HC Deb 10 November 1955 vol 545 cc1980-2
10. Mr. Swingler

asked the President of the Board of Trade what action he is taking to ensure an adequate exhibition of exportable British goods at the industrial fair now in progress in New Delhi.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

Exhibiting goods in overseas trade fairs is a matter for individual firms and not the Government. The Board of Trade drew the attention of industry to the Indian Industries Fair by a variety of means from last November onwards, and a number of British firms are exhibiting.

Mr. Swingler

Is the Minister aware that a number of reputable people in Delhi have described the British part of the exhibition as the shoddiest part of the fair, and that, in the early reports in papers like the "Hindustan Times," there was scarcely any mention of the British part of the exhibition at all, while there was considerable mention of the American, Chinese and Soviet Union exhibits? Is not that deplorable in a country of the Commonwealth, and should not the President of the Board of Trade take some responsibility for promoting exports through these means?

Mr. Thorneycroft

These questions about fairs are always difficult matters, but I am bound to say that I think it is for the industrialists to judge what they wish to exhibit. The industrialist's object is not necessarily national prestige but to sell his goods, and that is why he sends them there. I do not think that to repeat every criticism of British goods helps our export trade.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

In spite of what my right hon. Friends says, is he aware that, while the cold war conditions exist, he cannot really wholly neglect the element of national prestige?

Mr. Thorneycroft

If I may say so, that is quite a different, though important, point. If we are, as a matter of foreign policy and national prestige, to have national exhibits, that is quite a different question from the one with which we are dealing here.

Mr. Bottomley

While accepting the President's view that, from the strictly commercial point of view, the British businessman does not need to exhibit there, surely he will bear in mind the fact that Asia is a developing part of the world and that, on the long-term view, we ought to develop our trade, in the interests of the country?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I am concerned with answering on the commercial aspect, which is the responsibility of my Department.