HC Deb 27 May 1954 vol 528 cc597-8
28. Mr. Janner

asked the President of the Board of Trade what commodities are imported under licences granted to importers on the basis of their volume of trading before 1939; and, in respect of these commodities, what proportion of the total quantity imported is granted to each of the six importers with the largest quotas.

The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. Heathcoat Amory)

As the answer is rather long, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. With regard to the second part of the Question, it is not the practice of the Board of Trade to disclose details of the extent of an individual importer's business. The figures, therefore, give only the proportion of the total of permitted imports accounted for by the six largest licences combined.

Mr. Janner

As the right hon. Gentleman states that the answer is a long one, does he not consider it is high time that it was made very much shorter and that new people might enter into business without interference by the State—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—as the right hon. Gentleman is such a strong supporter of private enterprise?

Mr. Amory

In general, I find myself much more in accord with the view expressed by the hon. Member today than on many previous occasions. We agree that this pre-war basis is not a good one and, wherever we can find an alternative which fits the facts and does as good or better justice, we gladly avail ourselves of it.

Following is the answer:

The commodities for which import licences are, as a rule, granted to importers on the basis of their imports before the war only are those for fresh oranges and grapefruit from the United States to be imported under Section 550 of the United States Mutual Security Act; watches, watch movements and clocks from Western Europe; and learned, scientific, technical, religious and children's educational books from the dollar area and the Soviet Bloc. Licences for pork from countries outside the sterling and dollar areas will also be granted on this basis but none has yet been issued. There are a few other commodities for which some 90 per cent. of licences are issued on a pre-war trading basis.

The answer to the second part of the Question is as follows:

Fresh Oranges and Grapefruit: 44 per cent. (of slightly over 90 per cent. of the quota licensed on 25th May).

Watches: 39 per cent.

Clocks: 55 per cent.

Stop Watches: 78 per cent.

Watch and Clock repair materials: 66 per cent.

Learned, scientific, technical, religious and children's education books: 31 per cent.