HC Deb 10 July 1952 vol 503 cc1500-1
25. Mr. Osborne

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that the South African Minister of Transport has cancelled orders in Britain and placed them elswhere because of the long delays in delivery by British firms, including 40 electric units promised for early 1951, 15 electric motor coaches promised for November, 1950, and locomotive boilers ordered for early 1950, none of which has yet been delivered; and if he will make representations to the South African Government to see if these orders cannot be retained in Britain if immediate delivery can be guaranteed.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

I am aware of the statement of the South African Minister about delays experienced in receiving equipment, ordered by the South African Railways from the United Kingdom, but I was not aware that the orders referred to in the Question have been cancelled.

Mr. Osborne

Since the statement was made in the responsible British Press that the Minister had made the statement in the South African Parliament, may I beg of the President to look into the matter again to see if these orders can be got back to this country because it is of great importance for our people in connection with the importation of foods?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Yes, Sir, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply is examining the matter as one of urgency to see what was the cause of delay and whether any improvements can be made in future.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

Has it been established that these delays did, in fact, take place and that the statement of the South African Minister of Transport is correct?

Mr. Thorneycroft

There have undoubtedly been some delays.

Mr. Jennings

Will my right hon. Friend look into this, as a very serious situation is arising, and see whether he can facilitate the matter? Surely my right hon. Friend should consider, with his colleagues, what can be done.

Mr. Thorneycroft

That is being done.

Mr. Fernyhough

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how far the re-armament programme has contributed to the delay? In view of the statement by a noble Lord in another place this week will he see that exports are given super-priority?

Mr. Thorneycroft

That is a wide: question.

Sir W. Smithers

Does my right hon. Friend realise that when a Government interferes with business it loses much trade for Britain? Will he do all he can to remove barriers to trade and take off controls as soon as possible?

Mr. Nally

Is the Minister aware that the original statement upon which this Question was based was made in the South African Parliament a considerable time ago, in fact, last month? Would he not agree that where statements are made by people in authority in Commonwealth Governments, and Questions are asked about them by his hon. Friends, it would be advisable if he could tell us whether the statements so made were accurate or otherwise?

Mr. Thorneycroft

We have only now received details of the statement made by the Minister and we are looking into it as a matter of urgency.