try with that sum, and we did try in order to keep expenditure down. When we came to meet the bills which we incurred with every care for economy, for carrying out this. Dunedin Exhibition transaction we found, after sending our men out there and making careful investigations, that the total amount would have to be £30,000 if success were to be attained, and the consequence is that we have to ask the Committee this year for £7,500 more than the £18,000, making £25,500, and next year we shall have to ask for £4,500, making £30,000 in all instead of £18,000 and £2,000, which would represent the original Estimate of £20,000.


I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for his explanation. I did not understand the position before.


I want to ask the Minister one or two questions. The first is in regard to the British Industries Fair. I always understood that that Fair more or less paid for itself. If there was a deficit, it was made up the following year. The Government advanced the money for the year, and, if there was a deficit, on the following year there was an extra amount put on to the various people who were advertising their goods to make up the amount the Government had advanced. I am very pleased to hear the good accounts which the Minister has given in regard to this Fair. In regard to the export credits, I am sorry to see that there is an additional staff, and additional provision is required to meet the increased bank and legal charges. This export credits scheme has never been a success at any time. At no time has a larger amount than £26,000,000 been advanced under the export credits scheme, and I believe that at the present time the amount advanced is £6,043,267. Why is there this additional expenditure in regard to staff and bank and legal charges. I realise that the Minister knows more about this matter than I do, because he used to sit on the Committee, and I would appreciate an explanation on these two points.


I do not see where the question of labour troubles comes into this Vote, and I did not quite understand the Minister when he opened his speech by dealing with labour trouble. If that were a matter which came under the Vote, many of us on this side of the House would like to take up the point.


May I on this point ask you, Mr. Chairman, if it will be in order for any other Member on this side of the House to follow the hon. Member on the question of labour trouble?


Perhaps I did not make myself quite clear. When I spoke of labour trouble, I did not mean strikes or anything of that kind. I meant that we were so concerned with the troubles of the production of goods and had been so occupied with that aspect that we almost lost sight of the methods necessary for selling them. Goods do not sell themselves. We have forgotten that we must look after the difficulties of the selling end in conditions of severe foreign competition, just as we must look after the producing end. And selling goods is a very great art, requiring extreme skill and personality in the salesman, quite apart from the valuable aid of advertising. The troubles and difficulties of turning goods into money only begin when the troubles of production have been surmounted. It is easier to make than to sell in these times.


I am glad we have got that explanation, but I do not see where the term "labour troubles" comes into it. I think this is new Supplementary Estimate. I do not remember any occasion previously when we had a Supplementary Estimate for the British Industries Fair. Like the hon. Member who preceded me, I understood that the British Industries Fair paid for itself. As a matter of fact, I think the Birmingham section has paid for itself ever since it was instituted. I do not know what the position is with regard to the London section, but there has been an Estimate already of £28,000 for the British Industries Fair, and I would like to know if any of that amount is to come from the taxpayers ultimately or whether the whole of it will be recovered from other fairs that are running. Now, over and above that, we have a Supplementary Estimate for an additional £20,000 for advertising. I have seen very little advertising of the British Industries Fair; except when going on the Underground from Baker Street to the White City to see the Fair, as I did this week, I have seen no advertising of this Fair anywhere. If it is not done in this country, but in foreign countries, I would like to know what supervision is exercised over it, and who sees whether this money is being well spent or otherwise.

The Department of Overseas Trade is a business department, and all the money spent upon it is spent on behalf of business men in this country, and, if they would only admit that they do get the support they do from various Government Departments, instead of protesting that the Government ought not to interfere with trade, I should feel more pleased with them. I am not partioularly complaining, because I want to see trade come to this country, but I do hate hypocrisy, and they are getting assistance. We have a Supplementary Estimate for £20,000 for advertising British goods somewhere, though we do not know where. The only statement made by the Minister is that he estimates that he will receive £5,000 less from the rents for space than he expected sometime ago. He told us there are 750 exhibitors at the Fair, whereas there were only 652 two years ago, and with that development surely he ought to have looked for a gain instead of a loss of £5,000. I think it is very unwise estimating that places an item like that in the Estimate.

