HC Deb 22 February 1954 vol 524 cc9-10
15. Mr. Vane

asked the Minister of State, Board of Trade, as representing the Minister of Materials, why over £1 million was spent during 1953 in importing nearly two million cubic feet of birch timber; and what steps he is taking to promote the use of home-grown birch whenever suitable.

Mr. Amory

Of the total import of sawn birch in 1953, about one-quarter by quantity and one-third by value was from Canada, for essential purposes for which home-grown and non-dollar birch are not suitable. The remainder was imported from non-dollar sources under a licensing system designed to give the importer and consumer the greatest possible choice of hardwood species within the limits of the United Kingdom's balance of payments position. From November, 1953, there has been no restriction on the quantity of non-dollar hardwood that may be imported.

Subject to balance of payments considerations, it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to give the consumer freedom of choice between imported and home-grown birch.

Mr. Vane

Will my right hon. Friend look again into what lies behind the word "essential"? Will he do what he can to encourage the use of home-grown birch rather than an imported article bought with dollars, which may not be better but which is preferred by some firms, particularly large manufacturers of cotton reels, often from sheer prejudice?

Mr. Amory

I assure my hon. Friend that we want to safeguard the interests of the home-grown timber industry, but quantitative restrictions under quotas may be imposed for balance of payment reasons only. Therefore, I am afraid that under this policy we could not take any further action to protect the home industry.