HC Deb 02 April 1940 vol 359 cc3-4
1. Colonel Burton

asked the Minister of Economic Warfare whether he is satisfied that the increase of 32,239,925 lbs. of cotton imported into the Netherlands for the three months September to November, 1939, as compared with the same period of 1938, is not being re-exported to assist the enemy?

The Minister of Economic Warfare (Mr. Cross)

Yes, Sir. According to the official Netherland trade statistics no raw cotton was re-exported to Germany in the four months September to December, 1939. During the same period re-exports of cotton in other forms were very small. I would take this opportunity of pointing out that figures of imports over a short period from a single country may be seriously misleading. It is true that Netherlands imports of cotton from the U.S.A. during the three months September-November, 1939, were larger than during the same period in 1938. But imports of cotton into the Netherlands from all sources for the whole year 1939 at 60,250 tons were smaller than those for 1937 which amounted to 62,850 tons. The 1939 total cannot therefore be regarded as abnormal.

Captain Sir Derrick Gunston

Is it not a fact that imports from all neutral countries surrounding Germany have greatly increased since last year?

Mr. Cross

I cannot accept a general statement of that kind, although it might be true in the case of a particular exporting country. I should want to look into a statement of that kind.

Sir Herbert Williams

Is it not the case that exports from the United States to countries near Germany show an enormous increase and are in excess of what they were before the war started? Does not this indicate that they are going to Germany?

Mr. Cross

I cannot accept the suggestion that they indicate re-exports to Germany. What my hon. Friend says is true in regard to cotton. That is a particular example of which I think I can say there is no real abnormality.

Mr. Burke

Is it not a fact that many industries are having inquiries from quarters from which they have never previously had inquiries and that these firms are making inquiries, not for themselves, but for other parties? Does not this require investigation?

Mr. Cross

That is always possible and if the hon. Member has information of inquiries of that character I shall be very glad to have it. We are always anxious to follow up such information.