With regard to the question of economy and safety in providing money for an exhibition of this kind, why did not the Department, after first settling that the exhibitors should be allowed to sell goods at th- Fair, persist in that idea? This year, for the first time, the public are admitted to the Fair at the White City, and I believe thousands of people will go who in previous years did not have an opportunity of visiting it. It is a wonderful exhibition of British skill and British enterprise in manufacture. Men and women are very fanciful and eager to obtain an article which nobody else happens to have, and at the British Industries Fair one sees hundreds of articles which are not to be seen in the shops and stalls. Had the Minister stuck to his policy of allowing exhibitors to sell goods, he might have charged more for space, might have had more space occupied, and would have got far more visitors, who would have been pleased to buy there articles which they will never again think of buying.

Why should we eater for the middleman all the time? Where we have an opportunity to bring the producer and the consumer together we ought to do it. It is my personal view that the Government caught not to hand out money to any section of the community without having some regard to that aspect of things. Thousands of visitors who will go to the exhibition this week and next week will see articles they cannot see elsewhere, and they would purchase them if they had the opportunity. I know of one article costing more than £20 which would have been bought had it been possible for it to be sold, or had it been possible even for the visitor to be told the name of the dealer in his locality from which he could obtain it. Parliament ought to do more in the direction of encouraging the producer and consumer to come together, instead of for ever supporting the middleman. I have no objection to the distributor, he is a necessity in many cases, but where we have an opportunity such as we have at this fair we ought to encourage the actual manufacturers of the goods to hand them over to the people who desire them. If that had been done, the Minister would not have had to come here to ask for a Supplementary Estimate.

One little point to whirl: I would like-to allude is that, as I walked round the fair and looked at the stalls of the manufacturers, I did not see two instances of firms having the Royal Warrant; but as I came from the fair, riding on an omnibus, I saw many stores and shops, which do not manufacture anything, but only sell goods over the counter, with the Royal Warrant. That is another instance of the middleman being supported. I know how beautiful this fair is, as I have seen it on two occasions, including the present one, and I would support anything that will bring trade and work to this country, but I think the Government ought not to ask the taxpayers for money in cases where the people concerned should find it.

The hon. Member who preceded me criticised the Export Credits Department and the work it has done. I think if he went carefully into the matter he would find a great deal of trade has come to this country during the last four or five years as the result of that particular scheme. At the same time, I do not understand this additional item in the Estimate for additional work, and I think, when the Minister comes here to ask for more money, he ought to tell us of the progress of that particular section of his Department, and how much more trade was done than was done in the previous year, when a less amount sufficed. The Committee ought to know how busy the Export Credits Department is. I do not care how busy it is, even if it went to the limit of spending the full £26,000,000, because that would be bringing work to this country. I would like to see the Export Credits Scheme very much extended, and applied to the only country left out, which is Russia. Then, I think, there would be far more work. But even as things are, I would ask: Is additional work being done, what is the amount, how many cases are before the Committee, and how much more trade is being done in connection with this additional grant, which the Minister tries to modify by referring to another item in the Estimate which really does not concern the case at all?

In putting these points to the Minister, I do not wish him to regard me as being critical of the British Industries Fair. During the last hour I have been told by one man, who is sitting in the Gallery at the present moment, and who has come from one of our Dominions, that at the Fair to-day he was able to buy goods at 36s. a dozen which last year cost him in Germany 48s. a dozen, and that he had given an order for 20 gross. If our people can meet customers in that way, we shall be getting trade for this country and work for our people, which is the all-important matter, and, as I have often said, and as I sincerely believe, is the only cure for unemployment.

