HC Deb 05 March 1934 vol 286 cc1573-7

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £30,000, 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, 1934, for a grant to the Empire Marketing Fund, including a Grant-in-Aid.

5.13 p.m.


At the time when the provisional estimate for the Empire Marketing Fund was made out the Empire Marketing Board was in a rather uncertain position. As a result of the Ottawa Conference a special Imperial Committee had been set up to look into the whole question of inter-Imperial machinery for economic co-operation and among other bodies, it was to look into the future of the Empire Marketing Board. Therefore, its future was somewhat uncertain, and in the original Estimate the Government allowed for a certain arrangement. We had guaranteed that we would maintain the fund and the Empire Marketing Board in normal working order for the first six months of the year, up to the end of September. Our original Estimate therefore allowed for the payment of salaries in full for six months, and for the continuation of the approved publicity and the research and other services for six months. The Estimate allowed, during the second six months, for the payment only of the minimum salaries which would be necessary in the event of the Empire Marketing Board having to be wound up, and for a continuation of certain grants for research work pending any decision as to how that money for research work was to be found in future, when the Empire Marketing Board came to an end.

The Committee will remember that the Imperial Committee on Economic Consultation and Co-operation recommended that the Empire Marketing Board should come to an end, and therefore we had to go into the whole question of how certain grants towards a good deal of essential research work could be provided in the future. Those grants had been made by the Empire Marketing Board for varying periods, sometimes up to five years, and it was not only undesirable but obviously impossible that those grants should come to an end immediately. The Government have therefore been in negotiation with other Governments concerned to see how that money could be provided. I am very glad to say that we have succeeded in making satisfactory provision for practically all the research work in the future. In practically every case we have succeeded in getting either a Dominion Government or some other Government to take on the financial responsibility, or we ourselves are to bear the financial expense or a part of the expense. That question has been settled satisfactorily as regards the future. The £30,000 for which we are now asking is needed entirely to defray our contribution towards research grants in the second six months, over and above the money which was voted for that purpose in the original Estimate. I hope that the Vote will be approved.

5.17 p.m.


I suppose that this is the last we are to hear of the Empire Marketing Board. According to this Estimate, the Board has now been dissolved and the fund will be continued only until 31st March, 1934. This is the end of what I think has been a wonderful experiment in the interests of the Empire, and I should have thought that the Secretary of State for the Dominions, who has been chairman of the board for several years, might have been here to-day, or might have sent some sort of apology.


May I say that my right hon. Friend intended to be here in order to pay a tribute to what has been a wonderful work, but unfortunately he has had to retire to bed, not being very well.


I am very sorry, and he has my sympathy in that connection. I was not aware of that, and that was why I said that I thought he might have been here on this occasion. A week or two ago we had a discussion in this House on an aspect of this subject, but the Empire Marketing Board did not come into any part of it. I suggest that the Empire Marketing Board is the greatest machine that we have had, and its continuance would have been the best that we could do in the future in the interests of the Dominions, if only the Dominions had come into co-operation with us. Every effort has been made to get them to come to a decision about this board, so that the board might have been prolonged into the future. According to my knowledge of what has taken place in other discussions and conferences, nothing that has ever been discussed or suggested has had so much value as the Empire Marketing Board for the whole of the British Empire.

This Vote of £30,000 finishes the business. We were granted £1,000,000 a year, but we have never spent anything like it upon the Empire Marketing Board. We took more than £2,000,000, which has been spent in scientific research by the board, in establishing centres in various parts of the Empire and in creating teams of scientific workers in all parts of the Empire who have done a great deal to improve the production of many articles. Those articles now come from this country in a much better form than they ever came before the Empire Marketing Board was in existence. Despite what the Under-Secretary has said, we have lost a good deal of that effective work in the transference of the board's functions to other bodies that have been in existence before, and that have not the ginger in them that was possessed by the Empire Marketing Board. The development of market intelligence, statistical information and marketing promotion which were functions of the Marketing Board are all to be lost to the Empire. We have had to find all the money—every penny of it—and if people could have seen the value of what was achieved in the way of market promotion by the Empire Marketing Board, they would have taken care that the board was continued and that it was not allowed to die on 31st March, 1934. With regard to the publicity of the board, I would like to know what is to be done with the 1,800 boards that were distributed all over the United Kingdom.


As this is the last occasion upon which this Vote will come before the Committee, the hon. Gentleman is thoroughly entitled to make a funeral oration, but I do not think that we can go into future policy any further than is consistent with such a funeral oration.


I do not suppose we can, but as we are bound to be at the ceremony we might try to find out what is to happen on the day after the funeral. We are in possession of 1,800 boards which have displayed the advertisements of Empire produce for a good many years in the most prominent positions in the Kingdom. The sites were carefully selected and the advertisements were of great value. I think we ought to know what is going to be done with the boards, whether any money is to be got out of them, and whether they are to be used by private enterprise, Government departments or municipal authorities. We ought to know whether Empire publicity work is to continue. About 21,000 schools in the United Kingdom have been supplied with literature, and children in elementary schools to-day have a much better knowledge of geography as the result of the work of the Empire Marketing Board than they had before.

Is all this work to cease? It seems that that is to be the position. I know of nothing that has been of greater advantage to the overseas part of the Empire than the work of the Empire Marketing Board, and I know of nothing that is likely to take its place. The Dominions have failed to take advantage of the opportunity of co-operation, and it is an opportunity which may never occur to them again at so cheap a rate for their own development, and for their own marketing arrangements in the United Kingdom. I take it for granted that this is the end, and that some other means have to be found. In this Vote we see the end of an experiment which was of greater advantage than anything which was done at Ottawa or anywhere else in the interests of the Dominions.

5.25 p.m.


While not taking part in the funeral ceremony, I would like to ask the Under-Secretary of State if he can give us any information about the actual wooden boards. It is a great pity that this enormous experiment has been allowed to lapse, and there must be a great many causes of national interest for the furtherance of which the boards could be used; causes non-controversial, non-party and in the national interests. I have made an investigation, but I cannot find how many have been sold and how many scrapped.


I associate myself with every word that has been spoken by the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn), in regard to the admirable work done by the Empire Marketing Board. My right hon. Friend and I have taken previous opportunities in this House to express our very great regret that some of those who might have helped in continuing the Empire Marketing Board were not ready to play their part, and that therefore the board has had to come to an end. I have risen only to answer the questions which have been put to me in regard to the approximately 1,700 boards which were used for the posters of the Empire Marketing Board. Practically all the boards were, in the first place, offered to local authorities so that those authorities might take them over and use them for purposes of propaganda for improving the health of our population. Of those, 800 boards have been taken over by local authorities. The balance has either been made over to the private owners of the sites upon which the boards hung, or the boards are now in storage in the Office of Works. If my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay) would like to have one of the boards, he must apply to the Office of Works, and he may purchase it for a reasonable sum.

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