HC Deb 04 February 1947 vol 432 cc1570-3
49. Mr. De La Bère asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the substantial fall in tonnage of agricultural machinery imported into this country in 1946 as compared with 1945, he will provide the necessary dollars to purchase agricultu

Mr. Dalton

I always find dollars for this purpose, on the recommendation of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture.

Mr. De la Bère

Is the right hon Gentleman aware that food which has to be imported from abroad has to be paid for with foreign money; is it not better to have really modern machinery here in order to produce more food on the spot instead of paying for importing it with borrowed money? Does this not indicate that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Agriculture are not paying proper attention to these matters? It is thoroughly disgraceful.

Mr. Walkden

May I ask the Chancellor if, by contrast to accepting this suggestion of the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bère), he will stimulate the International Harvester concern which came here from America to produce machinery, since if they produce sufficient we will not need to import any more from the United States?

Sir. Dalton

I hope they are getting on with their production.

51. Mr. Osborne

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of the domestic fat ration was provided by the £1,500,000 spent in the U.S.A. on oils and fats for the half-year July to December, 1946.

Mr. Dalton

6.8 per cent.

Mr. Osborne

Does the Chancellor not think it would be wiser to spend a little more on fats, and that by spending less on tobacco he might be able to increase the purchase of fats in America?

Mr. Dalton

Many people attach great importance to tobacco, and of course we do obtain some of the supplies to which the Question relates from sources other than the United States.

54. Sir F. Sanderson

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the fact that it is necessary to conserve our dollar resources, he will consider materially cutting down the importation of non-essential commodities, including films and U.S. tobacco, which two items alone amount to approximately 40 per cent. of our total imports from the U.S.A.

Mr. Dalton

I never cease from studying all the possibilities of reducing all sorts of overseas expenditure.

Sir F. Sanderson

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how it is wise or expedient to mortgage the country's credit in purchasing non-essential commodities at a time when dollars are required to purchase capital goods?

Captain Marsden

Is the Chancellor aware that many millions of people who, like myself, do not smoke at all and rarely go to the pictures thoroughly object to this big expenditure over the last half year?

Mr. Dalton

That is a very selfish point of view.

Mr. M. Philips Price

Does the Chancellor not consider that he might usefully explore sources of non-dollar tobacco, in order to conserve our dollar resources?

Mr. Dalton

They are being thoroughly explored, but they are still very small.

Mr. Churchill

Is it not of the highest importance that the American loan should be used to bring in the appliances to put our industry in the latest condition, and also essential foods, and that all other expenditure should be viewed with severe restraint by the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Mr. Dalton

It would indeed be a great convenience to the balancing of our accounts and the rate of expenditure of the loan if large numbers of the population did not desire to consume tobacco, but since they do we are placed in a difficult position in refusing to supply the needs of the smoking population. In spite of the very heavy tax which the right hon. Gentleman knows we impose for that practice, the demand has gone up until we are now consuming tobacco to the extent of 130 per cent. of the prewar figure.

Mr. Churchill

The right hon. Gentleman always tries to make a joke by turning a point against a questioner as a personal taunt. May I ask a question which relates entirely to his public duties as Chancellor of the Exchequer, which he sometimes forgets are national duties? Is there any reason to suppose that the British nation would not be willing to submit to any curtailment of non-essentials in regard to imports of films and tobacco out of the American loan in order either that that loan should be expended on essentials or that it should last longer?

Mr. Dalton

I also smoke occasionally myself, and I assure the right hon. Gentleman that there was no personal taunt intended. It would, indeed, be very helpful if such a state of opinion were to grow up; and if we could have appeals made from any quarter, I would be quite prepared to do my part, if it could be made a national appeal that people should economise, particularly on tobacco.

Mr. Churchill

What about American films?

Mr. Dalton

With regard to American films, I have stated before—and so, I think, has my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade—that we are very anxious that more good British films should be produced and there is, of course, an improvement in this matter over the past few years. The more good British films there are produced the less need will there be to fill up the screen with films from the United States or from anywhere else abroad, but for the moment the production of British films is not sufficient to fill the screen and the film-going public must, I think, count on seeing films from the United States and other places abroad as things stand at present.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

Is it not more important to fill people's stomachs than to fill the screen?