Lieut. - Colonel Sir FREDERICK HALL

I hope I shall be in Order in referring to the building in which this exhibition is held, and I would like to take this opportunity of saying to my hon. Friend that I hope in future he will give consideration to the possibility of using one of our own national buildings for the purpose of these exhibitions. I will not belabour that point, but I hope my hon. Friend will remember it. With regard to Export Credits, I would like to ask what is the total amount of business that has been done? The Minister referred to two cases where he has to pay £500—G.1 and G.2—and is to get back £1,000 in Appropriations-in-Aid. I believe in business concerns being run on the basis of paying their own way, but when a Government undertake a business it is not necessary that profit should be made; their estimates ought to be so near that they are able to make both ends meet. I find a large amount debited to wages and allowances and all sorts of things, and that may be perfectly right, but in an ordinary business it could not be dealt with in this way. The commissions are a certain amount and the expenses are a certain amount also, and if we were shown a debit side and a credit side we should be able to understand whether the Export Credits Scheme—without taking into consideration ultimate benefits—is a business concern, and whether it has been able to balance its profit-and-loss account.

With regard to the Dunedin Exhibition, I can quite understand that when an exhibition is going to be held £18,000 may have to be expended in anticipation the first year, with another £2,000 to come later, and that even after that it may be found necessary to ask for an additional Supplementary Estimate. It seems to me that the proper way would have been not to say that you want £7,500 more, as this Estimate does, but that you want a totality of £12,000, £4,500 being debited to this year. The whole of the expenses in connection with it should have been spread over the time when you are getting your exhibits ready. It seems to me an extraordinary thing to carry over this £4,500 to 1926–27 which in my opinion should have been included in these accounts. With regard to the Paris Exhibition I believe that shows a loss of £5,000 according to the figures which have been given. If the original Estimates amounted to very large sums I can understand that £5,000 would not be a very considerable item by way of underestimation, but if the amount was only in the neighbourhood of £15,000 or £20,000 then £5,000 would bear a large percentage when compared with the actual amount.


I should like to congratulate the hon. Member in charge of th:s Vote upon his clear statement of the activities of his Department in promoting these exhibitions, because I think they are all to the good. It is very necessary if this country is going to hold its own to show what are really the activities of this country. There is an idea in the Dominions that this country is out of date and practically dead, and we have to get rid elf that idea and show that we are sti:1 very much alive. There has been a "boosting" of American trade, and there has been a tendency for American tastes to prevail in our Dominions. Therefore the more this country can do by exhibitions to advertise our industrial activities the better it will be for our trade.

The only criticism I wish to make of the exhibition in New Zealand is that far too much is done there to display our history in regard to the Army and Navy, and models of old engines. I suggest that the Overseas Department could spend money much more profitably showing our industrial activities in the great industrial centres of Lancashire, Yorkshire and London. I am inclined to think that too much accent has been put upon the historical side of our country, and too little upon our present industrial activities. We want to push the national activities of this country at a time like this when there is so much competition for the trade of the world. Very much the same criticism can be applied to the present exhibition at the White City. I am glad to hear such very good reports in connection with this exhibition. I see that, the sum of £20,000 has been spent advertising the British Industries Fair, and I hope the Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade will not be offended if I say that I do not think the title "British Industries Fair" is an accurate description of this exhibition, because our great textile and machinery industries are not represented at all. It is really a small exhibition and it is quite a misnomer to describe it as a British Industries Fair, when Lancashire and Yorkshire manufacturers are conspicuous by their absence. If we have an exhibition on a large scale of British industries, we must aim very much higher than this.

At the British Industries Fair there are some 800 exhibitors, whilst at the Leipsic Fair there are 8,000 exhibitors. We have spent £20,000 giving publicity to the British Industries Fair, but next time I think we ought to go in for something much more ambitious. I think we might have kept Wembley for this purpose, so that this country could have said that in London there was at any rate a real rival to the Leipsic Fair. I think it gives rather a wrong impression to foreigners when they are told that the exhibition at the White City is, a real representation of the industrial activities of this country. The boot industry is hardly represented at all, any many other large industries of the country are conspicuous by their absence. This is really a great fancy goods fair of china, crockery, fancy goods, printing, furniture and similar articles, and I suggest that next year the Government should make this exhibition really a national affair. With reference to the remarks made about the export credits, I hope the Government will not be influenced by the remarks of the hon. Member for Dulwich (Sir F. Hall), but go on with their useful activities in connection with the Overseas Trade Department. The export credits have done much to stimulate and help a great many small trades.


