HC Deb 19 October 1950 vol 478 cc2208-9
13. Mr. Nabarro

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will make a statement in regard to reversion to private imports of softwoods, notably sawn sleepers and squares, deals and scantlings; and, in the event of private imports being resumed, whether consumer licensing and price control of such imports will be necessary.

Mr. H. Wilson

I would refer the hon. Member to a notice published in the Board of Trade Journal of 14th October, of which I have sent him a copy, giving details of the measure of private trade in the import of softwood that has been decided upon. Sleepers, squares, deals and scantlings are included in the scheme. I regret that timber supplies do not permit of any relaxation whatever in the control over the use of softwood.

Mr. Nabarro

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it will be the policy of his Department progressively to extend the areas from which private imports of these softwoods may be permitted, subject only to a control of hard currencies in the case of the American countries or other considerations in the case of Eastern European countries?

Mr. Wilson

The hon. Member will realise that the present change covers pretty well all the areas he has in mind—that is, to exclude the hard currency dollar area and also exclude Eastern European countries. If it is possible to work out any scheme under which the private trade can participate more in imports, for instance, from Eastern Europe, we shall be very glad to be able to do it.

Mr. Oakshott

How does the right hon. Gentleman propose to handle imports of softwood from the hard currency and Iron Curtain countries for which he has already made contracts for shipment for next year?

Mr. Wilson

The contracts with the dollar areas, of course, are for shipments next year, but we have not yet come to contracts with Eastern European countries for shipment next year. Timber control will still buy from the dollar areas. We hope that a considerable quantity of that purchase will go to augment our stocks, which have been too low this year. In so far as they will have to be put into consumption, they will probably be sold to the trade at replacement prices.

Mr. John E. Haire

Has my right hon. Friend taken steps to prevent an increase in price in softwood imported under these arrangements, remembering what happened when hardwood was decontrolled?

Mr. Wilson

I should not like to speculate on the future trend of prices, whether by public or private purchasers in the timber trade.

Mr. Nabarro

Is there any good reason why Yugoslavia should not be within the area of free imports in view of the trade agreement between this country and Yugoslavia?

Mr. Wilson

I think it is necessary to have some degree of public control over buying from a number of countries where there is at present monopolistic selling, including Yugoslavia, but, as I have said, if it is possible to associate the trade with that buying we shall be very glad to work out arrangements to do so.