HC Deb 10 February 1949 vol 461 cc502-4
2 Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) what action is to be taken to consolidate and safeguard our markets for pottery throughout the world; when is it expected that increased supplies will be available for the home market; and when will decorated pottery be allowed to be sold on the open home market;

(2) what action is to be taken to increase the production of pottery so as to cover the difference between supply and demand in the world market and in the American countries in particular;

(3) what action has been taken since June, 1948, to increase the output of decorated pottery, and provide the required supplies of transfers, litho sheets, lithographic printers and decorators; and what further action is to be taken so that the orders received may be met.

Mr. H. Wilson

Before and during the period to which my hon. Friend refers, the domestic pottery industry has, with the full support of His Majesty's Government, made good progress in increasing its production and its production capacity. Much building work has been done, many continuous ovens and much modern machinery have been installed, and all possible steps have been taken by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service to see that whatever suitable labour has been available has been channelled into the industry, and particularly into its decorating shops. A number of shortages have held up production, especially lithographic transfers.

In order to deal with these shortages, and to see that all necessary steps are taken to increase production, I have set up under the chairmanship of a senior official of my Department, an interdepartmental Pottery Production Committee. Under the aegis of this body steps have been taken to increase by all possible means deliveries of ceramic lithographs to the industry. The ceramic lithograph printers have co-operated loyally in these endeavours, and I am happy to say that deliveries to the industry in the last quarter of 1948 were over one-third greater than average deliveries during the three previous quarters.

Because of the great efforts of managements and workers alike and the factors to which I have referred above, output is rising and markets abroad are being consolidated and won. Demand from abroad, however, in the main still greatly exceeds supply, and I would therefore appeal once more to the industry to do everything it can to meet particularly the needs of our friends in Canada and the United States, thereby helping to reduce the dollar gap. Supplies of crockery on the home market also show a steady improvement but since the lack of decorating capacity is the main bottleneck preventing the industry from still further increasing its exports, I cannot yet foresee when it will be possible to lift the present restrictions on the sale of decorated pottery at home.

Mr. Ellis Smith

While assuring the President that this welcome step forward will be greatly welcomed in the pottery industry, may I ask him whether he agrees that this industry was subjected to most unfair foreign competition in prewar days and, if so, what steps are being taken to safeguard the future of the industry; does he agree also that the most beautiful pottery is now being produced there and can he say when our people will be allowed to get some of it?

Mr. Wilson

I agree that the most beautiful pottery is now being produced and that the industry had to face very unfair competition before the war. The failure to sell more pottery abroad, however, is caused not by foreign competition, but by lack of production.

Mr. Gerald Williams

In view of the well-known fact that cracked cups are apt to increase disease, will the Minister look after the home market irrespective of whether the china is decorated or not?

Mr. Wilson

Yes, Sir. Every step is being taken to look after the home market with plain pottery, but certainly we cannot lose dollar markets in order to supply the home market with decorated ware.

Dr. Barnett Stross

Is the Minister aware that before the war Japanese manufacturers used to imitate both our patterns and designs and the names of our well-known manufacturers, and can he say specifically whether any particular action is to be taken to safeguard this position in future?

Mr. Wilson

Perhaps my hon. Friend will put that question down. It is really a separate question.