HC Deb 30 July 1949 vol 467 cc2967-82

1.9 p.m.

Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury)

As far as I can make out, the Debate which has just closed has been about frustrated experts. It has been a question of having jam yesterday and jam tomorrow but no jam today. The question of frustrated exports may not be of equally great popular appeal but it is of very great importance. It must be seen against the background of the need for our exports all over the world, not only to hard currency countries and to the dollar area but to others, being kept on an even flow. I wish to make it perfectly clear that I am not attempting to make any case for mushroom firms which may have gone into the export business with the idea of making a quick profit during the sellers' market. They may meet the fate which befalls everybody who attempts that very dangerous operation.

It is with the idea of bringing to light the great dangers coming to the good and normal and necessary channels through which the manufactured goods of this country have to flow to the rest of the world, that I will try to give the causes. The amounts are considerable. At the present moment there are in the woollen and worsted trades alone, over £10 million of frustrated exports, and in the cotton and rayon industry something like £50 million. If one takes an aggregate of all the other manufacturing industries—light engineering, pottery, hardware and hollow-ware—the amounts concerned are great.

As always happens, in spite of having been warned about it there will be surprise and distress when we come with a jerk to the end of the sellers' market, as we shall fairly soon. And as we come into the full blast of buyers' resistance, which is the sign of the buyers' market, these accumulations of stocks will increase greatly. I have seen in my time as a merchant the end of the sellers' market and the beginning of a buyers' market after the end of the 1914–1918 war, but there are certain vital differences on this occasion. There are now features in the way of foreign exchange control, of quota legislation, and the very fact that manufacturers and exporters have themselves been working on a quota basis, with the highest possible quota devoted to export. These are some of the features that have created the accumulated stocks which are the sign-manual of frustration of exports both now and in the future.

The chief reason for this is undoubtedly the shutting down of iron curtains, which countries importing from this country find necessary in view of their difficult economy. South Africa, the Argentine, India, Pakistan, the Dutch East Indies—all these countries to a greater or lesser degree, and for a greater length of time, have, practically overnight or sometimes with a little more warning, shut down an iron curtain which has left in the hands of the exporter considerable amounts of merchandise for which he had made a contract. There are foreign exchange questions; there are great delays in delivery. These mean that when a man has made a contract for the export of goods to, say, Pakistan in June or July, he has been unable to fulfil his contract for some cause such as the dock strike, or because of the slowness in moving goods that we have experienced for a long time.

In the switch from the sellers' to the buyers' market the buyer is no longer willing to take delivery a month or two later, and quickly takes every opportunity—like the thermostatic control of the refrigerator—for getting out of these contracts. If there is a delay in delivery, if there is something wrong with the terms of the letter of credit, if the packing is wrong, those goods which were genuinely sold to help the export trade of this country in the normal course of the business of the exporting merchant firms, become, overnight, frustrated exports. The weight of this will gradually begin to bear upon the whole of the manufacturing potential of this country and will be one of the greatest immediate weapons to upset what we know is a cherished idea of the Government and of everybody else—full employment.

It is not an easy matter with which to deal, and I am not pretending that the Government have an easy task in the incidents which will always arise when there is a switch over from the sellers' to the buyers' market. However, they have to make up their minds, and quite a good deal has to be done about it. The buyers' moods change a good deal, and it is important to create now, different machinery to deal with this matter. When the next change takes place in due course, when the sponge that is the world's demand for goods which is now to some extent, though not entirely, saturated begins to get a bit dry again and once again there is a demand for goods, if the correct machinery has not been created, if those concerns have been left with such a great burden that they go out of business altogether—I am talking of the genuine firms and that is something which may happen—then the opportunity which this country must seize, to be the first in the field with the new export trade, will have been greatly mitigated and we shall be quite unnecessarily and wrongly handicapped.

Do not forget that another of the causes of our many frustrated exports is one about which the Government themselves have expressed concern—the high price of many of our goods. If other goods of equal quality and attractiveness are coming on the market from other countries, if we are getting into the era of competition which so many of us have predicted, the tendency to cancel our goods is also a considerable factor in creating frustrated exports. I do not think it would be right to go into too much detail as to how, in the various compartments of different kinds of manufactures, the frustrated exports arise. I have indicated the main heads. However, I have seen it happen in many countries and in many lines of goods and the Secretary for Overseas Trade, whose task it is to follow these things, knows from his journeyings and from the great attention he gives this matter, that it is a real danger today. If he is quite honest with himself and us, he will say later on that it will be an increasing danger tomorrow.