The hon. Member has misunderstood me. I raised no objection to these export credits, but I asked the Secretary for the Department of Overseas Trade to give us an account of how the credits and debits had been dealt with.


Far from discouraging this particular work, I hope the Government will see that due advantage is taken of the money placed to the credit of this Department, and the power it has of helping the smaller manufacturers should be more widely known, so that those small manufacturers will realise that in the Government Departments they have a useful friend to help them to gain some of the markets they have lost, and help them to establish new markets.

Lieut.-Commander BURNEY

I am afraid the hon. Member who has just spoken was arguing against the policy laid down by his own party when he criticised the Government for having this exhibition in Dunedin. After all, the Liberal party is the one party which has endeavoured to prevent us assisting the Paris Exhibition in a practical way. I know that I should be out of order in pursuing the discussion on those lines, but there are one or two points with which I wish to deal. What I wish to ask is, Was any pressure put upon the Government to prevent the authorisation of exhibitors to sell their wares to the various visitors? We are now asked to vote the money for this exhibition, and I for one would be the last to criticise the object of the British Industries Fair. At the same time, we do want the arrangements made as efficient as possible, so that the amount spent by the Government should be the absolute minimum. The Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department has told us that one exhibitor on the first day took a number of orders sufficient to show a profit large enough to pay the whole of the expenses of his exhibit. In my view, if the rents of the exhibition could have been increased, probably the Government would not have had to come to the House of Commons for any money at all. Therefore I think it is a pertinent question, which I hope the Minister will answer, as to whether anyone interested in the retail trade or otherwise put pressure upon the Government representative to prevent the authorisation of exhibitors to sell their wares.

Another point I wish to raise is in regard to advertising. The Government originally made an Estimate of £5,000 far this purpose, and now we are asked to vote another £20,000. I understand that this money has been spent without getting any authority from this House. That raises the point which was discussed earlier in the Debates on the Supplementary Estimates two or three days ago. We find the responsible Minister makes a small Estimate and greatly exceeds it, and then he comes forward with a Supplementary Estimate, although the House has given him no authority to spend that amount of money, however arbitrarily it may have been spent. The Government spend this money, and then they come to the House of Commons and say, "Here is the bill. Will you please pay it?" The Government have been appealing to the country on the score of economy, but it seems to me that some different kind of procedure is required in regard to many of these Supplementary Estimates. On these matters I know that back-bench Members have no control over the Departments. In this case the Estimate has been increased by 500 per cent.

Another question I wish to ask is in regard to advertising. Is the Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade responsible for his own advertising, or does he employ agents? So far as the advertising is done in other countries, does he work with other Government Departments or employ his own staff? I have seen very little advertising in regard to the British Industries Fair, and I think it would have been much better if the advertising in the first place had been done upon a much larger scale. If that had been done and large sales had taken place in the exhibition, the representative of the Government instead of coming here for a Supplementary Estimate of £32,500 would not have had to come to this House at all for any money.


I do not propose to discuss the question of the British Industries Fair. When I visited it the other day I found it a very interesting exhibition. The point I wish to raise is with regard to export credits. In my constituency there is a very considerable interest taken in the question of export credits insurance risks. Under the Item G 1, we are asked to vote additional money to cover the cost of additional staff temporarily engaged in connection with the administration of the Export Credits Scheme. In view of the fact that in July last the Government appointed a Commission to go into this matter, I presume there is some paid official connected with it, and this is a matter which naturally arises. I want to know how that Commission is proceeding, and whether we can be given any information as to the prospects of an early report.


Perhaps the Committee will allow me to go into these very intricate points as best I can, and I will take them as they arose. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford (Sir F. Wise) is perfectly right in his remarks about the £28,000 and the £48,000. We have embarked upon a new policy by finding £20,000 extra for advertising, but, as my hon. Friend very properly suggests, we hope to get back most of the £28,000 from the rents. But not all. The view my hon. Friend takes is quite in accordance with the facts, except that we have added to the policy of earlier years by providing this £20,000 for advertising. With regard to the Export Credits Scheme under G1 and 2, the two amounts of £500 each for which we are asking are for expenses of noting, law and bank charges, travelling expenses, in connection with dishonoured bills and with salaries, the latter including, I believe, the extra salaries of Trea:sury officials who will help in expediting the settlement of outstanding claims. This is what I may call costs of salvage.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dulwich (Sir F. Hall), who well knows the intricacies of insurance, asked about the premiums. We receive premiums for the convenience which the Government gives to those who get assistance under the scheme, and those premiums are applied against losses by bad debts and management expenses, as is done by insurance concerns. These two items of £500 cancel the other single item of £1,000 which appears at the bottom of page 15, and which is simply an allocation of that amount out of the general total of the premiums received for doing business, and is put against the two sums of £500 each.


