HC Deb 03 October 1939 vol 351 cc1790-2
6. Sir Granville Gibson

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the many protests which are being received by commercial and industrial organisations with regard to delays in obtaining licences for the export of goods on the controlled list; what steps he is proposing to take to expedite the issue of such licences; and whether, as the difficulties are mainly due to the existence of separate controllers of the various raw materials with offices in different parts of the country, steps will be taken to centralise the information necessary to enable export licences to be granted without delay?

4. Sir Smedley Crooke

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the concern felt by manufacturers of commodities required for war purposes by our Allies at their inability to obtain the necessary licences; whether, as export trade is so essential to this country to provide the means for carrying on the war and whether, as manufacturers are requested not to call on or telephone the Ministry and as their repeated applications for these licences by post are ignored, he will give immediate instructions to the Department concerned to deal with these applications for licences?

8. Rear-Admiral Beamish

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will take prompt action to remedy the serious defects in the organisation of the Export Licensing Department, and is he aware that members of chambers of commerce have indicated clearly in writing to his Department methods whereby the accumulation of unanswered correspondence can be dealt with which is now seriously holding up permitted export trade?

Mr. Stanley

I much regret that certain difficulties and delays have arisen with regard to the issue of export licences. These have been due to the immense volume of work which had to be handled by the Export Licensing Department immediately on its creation. It will be realised that the Department must act to a large extent on advice from other Departments, reference to whom is essential in many cases. Every effort is, however, being made to resolve these difficulties. Arrangements have been made which are expected to expedite the work and my Department is in constant consultation with the other Departments concerned with a view to further action to this end being taken. These arrangements have already reduced the delays. I may add that traders themselves would assist my Department considerably by studying the list of prohibited exports and by making preliminary inquiries of their own organisations to ascertain whether licences are required in the case of the goods in which they are interested. Considerable congestion and delay have been caused in the Export Licensing Department by inquiries and applications in respect of goods for which no licences were required.

Sir G. Gibson

Can my right hon. Friend give some assurance that licences can be granted immediately in respect of countries outside Europe and in respect of the various Dominions?

Mr. Stanley

No, Sir; I cannot do that. It is not only a question of the country of destination, but whether the particular. goods are so urgently required in this country for essential war purposes that it is impossible to allow them to be exported.

Sir G. Gibson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that licences have been held up for over three weeks for goods which it is evident to anybody are of no use whatever with regard to the prosecution of the war, apart from their use for bringing currency into this country?

Mr. Stanley

As I stated in my answer, I do regret the delay. I have explained the reason, and I have said that steps are being taken to expedite matters, and that the delay is now being materially reduced.

Sir Percy Harris

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that one of the causes of the delay is the number of Departments to which people have to apply? Could he make it clear to exporters which is the right Department, and could he not arrange for there to be one Department responsible for giving licences, after consultation?

Mr. Stanley

That is the situation. Application is made to my Department. One of the causes of the delay in granting licences is that my Department has to ascertain from various Service Departments and the Ministry of Supply what is the need for the type of material in question. All applications should be made to my Department, and the consultation with others should be done by me.

Sir Frank Sanderson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that when applications are made to his Department, his Department sends out a printed letter stating that other Departments have to be consulted, and that this in fact holds up the application?

Mr. Stanley

That is what I have said. The application should be made to me, but I have to ascertain from, say, the Air Ministry or the Ministry of Supply what is the need for that type of material. There is no need for the applicant to consult those Departments; that is done by me.

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