HC Deb 11 December 1956 vol 562 cc196-7
6. Dr. Bennett

asked the President of the Board of Trade under what agreements and contracts Her Majesty's Government is compelled to obtain the present supplies from the United States of America of cinematograph films and of tobacco for which dollars must be expended; and whether he will reduce the scale on which these imports are licensed.

10. Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to reduce dollar expenditure on films and tobacco.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

There is no compulsion upon British importers to buy American films. Moreover, a special limit is placed, in agreement with the American film companies, on the earnings from films which can be remitted to the United States of America. In the case of tobacco, manufacturers have already bought and paid for the American supplies they were permitted to buy from this year's crop. The question of imports from next year's crop does not arise until July, 1957.

Dr. Bennett

While understanding that exports must provide the wherewithal to pay for the imports from any country, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether it would not be considerably helpful to our trade if we could get these not entirely vital materials from, say, Rhodesia, which can produce more, with easier terms of trade that relieve us of embarrassment for dollars?

Mr. Thorneycroft

As my hon. Friend knows, there has been a very large-scale substitution of American tobacco by Rhodesian tobacco since the war. I am perfectly prepared to consider whether that could be carried further. However, it does not arise immediately. This year's crop has already been bought.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Now that we are scraping the bottom of the barrel for dollars, what are the Government doing to see that dollars are not wasted on inessential goods or goods obtainable from non-dollar sources? I agree that we have commitments but, subject to those commitments, what else are the Government doing about the matter?

Mr. Thorneycroft

The Question relates to films and tobacco. In regard to films, there is an agreed limit as to the amount of dollars that can be transferred across exchanges. In respect of tobacco, there has been a large-scale substitution.

Mr. G. Jeger

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider revising the film quota so as to allow more British films to be shown?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I do not think that a mere alteration in the quota would of itself ensure more British films being shown. First, they would have to be produced. That is the purpose of a Bill which is shortly to be introduced.