It is true that all the dangers are not yet apparent. For instance, in the woollen and worsted industry the frustrated exports are not weighing heavily at the moment, largely because the basic price of wool is being well maintained and, therefore, the holder has not seen that he will be faced with the necessity for making a considerable loss. However, the present price structure of all raw materials is not so firmly supported as it has been in the past and there is a considerable decline in many basic materials. That may well affect the whole range of the exports which at present are lying in this country eating up a great deal of money in the cost of financing them, insuring them and storing them. The amounts are large, and those I have quoted show quite sufficiently that the matter cannot be treated in the way it has been treated up to now.

I was a little disappointed this week at the reply which the Secretary for Overseas Trade gave to a Question asked by one of his own supporters who asked what further steps the President of the Board of Trade was taking to deal with the problem of frustrated exports. The hon. Gentleman replied: None. I am satisfied that the present arrangements are working satisfactorily and am grateful to the Association of British Chambers of Commerce for their continued co-operation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th July, 1949; Vol. 467, c. 106.] I think it is wrong that he should have given that reply, "None." The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the President of the Board of Trade not long ago received a deputation from Yorkshire from the woollen and worsted manufacturers and that they were more than disappointed with the coolness of their reception. There is a great danger from the point of view of the President of the Board of Trade. We know that recently he has been driven from multilateral to bilateral and, this week, to unilateral action without consultation. We on this side of the House feel rather strongly that he would have devoted his time better to unilateral action to assist frustrated exports. He is saying all the time, "You must bring your costs down." Let me say in all seriousness that if he looks upon the weight of frustrated exports which may flow into the home market as a means of breaking down the price structure, he is doing something extremely dangerous—although I do not think that, in the depth of his ignorance of these matters, the right hon. Gentleman would be deterred in any way from doing something really dangerous. Probably he would not recognise it as such. Certainly, as a salesman overseas to help our exports he has been a conspicuous failure.

One of the reasons why we have frustrated exports today is that no buyers want to buy at the present moment, and many want to cancel their present purchases because they have been told by the President of the Board of Trade that these goods will be cheaper and better in the near future. A lesson might be learnt from that humble member of the trading community, the barrow boy. He does not very often put on his barrow of cherries, "Beautiful cherries, 2s. 6d." up to lunch time and "2s. 0d." after lunch and expect to have record sales in the morning. That is a little bit of what the President of the Board of Trade has been doing when he has been round the United States and Canada with his high-powered assistant who helps him over there; and that, too, has certainly brought the Americans back to the old conclusion that "Gentlemen prefer Blonds."

One of the great difficulties and dangers at present is to arrange an orderly sale of frustrated goods on the home market. The Secretary for Overseas Trade may say that the first thing to do is to try to sell these goods in other export markets. That is quite right, but he knows perfectly well that in many cases goods are manufactured specially for certain markets and that goods which may be suitable for the Dutch East Indies cannot be sold in South America, and vice versa. This country produces the greatest amount of the best quality of specialities in practically every line. Therefore, the difficulty, where an export is frustrated and cancelled, of sending it elsewhere is very great, and sometimes the advice of the Department concerned is a little academic and hollow.

The difficulty of selling the goods on the home market is also considerable. First, there is the question of utility goods. Where export goods of exactly the same type, appearance and quality as utility goods come to be sold on the home market, they are completely and utterly frustrated by the Purchase Tax, which they have to bear. From the replies which I and others have received from the Board of Trade, their concern seems to be more in the possible loss of revenue from the Purchase Tax than anything else. What chance has the man who may receive a licence to sell in the home market, to sell in competition with utility goods when he has to pay the Purchase Tax? I realise that there is a great technical difficulty here, but I do not think it is so difficult that it cannot be overcome if there is a desire to do so.

