§ Mr. R. MORRISON (by Private Notice)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been drawn to the circumstances under which the Southern Railway Company has placed a large contract with a Swedish firm; whether he can give the House any information with regard to the official statement of the railway company, that their policy of placing orders with British firms has been rendered difficult by the existence between electrical manufacturers of agreements to quote identical prices; and in view of the fact that since this decision, a local authority has placed a similar order with a Dutch firm and given the same reason for doing so, he will hold an immediate inquiry into all the circumstances?
§ Sir B. CHADWICK
I have seen the statement by the Southern Railway to which the hon. Member refers, and also the statement issued by the General Electric Company, one of the British Companies concerned. I have no information beyond that contained in those statements, but they appear to set out all the essential facts, and I do not think a special inquiry such as the hon. Member suggests would be likely to serve any useful purpose.
Mr. A. HOPKINSON
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, unless a protective policy be introduced very shortly, these unhappy rings will be smashed?
§ Mr. MORRISON
Since this order was placed by the Southern Railway Company and the official reason given, has not the hon. Gentleman seen that the Mansfield Town Council has placed a, similar order abroad, and does he not think that, in view of such things happening, some inquiry is needed?
§ Sir B. CHADWICK
This is a matter of controversy between buyer and seller, each of whom is as much concerned in getting British work for British workers. They do not shirk publicity. They have made their full statement to the Press in reply, and I do not think the Board of Trade could add to the examination of the case by setting up any inquiry. I think, if I may say so, that the hon. Gentleman in putting his question has done even more than the Board of Trade could do.
§ Mr. HARRIS
Is the Minister prepared to consider representations to bring the electrical industry concerned under the Safeguarding of Industries Act, so as to free it from unnecessary competition?
§ Mr. W. THORNE
Is the hon. Gentleman prepared to investigate whether the two firms that have got these contracts, one in Sweden and one in Holland, have been subsidised by their Governments?
Sir F. HALL
Is it not a new policy for hon. Members above the Gangway to seek to protect industries in their own country?