HC Deb 09 February 1932 vol 261 cc632-4

asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether he will inform the House as to the representations which nave been made to him on behalf of the Dominion of Canada with reference to the proposal of the Central Soft Wood Buying Corporation, Limited, to purchase some half million standards of Russian timber at prices with which countries employing free labour could not compete; and what reply has been returned on behalf of the Government?


The High Commissioner for Canada recently drew my attention to reports which he had received of negotiations between a group of members of the timber trade in the United Kingdom and representatives of the Soviet Government for the purchase of a large quantity of Russian timber. As I understood that the High Commissioner was specially apprehensive that an undertaking might be sought that any contract which might be concluded would not be interfered with by the grant of preferences to imports of timber from the Dominions I informed him that no application for an undertaking of this nature had been addressed to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, and I referred him to the statement which I made in the House on 11th December in which it was made clear that no commitments of any sort or kind would be made that hampered or prejudiced a free and unfettered discussion at the Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa. This attitude is unchanged. I would further remind the House that the proposals of the Government outlined in the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the 4th instant will clearly be of direct benefit in this respect to imports from the oversea parts of the Empire.


I am obliged to my right hon. Friend. Can he say whether it is not a fact that the price quoted to the Corporation, whatever preference was given to that Dominion, would make it impossible for them to compete owing to the condition of labour in Russia?


I do not know about the price, but the House clearly will appreciate my attitude, which was, first, not to allow anything to prejudice the forthcoming Conference, and, secondly, to give the maximum benefit possible in this direction.

Viscountess ASTOR

Why is it that some people are so anxious to know the conditions of labour in Russia while they do not care twopence about the conditions in this country?


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will consider the advisability of prohibiting the importation of the kinds of timber of which there is an adequate supply in Great Britain?


Such a prohibition, even if it were desirable, is not practicable.

20. Lieut.-Colonel GAULT

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been drawn to large pending purchases of Russian timber by English trading companies for import into the United Kingdom; and whether in view of the effect of such importations upon our Home and Imperial interests and our trade with Scandinavian countries, he will take steps to conserve the British market for British and Scandinavian products in this respect?

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Runciman)

I have seen statements that, as in previous years, negotiations are taking place for the purchase of Russian timber. With regard to the latter part of the question I can add nothing to the reply given yesterday by my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade to questions put by the hon. Members for East Dorset (Mr. Hall-Caine) and Chiselhurst (Mr. Smithers).

Lieut.-Colonel GAULT

Has the right hon. Gentleman sufficient powers under the Abnormal Importations Act and pending legislation to deal with this situation, in the interest of home and imperially-grown timber, should it arise?


It is not possible under those Acts to discriminate as between one country and another.