HL Deb 20 July 1937 vol 106 cc675-6

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this is a Bill to amend and consolidate the Overseas Trade Acts, 1920–34. Under these Acts, the Board of Trade is empowered, with the consent of the Treasury, and after consultation with an Advisory Committee, to give guarantees in connection with the export of goods wholly or partly produced or manufactured in the United Kingdom, excluding munitions of war. During the last few years, the demand by traders for the Department's guarantees has been rapidly increasing. In 1933–34 the value of exports covered by its guarantees was £7,500,000. In 1934–35 it was £15,000,000, in 1935–36 £20,500,000, and in 1936–37 the amount had risen to £35,000,000. All this business has been done at no cost to the Exchequer as the claims paid and the administrative expenses have been exceeded by the receipts from premiums. In passing I should like to say that no one has noted this progress with greater satisfaction than the noble Viscount, Lord Runciman of Doxford, who as President of the Board of Trade during this period has maintained a personal interest in the work of the Export Credits Guarantee Department which has been a constant source of inspiration and encouragement to those engaged in the administration of the scheme. In consequence of this growth of its business, the Department is likely, in a few months' time, to reach the limit of guarantees which may be outstanding, and an increase of this limit has become necessary if the facilities available to United Kingdom exporters are not to be curtailed.

The main object of the Bill is to provide for the increase of this limit from £26,000,000, the amount prescribed by the Act of 1920, to £50,000,000. This is provided for in Clause 1 of the Bill. In Clause 1 it is also proposed to extend the guarantees to or for the benefit of "any person, firm or company carrying on business in the United Kingdom" in place of the present limitation to persons domiciled in, or companies incorporated in, by or under the laws of the United Kingdom. In proviso (a) of Clause 1 (2) power is taken to extend the guarantee to execution of works and services out- side the United Kingdom where such works and services are required in connection with the export of home-produced goods. In proviso (b) of this clause, it is proposed that the guarantee should be extended to cases where the whole of the exported goods may not be home-produced.

In Clause 2 provision is made for charging on the Consolidated Fund any amounts required to meet guarantees in so far as they are not met from moneys voted by Parliament. The object of the proposal is to make the guarantee formally complete. It is not intended to alter the present practice by which payments under guarantee are normally made from the Export Credits Vote. The Bill contains certain provision for the amendment of the existing Acts in order to afford a greater measure of flexibility in the administration of the scheme.

I should just mention in conclusion that the title of the Bill will be altered from that of its predecessors. They were called "Overseas Trade Acts" and to avoid confusion the present Bill provides for its citation as the "Export Guarantees Act, 1937." The final purpose is to consolidate the existing legislation which is scattered through Acts of Parliament, some dealing with other matters. The original Act relates the powers of the Board of Trade in this field to the restoration of trade after the War. Now that the scheme has become a permanent one, it is proposed to repeal such obsolete phrases as this, and merge all that is useful in the previous Acts into one simple Act which will govern the Department's operations until Parliament decides otherwise.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Templemore.)

On Question, Bill read 2a: Committee negatived.