Perhaps I may put the point to my hon. Friend in this way. As I said, I do not want to see a profit made, but can he tell me whether the premium that is charged by the Government is sufficient to cover the whole of the expenses referred to here, or, in other words, whether there is a balance on the debit side or on the credit side, and, if on the debit side, how much it is?


Why does my hon. and gallant Friend ask that? He knows much more about insurance than I do, and he knows that there are the normal insurance risks, and that both management expenses and losses on risks have to be provided for out of premiums. If he is referring to management expenses, which are only a very small proportion of the total outgoings of an insurance scheme, I can, of course, say that the premiums charged to the public for doing this export credits business cover the management expenses; but my hon. and gallant Friend must not assume that there are not large losses on risks in this scheme, just as there are in fire insurance and other forms of insurance.

Some hon. Members have said that they have not seen much advertising at home in connection with the British Industries Fair. That is because most of the advertising has been done abroad. If, however, I had come down and told the Committee that I had followed the suggestion of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Lieut.-Commander Burney), and had spent a great deal more than £20,000, I should have had my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford down upon me like a hundredweight of bricks. I agree in principle with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Uxbridge; I would have liked to be able to spend £100,000 instead of £20,000, because I think we should thereby have attracted many more buyers from abroad to come over here; but we had to cut our garments according to our cloth.

As to the advertising method adopted, the Department employed a gentleman who is very well known to hon. Members, and who at one time was himself a Member of the House—Sir Charles Highamto superintend the advertising. He was assisted by a 'Committee of exhibitors representing both London and Birmingham, and I think they did their work extremely well. I was asked if I was responsible for the advertising. Of course, I am responsible to the House, but I could not have done the work, nor, if I may be allowed to speak of my staff, could anyone in my Department, with the best will in the world, have done the work half as well as those who administered the advertising campaign for my Department. They were experts in these matters, and the exhibitors themselves were continuously in touch with Si-Charles Higham, and saw that eve-ytlung that should be done was done W&MD hon. Gentlemen say that they did not see these advertisements, they must remember that, as I have said, most of this advertising, obviously, was done abroad for the specific purpose of attracting overseas customers to come to the Fair.

I want to impress upon the Committee—and this has reference to certain observations which fell from my hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell (Mr. Lunn)—that what we wanted was to develop small firms and help them to extend their export trade. By means of publicity we have brought foreign buyers here, so that small firms at home might be able to get into touch with foreign buyers in a way which would not have been otherwise possible.

I will deal presently with the point raised by the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) about this Exhibition not being a national Exhibition. By means of this advertising, firms abroad have had brought under their eyes the goods of these small firms, who could not themselves have afforded to pay for overseas advertisements; these small firms have been able actually to see the buyers and will, I hope, follow up inquiries; the buyers have been able to see the makers and their goods, the firms get to know the names of buyers, and to know what the buyers want; they learn by word of mouth from the buyers what their particular predilections are. That is the reason why we are especially glad to have the small makers in the British Industries Fair. Some of the great firms have remained out. The large firms are perfectly well able to look after themselves; it is the small exporting firms that we need to develop. Since I have been in the Department of Overseas Trade I have learned a good deal in the course of my duties, both at home and abroad, about openings in the large number of small trades which are quasi luxury trades. I repeat the words "small trades"; some are capable of great development. Their products are not really luxuries; they have become part of the ordinary amenities of life among our working people and our middle-class people.

