HC Deb 10 October 1944 vol 403 cc1552-3
27. Mr. Higgs

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether there is still any reason for complete secrecy with regard to the United Kingdom's imports and exports; and when does he intend to resume publication of this information.

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

As stated in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) on Tuesday last, I propose to publish shortly particulars of our export trade in 1943 and preceding years.

Mr. Higgs

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when they will be published? They have already been published in the United States.

Mr. Dalton

No, Sir. What. we shall publish has not all been published in the United States. What we are publishing is now with the printers, and it rests with the printers when it can be put out.

31. Mr. A. Edwards

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that long-term contracts running into millions of pounds are being made between the U.S.A. and British Dominions and that similar contracts for purchases in Great Britain are being lost through lack of facilities and policy within his Department; and what steps he is taking to save these contracts for British manufacturers.

Mr. Dalton

No, Sir. There is nothing to prevent United Kingdom manufacturers discussing post-war contracts with prospective customers in the Dominions and in other overseas markets; and, indeed, I am most anxious that they should do so, even though in many cases firm commitments and delivery dates may not yet be possible. Facilities are now being granted to manufacturers, subject to the over-riding priority of war work, to prepare for peace-time production; and also for visits to overseas countries.

Mr. Edwards

Would the Minister like to meet a gentleman from the Dominions, who has already spent a considerable amount in America and has been promised delivery date, and who has not been able to spend one penny in this country, or to get any indication of delivery date?

Mr. Dalton

I should be happy to meet anybody who could help me. I should have been even happier to have met this gentleman before he had done what the hon. Gentleman says he has done.

Sir Joseph Lamb

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the difficulty that people who are endeavouring to obtain trade in other countries have in obtaining materials? I am not asking for bulk supplies, but only for samples.

Mr. Dalton

Yes, Sir; we shall do the best we can to help them.

Mr. Shinwell

Does my right hon. Friend realise that the American industrialists have a decided advantage over the industrialists of this country, because they have fairly ample supplies of material and ample reserves, while we have neither? How are we to redress the balance? What is the good of talking about long-term contracts with the Dominions or with other countries, unless we have a reasonable assurance of supplies?

Mr. A. Edwards

Does the Minister realise that this is only one of dozens of such cases? Is he so out of touch that he does not realise that the Overseas Trade Department is a standing joke? It is no good the Minister losing his temper; we want something done.

Mr. Dalton

My hon. Friend should be aware that the Department of Overseas Trade is partly responsible to the Board of Trade and partly responsible to the Foreign Office. I am concerned to do all I can to assist British exports, and that, I venture to say, in spite of my hon. Friend's long supplementary question, I am doing, having regard to the difficulties which arise from the fact that in this war, and at the last stage of this war, everything is short and the whole community is under stress.

Mr. Edwards

In order that the Minister may have an opportunity to do what he says he wishes to do, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.