My second point concerns the giving of a licence for the sale in the home market of goods not of the utility type. The Board of Trade have hitherto been very reluctant to do this. A case can, undoubtedly, be made out for their not doing so; it may be considered to be inflationary or unfair to people who are dealing in the home trade—both of those are perfectly valid arguments. But if we are approaching, as I believe we are, a moment when the weight of these frustrated exports, big as it is today, will increase very greatly, then that answer will not be sufficient; and more ingenuity will have to be displayed. Suggestions have been and are going to be put to the Board of Trade and to the hon. Gentleman about how that can be brought about.

There is undoubtedly, and always has been, in the minds of the Government a curious separation of idea in thinking that the home market can be divided from the overseas market. That is an extremely dangerous fallacy, and if pursued and continued, it will in the end have exactly the opposite effect to what the Government are trying to do—that is, to assist the export market. We have worked so far on the basis of selling everything we possibly can in the export market. That is quite right, and must continue to be the main target, but the Government must not be too rigid. They have, I believe, now reached the point, as is shown in the figures I have given for the textile industry alone, where the answer given by the hon. Gentleman only a few days ago is totally insufficient; where it is absolutely necessary for this whole question to be examined again. Exports will continue to be frustrated, for the reasons I have given and for a number of other reasons.

As the hon. Gentleman is well aware, other countries in competition with ourselves, in spite of bilateral agreements and exchange controls, will find themselves, as they are finding themselves already, keener to clear their shelves and their stocks of these goods which are accumulating the whole time and which are difficult to absorb entirely in the home market, although that can be done partially. If their arrangements and outlook are more live and more realistic; if the machinery that they create—in France, Italy, the United States, Belgium and Holland, for example, and in other manufacturing countries—is better than the arrangements that we make; if their Minister does not give the answer that he is "perfecty satisfied" with the arrange- ment as it stands, or does not, in reply to a question asking whether he is going to make any change, answer "None": then the weight will break down the whole machinery by which export is carried out. We shall not be able, from the experience of others which will, I hope, be shown in this Debate, to create the machinery for export, which is not only the manufacturer but the exporting machine, the whole chain that has to be created for that purpose. If that machinery had been broken, it will take years to build it up again.

It is not, therefore, only with surplus and frustrated stocks that I am dealing today, but also with the need to prevent these stocks from increasing and to find the means of clearing them as rapidly as possible. Otherwise it will be like stopping a train—it will shunt the whole way back and the process of manufacture will be interfered with and we shall begin to get difficulties of employment in the industries concerned. This is the biggest and most important sign of that process we have yet seen, and I hope that the disappointment which I feel at the reply of the hon. Gentleman, to which I have referred, and the attitude of the President of the Board of Trade and of the Department itself, will be changed.

I have had many negotiations with the hon. Gentleman and I know that he takes a very great deal of trouble to understand these matters and that he is most anxious to promote the welfare of our industry. I hope that today he will take what I have said not as a matter of bias or contention, but of belief that it is extremely important for the future that this subject of the accumulation of frustrated stocks and exports should be handled in a totally different spirit.

It is no use exhorting us to manufacture exports and when people who have carried out that task and have really exported, find their exports broken and their contracts, for the reasons I have given, not carried out, saying to them, "We can do nothing about it." That is just stupid, and if the hon. Gentleman does that, he will do incalculable harm. If he does exactly the opposite and says, "Yes, I will now set up new machinery in co-operation with the trade"—not as unilateral as the President of the Board of Trade—" and go into this very quickly and accept willingly any suggestions," he will be carrying out a most important task; people will again feel confidence in the ability of this country, in times which are as difficult for export as any in my experience, and he will be doing a great service to the whole country.

1.28 p.m.

Mr. Rhodes (Ashton-under-Lyne)

I support the points which have been made by the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher). Anybody with the experience of having frustrated exports either in the warehouses or in the mills in the years before the war, knows what a very bad effect it had on the mill or warehouse and the atmosphere in it. As far as I am aware, the present amount of frustrated exports in the textile industry is not known. The hon. Member for Bury has mentioned £10 million for wool and worsteds and something like £40 or £50 million for the cotton and rayon industry. But I doubt very much whether those figures are accurate, and it is about time that a real survey was made throughout all the textile trades to find out exactly what amount of frustrated exports we are now holding. Frustrated exports are a menace not only to home trade and prices, but also to the efforts which manufacturers and merchants are making to send their goods overseas. It is time also that our export mechanism was thoroughly overhauled.

