HC Deb 11 August 1966 vol 733 cc1887-9
The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Douglas Jay)

The British National Export Council was established for an initial period of three years in 1964, as a partnership between industry and Government for the purposes of stimulating the growth of our exports, and of bringing together under one central organisation the bodies concerned with the promotion of British exports to various parts of the world.

The Council was sponsored by the Federation of British Industries and the National Association of British Manufacturers—now merged in the Confederation of British Industry—the City of London, the Association of British Chambers of Commerce and the Trades Union Congress. Its activities have been financed by funds raised from industry, business and commerce, matched by a contribution from the Government.

It has been represented to Her Majesty's Government that there would for practical reasons be advantage in deciding now whether the Council should continue in being after the expiry of the three-year period. The sponsoring organisations have all expressed a strong wish that it should continue, and this wish the Government fully share. The Government attach the highest importance to the work which the Council has so successfully begun and believe that there will be ample scope for promotion effort of this kind for many years to come.

I have, therefore, informed Lord McFadzean, under whose energetic leadership the Council has made so much progress, that the Government strongly endorse the need for the Council to continue its work after the end of the three-year period, and intend to continue financial support for its activities on the present basis of matching the contribution of industry, business and commerce.

I have also asked Lord McFadzean to convey to all members of the Council and of its committees the Government's high appreciation of the time and energy which they voluntarily give to this vital work in support of our export trade.

Mr. Barber

After the deep divisions between the Government and the Opposition over the past few months, I am very pleased to be able to say that I entirely agree with and support all that the President of the Board of Trade has said. Is he aware that the British National Export Council, started by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and continued by the right hon. Gentleman, has the good wishes of the whole House and that we send our gratitude to those men of industry and commerce on the Council and the area committees who have so unstintingly given service and advice in the national interest?

Mr. Jay

I am grateful for what the right hon. Gentleman has said, which, I think, is generally accepted.

Mr. Bessell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I and my right hon. and hon. Friends would like to associate ourselves with what the right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) has said? Would it be possible for the Government to increase the financial contribution made to the Council, in view of the considerable importance of its work?

Mr. Jay

We believe that the present principle of matching the finance privately raised with that provided by the Government is right and that there should continue to be contributions from both sources.

Dame Irene Ward

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that in conveying all these congratulations to Lord McFadzean he might tell him that even the Council would be improved if there were some suitable women at top level on it?

Mr. Jay

I am sure that Lord McFadzean will give due attention to what the hon. Lady said.

Mr. Ogden

Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that, if the Council asked for more financial aid, such a request would be sympathetically considered? Would he bear in mind that we should balance the export drive with a "Buy British" drive?

Mr. Jay

I agree with my hon. Friend. We will, of course, consider sympathetically any suggestions which we receive from the Council.

Mr. Heath

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this decision, which I am sure is right, is particularly gratifying from him, in view of the continuous carping criticism with which the appointment of this body was greeted by the present Prime Minister, by himself and by some of his right hon. Friends, when it was first set up?

Mr. Jay

I am also interested to recall that it was the right hon. Gentleman who set up the Council, in view of what he said earlier about the setting up of a Royal Commission.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the rather peculiar attitude and behaviour of the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon due to what happened when he arrived at the Dorchester Hotel last night?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not think that that arises on this statement.