HC Deb 29 November 1951 vol 494 cc1707-8
41. Mrs. White

asked the President of the Board of Trade what restrictions are placed on British private traders by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and by her satellite countries; and how these restrictions compare with those placed on British official buyers.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

In general it is not possible for a private trader to operate in these countries, either by means of personal visit or by the employment of a resident agent, unless his visit, or that of an official buyer, is desired by the Government of the country in question.

In view of the complete control of trade which is exercised by the Governments of these countries, the restriction on the private trader does not, in practice, materially affect the volume of business which can be done. Our experience is that, if the authorities in these countries are anxious either to buy or sell, they are as willing to negotiate in the United Kingdom with a private trader as with an official body.

Mrs. White

In view of the explanation which the right hon. Gentleman has given, what makes him suppose that private buyers of softwood timber will be able to obtain a larger supply than official buyers?

Mr. Thorneycroft

So far as the Russian market and Russian supplies are concerned, I do not think it makes much difference whether buying is done by public or private arrangements. It is bulk selling, and bulk sellers decide the amount of which they will dispose.