We are working under conditions which were never known before the war. We need only to take the difficulties of exporting to the Scandinavian countries during the last 12 months and the difficulties which have arisen in South Africa and also the circumstances in which woollens and worsteds are now being exported to South America, to realise that. The markets were never easy, except in those brief months in 1946, 1947 and at the beginning of 1948. When I used to sit on the council of the Huddersfield Chamber of Commerce during the war, we continually pestered the Government to allow us to send a little trickle of exports to America. That was always turned down and there was a reason, but from 1945 to 1947 I would say that our exports from the textile industry to any market in the world were cheaper than those of any other country. I contend that the textile manufacturers and merchants have an honourable record in the work they have done since the war ended. We know full well that there may have been people who have come into the textile field who could come under the category of mushroom firms, but it should not be difficult to sort them out when we have all the statistics of applications for and grants of licences back to 1945.

What about the importation of continental cloths? I ask the Secretary for Overseas Trade if it is not a fact that cloths have been allowed to come into this country which could and should have fitted into a lower cost specification in utility goods? I will refresh my hon. Friend's memory in regard to the types of cloth, worsted flannel cloths. Is it not a fact that because they are of foreign origin they have been allowed to come into categories at higher prices, namely, 4s. higher than the British manufacturer is allowed? Is it fair that the manufacturer or merchant should be in a more difficult position, a less advantageous position, than a continental maker, who is allowed to send cloths over here to go into utility categories?

What about damaged cloths? Are the Board of Trade making any discrimination between damaged cloths and those which are genuinely frustrated? If a proper organisation were set up, something could be done in regard to that matter and if the figures given by the hon. Member for Bury are anything like correct, this question is on a gigantic scale. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to get down to the question of frustrated exports. Every month he delays now is going to make it more difficult for him to make a decision. We have to remember that quite a lot of these cloths are seasonal and are cloths made for particular markets. If these cloths are to be in warehouses and mills they will have a bigger effect on morale and the efforts made for export trade than my hon. Friend realises.

I implore him to get down to the job right away and to set up an organisation that can deal with it and not only deal with it as a form of panel for frustrated exports, but also take into consideration damaged cloths for which claims that they are frustrated exports are being made. One suggestion with regard to frustrated exports is that cloths which will fit to a price should be allowed to go into utility specifications straight away. There is a lot to be said for that. What is good for the continental maker should surely be good for the British maker. I hope the Secretary for Overseas Trade will give us some favourable news.

1.35 p.m.

Mr. Drayson (Skipton)

My hon. Friend the Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher) is to be congratulated on having raised this subject before we adjourn. I am glad that the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes) has supported him.

There is little I can add to what my hon. Friend the Member for Bury has said, but I hope the Secretary for Overseas Trade will take the opportunity in the next two months to go into this matter carefully, to see what can be done to help those in the industry. It is extremely important that manufacturers should feel that they have an adequate base in the home market from which to start export operations. We must return to such a system and I therefore wholeheartedly support the suggestion that those frustrated exports which conform to utility standards should be made available in the home market at utility prices instead of, as at present, being subject to Purchase Tax.

Utility goods have been the subject of a statement by the President of the Board of Trade recently and it has been suggested that these new arrangements might bring about a reduction in staff, and a curtailment of services to the public. Here is an opportunity of releasing for public consumption at utility prices, goods which we are unable to sell overseas, at the same time ensuring that there will be work for the staffs in the retail industry concerned and that additional goods will be available for the public. The possibilities of exports are considerably narrowing and I hope that if the Secretary for Overseas Trade has no encouraging remarks to make this afternoon he will at least give an assurance that he will go carefully into the matter during the next few months to see what he can do to help the industry.

1.37 p.m.

The Secretary for Overseas Trade (Mr. Bottomley)

I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Balham and Tooting (Mr. R. Adams) sitting by me that we could be sure that when the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher) spoke he would put his finger on a case that really mattered and therefore I should have to be certain to give him a really considered reply. I intend doing that, but comments about the President of the Board of Trade can be dealt with quite effectively on another occasion. I think it as well to get clear what we mean by this problem of frustrated exports. It means that if there are goods subject to planning or some measure of control which fail to get into overseas territory, we can say there is frustration of that export, particularly if it is earmarked for a particular country.

