HC Deb 02 November 1943 vol 393 cc499-501
13. Sir H. Williams

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he can make any further statement on the question of an inquiry into the infiltration of German influence into British industry, in the light of the book "Germany's Master Plan"?

16. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether an examination has now been made of the public- cation "Germany's Master Plan"; who were the British firms and persons involved in these arrangements; whether he will make a full statement on the allegations made and whether it is the Government's intention, in preparation for the post-war period, to put an end to all such arrangements?

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Dalton)

This book by two American authors is mainly concerned with the relations, over the past 30 years, between American and German firms. So far as British firms are concerned, His Majesty's Government, as the Prime Minister has stated, already have under consideration the question of international cartels after the war.

Sir H. Williams

Would the right hon. Gentleman cause some inquiry to be made comparable with that which took place in the United States, so that we can obtain the facts with regard to this country?

Mr. Dalton

I must plainly tell the hon. Gentleman that it was at the suggestion of himself and certain other hon. Members that I read the book, and, frankly, I learned nothing new from it. There is nothing new, so far as British firms are concerned. I think the book has been somewhat over-publicised in this country so far as British firms are concerned. I repeat that this is mainly a story about American and German firms.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Does not the right hon. Gentleman remember that a few of us on this side of the House raised this issue before the war and got nothing but jeers and sneers from other people? In view of the fact that it has now been proved correct, will he have a full investigation made into this matter so that we can know the firms and persons responsible for betraying the interests of this country before the war?

Mr. Dalton

I would always be very happy to organise or arrange an investigation if it were going to tell us something new. It is the business of the Government to acquaint themselves with the necessary facts in this case, with a view to a decision as to post-war policy. The Prime Minister has answered a Question in this House, and I have also answered Questions on the same subject. The Government regard it as an important item to be decided in relation to post-war policy, as to what regulations, if any, should be imposed upon these international cartels. We are studying that matter, and we have a considerable amount of information about it, and I am frankly doubtful whether a further investigation would tell us more than we know already.

Mr. Stokes

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether he read the American version of this book or the British version, and if he has not read the American version, will he procure a copy?

Mr. Dalton

I have taken great care to read the American version. I did not read the British version, because it has been abridged and reduced.

Mr. Shinwell

If the right hon. Gentleman denies certain of the allegations made in this book, will he cause to be published a Government refutation, so, that we may know where we stand? May I ask him to treat the matter rather more seriously from the standpoint of the German and enemy patents, held by various cartels operating in this country?

Mr. Dalton

I would beg hon. Members not to assume that the Government are completely ignorant in this matter. We do not need to make ad hoc investigations into these matters in order to acquaint ourselves with the facts. I believe that we know the facts in this case, and I have already stated that the Government are considering what action is necessary. The matter of German patents is one for the Peace Treaty. For the moment these are all abrogated. All these agreements with enemy aliens are frustrated legally. I have said that to the House before.