HC Deb 18 December 1947 vol 445 cc1854-5
33. General Sir George Jeffreys

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that although a sum of money was granted by the Bank of England to Mr. C. Hopkinson of The Court House, East Meon, Petersfield, Hampshire, for the purchase of rare books in Europe for export to the United States of America, a delay of eight weeks occurred before his Department issued the necessary import licence; and whether in the interests of the export drive and our need of dollars he will give an assurance that for such cases in the future the issue of import licences will be expedited.

Mr. H. Wilson

Following the revocation of the open general licence for imports of non-fiction books on 12th September last, the volume of applications for individual licences has been very heavy. Delay in dealing with these applications is inevitable until the heavy accumulation of arrears has been overtaken. Steps are being taken to reduce the delay.

Sir G. Jeffreys

Is it really necessary, in spite of the volume of applications, for letters not to be answered for weeks or even acknowledged? Is it not of some importance that a matter, of this kind, which produces dollars for this country, should be expedited, and assisted?

Mr. Wilson

As I have said, steps have been taken to put this right.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

Is it not also undesirable that Europe's rare books should go to America, and find a place in such an uncultured and uncouth part of the world?

Mr. Pickthorn

will the right hon. Gentleman consider consulting with the Chancellor of the Exchequer about what urgent steps can be taken to preserve this country as the central market for books and pictures?

Mr. Wilson

Yes, we will be very glad to do anything we can.

Mr. Lipson

On a point of Order. May I ask for your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, whether it is in Order to describe a friendly State like America as "an uncultured and uncouth part of the world?"

Mr. Speaker

I cannot say that I think it is out of Order; it is merely a matter of taste.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

In case there is any misunderstanding about the phrase I have used, and with the intention of making sure that there is no real offence meant towards the United States of America, with whom we are in friendly relations, I withdraw the use of the words "uncultured and uncouth," lest a wrong meaning should be put upon them.