Mr. W. Fletcher

The essence of a frustrated export is that it is the subject of a contract for sale and that the contract for sale has been broken for some reason—it may be exchange reasons, or the imposition of a quota, or the putting down of an iron curtain which forbids such imports. The essence of the problem is that a contract is in existence but cannot be fulfilled.

Mr. Bottomley

The frustrated export problem with which we are dealing—I will deal with that section of the matter later—is illustrated by the explanation I have given. If we make arrangements—

Mr. Rhodes

We must get this point quite clear. Does my hon. Friend mean to say that any exports which have not been arranged under P.R.M., say, in the last six months, will not be regarded as frustrated exports if they are cancelled?

Mr. Bottomley

No, I do not altogether suggest that. I say that we cannot accept a general claim that exports have been frustrated, if for some reason other than the operation of a Government control, the contract has not been completed. That would include many of the items to which the hon. Member for Bury has referred. We cannot accept every frustrated export as coming within that category.

Mr. Fletcher

It does not matter whether the Government accept it; it is there.

Mr. Bottomley

It makes a difference. If we accepted that claim many manufacturers who fail to sell goods overseas would claim that they should be sold on the home market. That would enable many of the less reputable firms to do business which would not secure the maximum credit for our industrial activity at home. If we allowed the release on the home market of the goods I have in mind, it would mean that all the raw material and the labour which we have specially earmarked to produce the goods required for an overseas market with which we are in balance of payment difficulties would be diverted and to that extent it would mean the aggravation of our own domestic problems.

Mr. Fletcher

That is a thing of the past.

Mr. Bottomley

No, I do not think it is, but whether it is or is not a thing of the past, it is certainly unfair to those manufacturers who are at present doing all they can to export, if they find that others on whom the same obligation is imposed, are able to get away with it without making an effort.

The Government said that we ought to look at all these cases, and we feel the people best able to do it are those who are experts in the matter. We thought that the Associated British Chambers of Commerce could help us considerably. We have had great help from them, and a body or panel which they have established has been in existence for about 12 months. In the light of what they have been doing, I find that the figures mentioned by the hon. Member for Bury are not quite accurate. I think he made the suggestion that wool stocks at present frustrated amounted to the value of £10 million and in the case of rayon £50 million. The latest information I have is that the outstanding applications for frustrated exports before the panel amount to a value, in the case of wool, of £62,077 and in the case of cotton and rayon £143,314.

Mr. Fletcher

Is it not obvious from what the hon. Gentleman has just said that we are talking about totally different things? The hon. Gentleman is talking about things for which there may have been an application and the exporter is trying and hoping that he will be able to export when an iron curtain is lifted or when there is some change in the allocation of exchange. I ask him not to try to bring this matter down to trying to prove that on the advice which he has been given most of the goods are sold because a change has taken place recently, and that everything is for the best in the best of worlds. If he does that, he is going the wrong way about the matter.

Mr. Bottomley

I must take the advice of the most reputable business associates as well as of civil servants concerned with this matter. They say that, as a result of the last 12 months' work of this panel, out of the 3,650 applications for the release of frustrated exports 1,732 have been granted and 1,471 rejected. The remainder either have not pressed the matter, or for other reasons they have been able to export. If we take these figures, and they must be accepted as reliable, coming from such a source, it means that every case of frustrated exports receives the fullest consideration, and the figures I have given in connection with wool, cotton and rayon come within that category.

Mr. Fletcher

Those are only the cases which have been put to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Beswick (Uxbridge)

Has my hon. Friend had any census taken or any inquiries made as to the extent to which goods are piling up, although applications have not been made on account of them? Is my hon. Friend making any provision to deal with the time when applications may be made to deal with accumulated stocks?

Mr. Bottomley

If applications are made, there is machinery in existence to deal with them. It is not part of my job to assess a difficulty which does not exist so far as I know. If there is already an authoritative body established to consider the question of frustrated exports, and someone does not choose to put their problem before that body, who am I to say that their problem exists? I should have thought that if in fact they have a problem and they have not taken that action, it is not a big enough problem for them to consider putting it before the committee, and those concerned must know that their case is not strong enough to enable them to get freedom from the obligation to export.

Mr. W. Fletcher

Does not the hon. Gentleman think that there is another explanation, namely, that a great many people, including associations, have been unsympathetically treated and have received such poor answers that they are trying to find other means without going through the official channels?

