HC Deb 16 July 1964 vol 698 cc1415-6
28. Mrs. Slater

asked the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development if he is aware that some wallpaper companies have now made their rolls 10 metres long, so conforming to European Common Market standards, instead of the previous 13½ yards, thus shortening each roll by 1½ yards while keeping the price the same; and if he will introduce legislation to prevent this practice.

Mr. du Cann

No, Sir; my information is that a roll of British wallpaper used to be 11½, not 13½ yards long. To facilitate our export trade, the British industry has successfully worked to secure a standard European length of 10.05 metres, which is almost exactly 11 yards. This is not a matter which seems to me to justify Government intervention, particularly as our exports are increasing substantially.

Mrs. Slater

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are varying statements about this and that some firms have been making a 13½ yard roll? Is he aware that I have here a letter from two manufacturers saying that this method of reducing the amount of wallpaper in a roll was merely a subterfuge for increasing the price and that in some cases it has meant an increase in price of 4 per cent. to 5 per cent. a roll, which is considerable? [Laughter.] I see nothing to laugh at. [Laughter.] Mr. Speaker, I see nothing to laugh at about this. The person who does his own wallpapering must now pay this increased price. Does the Minister of State also realise that, in the report referred to, it is admitted that there is a distributive costs margin of 60 per cent.? Does not he think that the Government should at least answer about this aspect?

Mr. du Cann

I will, of course, examine with interest any correspondence that the hon. Lady would like to let me have. On the other hand, I cannot accept everything she said in phrasing her two supplementary questions. I point out to her that there can be nothing more important for our export trade than making progress towards standardisation; and we are delighted that it has been achieved by the wallpaper industry.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Is it not correct to say that, given the size of the roll, British wallpaper is the cheapest and probably the best in the world?

Mr. du Cann

What is so gratifying, as I pointed out, is that exports have risen so substantially, and that is what matters most.