HC Deb 13 July 1950 vol 477 cc1535-6
39. Mr. Gammans

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he has taken or proposes to take to satisfy himself that the timber which he is buying from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has not been felled and prepared by slave labour or under conditions which would contravene the fair wages agreements which he would demand if the timber were being purchased by the Government from supplies in this country.

Mr. H. Wilson

I am afraid that it is not realistic to expect that His Majesty's Government could satisfy themselves as to the conditions in which timber is felled and prepared in the Soviet Union.

Mr. Gammans

Is it not rank hypocrisy for the right hon. Gentleman to lay. down the most stringent conditions under which timber shall be cut in this country, and, at the same time, to be quite indifferent as to how it is cut abroad? Does he realise that the conditions under which timber is cut in the Soviet Union would revolt the human conscience?

Mr. Wilson

By far the larger proportion of the timber bought in this country is bought by the merchants, and not by the Government.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Is the Minister aware that if we bought more timber felled in Canada—of which we could get more if there were a keener sense of getting it than of getting timber from Russia —there would be no doubt about the conditions?

Mr. Wilson

As the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows perfectly well, the amount bought from Canada is limited by dollars.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Why not give them the high grade steel which they want?

Mr. Speaker

The Question is about timber from Soviet Russia.

Mr. A. Edward Davies

Will my right hon. Friend attempt to get more timber from Russia or anywhere else if that will help to improve the housing situation in this country?