Mr. Bottomley

No. I think that is an unfair comment to make about the panel which has been established. I think that the figures I have given are an indication that fair treatment is meted out and full consideration given.

Once the panel has decided that an exporter is free not to send his goods overseas, he is given a certificate which allows him to sell the goods on the home market. He can then deal with his goods in the way in which the hon. Member for Bury and those who have supported him this morning have been pleading with me to allow. Ninety-five per cent. of the applications for the release of frustrated exports concern textiles. I would say to the hon. Member for Bury that the question does not in any way build itself up into a tremendous problem covering other industries as he indicated.

Mr. Fletcher

Will the hon. Gentleman produce figures to show that 95 per cent. of the frustrated exports are textiles?

Mr. Bottomley

I am prepared to stand by the figures I have given, and would further say that, so far as such goods are concerned, it is true that we encounter other difficulties caused by import licence restrictions. In such cases we give full consideration to them. So far as I am able to judge, the frustration is limited to some few consumer goods, some of which were made for the Argentine. The most striking instance is that of textiles; there is also the case of pottery which has been made for a special market and has not been taken because of import licensing restrictions or something of that kind. I do not dispute that the problem is likely to grow. Import licensing restrictions are getting no easier in most markets. The Government, however, have said that we are anxious to liberalise trade and with that, we hope, will come an easing of many of these restrictions. My hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes) has said that we shall have difficulty in South Africa. That is so, but the machinery I have indicated still exists, and those who cannot export have an opportunity of putting their case to the Board of Trade.

Mr. Fletcher

They have done so and had a very cold reception, with which they were very disappointed.

Mr. Bottomley

I am sorry if they thought they had a cold reception. I accept their word for it. It is a matter of feeling. When one receives someone officially, one may be told that it is a cold reception, but one has to receive people according to how they present themselves. The hon. Member for Bury has paid some fine tributes to the way in which I have received him, and I hope that I shall always receive him in that way, because I know that it is his desire, as it is mine, to try to co-operate in order that trade can be helped, and we can overcome the problems that confront us. It is in that sense that I am saying that it is no use making these suggestions that the Government should do something about it when industry is not using the existing machinery.

Mr. Rhodes

Is my hon. Friend aware that it is impossible for the woollen worsted trade to carry out examinations? In the field of damaged cloths, for instance, it is not being done.

Mr. Bottomley

I am quite sure that the panel we have set up considers each matter, but with respect, that has nothing at all to do with frustrated exports.

Mr. Rhodes

They come under it.

Mr Bottomley

Yes, they may do. I am afraid it is pretty obvious that I shall not have a chance to deal with the other point of substance. It will have to be dismissed by my saying that the question of whether frustrated exports released on the home market, which are similar to utility goods, should be free from Purchase Tax, was answered by the Chancellor himself in a recent reply to Questions from hon. Members, when he said that Purchase Tax was a matter on its own and had to be dealt with as such. It certainly is not a matter for the Board of Trade, which is concerned with utility garments and materials stamped as such in order to ensure the right quality and standards for that class of goods—

Mr. Fletcher

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I wrote to the Board of Trade suggesting that, as the machinery is such that we cannot take off the Purchase Tax until the next Budget, the cloth might be stamped as utility cloth by the manufac- turers, which would get over the difficulty; but that that and other suggestions have been callously turned down by the Board of Trade? It is the Board of Trade which refuses suggestions about ways to get round it.

Mr. Bottomley

That was with regard to the actual commodities going overseas. We allow the manufacturer to stamp the material produced in his own factory with the utility mark. We cannot allow that to spread to the merchants. The general responsibility must be put on the manufacturer, and it is in that sense, I think, that we have been co-operative and not, as is inferred by the hon. Member, difficult in the matter. It is more a question of making sure there is proper order—

Mr. Drayson

May I take it—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

We are a little behind time and the hon. Gentleman has been interrupted a very great deal. I think he ought to be allowed to continue his speech.

Mr. Bottomley

I have deliberately allowed these interruptions, because I wish to answer precise points, but I am bound to say there appears to be an endeavour to show that the existing machinery is not suitable. With that I disagree. I consider the existing machinery is adequate and those concerned are to be congratulated. I feel it should continue until circumstances warrant a change and I remain unconvinced after what has been said today that a change is necessary.