For the most part these goods have hitherto been brought from abroad for home consumption here and export to overseas customers. We ought ourselves to make and sell these small-trades goods. These small trades are just those which can be developed by such a method as this fair. They are light trades, in which women can work, so that they will help our woman labour, and take the pressure of it from men's labour. The goods are small and light, and can easily be carried about and shown by commercial travellers. In aggregate, they can add large sums to trade and much employment, and supplement our great heavy industries. The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green asked where were the great industries, like coal, and iron, and textiles? Well, they know their own business better than we can tell them. We welcome all British products at the two fairs, and we are asked, Why do we not bring them in? It is, however, for exhibitors to decide. While, however, in London we have only taken certain types of goods at the fair, I may point out that there is to-day a splendid exhibition at the fair in Birmingham, which takes other types of productions—


On a point of Order. Is it in order, on a Supplementary Estimate for £20,000 for extra publicity for the British Industries Fair, for the hon. Gentleman to advertise all the exhibitions that are taking place anywhere in the British Empire?


I take it that the hon. Gentleman thinks that it is a very good exhibition, and that it is worth while advertising it.


I was listening with the greatest interest to what the hon. Gentleman has been saying about this particular fair, but when he set out upon what seemed to be a tour round the Empire, I thought it was time to enter my protest.


I was led into this primrose by-path by the remarks of the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green, who asked why we did not make it a national fair, whatever that may mean. One reason is that Birmingham is taking certain trades more suitable for the Birmingham Fair than for the London Fair. The question was raised as to pressure that might have been put upon me in regard to sales to the public. Let me say quite frankly that, if the policy which has been advocated by certain hon. Members had been persisted in by my Department, of allowing or being a party to anything which allowed buyers among the general public to buy at the fair from the wholesale exhibitors, we should have immediately defeated the primary object of the fair. And, what is more, I have not the slightest doubt that the manufacturers would not have come in. Probable buyers were strongly opposed to selling to the general public by manufacturers. The manufacturers have their novelties, which they make for shopkeepers, and it would have been very unfair to shopkeepers had the public come in and bought these novelties before they were shown in the shop windows. We thought that matter over very deeply and very carefully, and we came to the conclusion that the one aim and object we ought to have in view was to increase the home and export trades and to increase the power of the manufacturers to employ people, and we decided that the policy at which we arrived and have carried out was the best for the object we had in view.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dulwich asked about the item of £4,500 in connection with the Dunedin Exhibition. There are certain expenses to be embarked upon, the exhibition will not close till May, and we cannot carry over an unspent sum beyond the financial year, owing to the Treasury system of book-keeping. The hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), I think, while referring to what he described as the Exports Credit Scheme, had in mind a scheme for insurance against bad debts in the export market. I have taken a great deal of thought about this matter, and I am quite aware of the interest in it which is shown by my hon. Friend's constituents in Leicester. A Committee has been sitting in connection with it, of which the Chairman is my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major Hills), and 'which includes a Director of the Bank of England, and, I think, the Chairman of Lloyds and other highly expert gentlemen who have kindly assisted me. I am hoping that in a few weeks they will produce their Report, which, if necessary, we can discuss here. The matter has by no means gone to sleep; it is very much alive, and the time is just arriving when the Committee's Report will be ready. I feel a personal interest in it, and the Committee has examined this subject very thoroughly.


Will it be available to Members of the House.


Certainly, I hope so. I do not think there are any other points with which I have not dealt, but if I have omitted anything I shall be glad if hon. Members will draw my attention to it, and I will, of course, do my best to answer it.


I do not want to trouble-my hon. Friend, but, as he asks to have his attention drawn to any other points, perhaps I may say that there is just the point with regard to the £5,000 in connection with the Paris Exhibition. Can my hon. Friend say what was the percentage of that with regard to the Estimates? I only want to see whether the. Estimates were fairly near.


This £5,000 is put in here because we have to conform with the book-keeping of the Treasury. It is a deferred re-Vote. Speaking broadly, whatever the Paris Exhibition Estimate was—I do not want to confuse the Committee by quoting the figures in detail—I do not think, speaking off-hand, that we shall exceed that Estimate. In other words, the Estimate and result are fairly near.

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