HL Deb 30 November 1939 vol 115 cc63-79

LORD BARNBY had the following Notice on the Paper: To call attention to the financial disadvantage of the delay which has occurred since the acquisition by His Majesty's Government of the Australian and New Zealand wool clips on the question of supply to Canada and the United States of America of merino wool and derivatives which can hardly be required for military purposes; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, yesterday in this House we listened to a formidable list of criticisms of the various Controls from the noble Lords, Lord Addison and Lord Rea, and I felt that in the attempt to deal with them, the Minister who spoke for the Government had some difficulty in meeting all those charges. It is natural that the working of these Controls will involve considerable delay, a good deal of inconvenience to many traders, and loss to the community as a whole. That is inevitable. Under these conditions it is often injudicious for anyone to raise his voice in criticism when possibly it might do more harm than good. I was a particularly attentive listener when the noble Lord, Lord Addison, was speaking yesterday, because anyone who, like him, had experience in the last war of large responsibility in administering under abnormal conditions, speaks with special authority. Now in raising this question to-day it certainly is not my intention to make difficulties; on the contrary I wish to help.

My information is that with regard to supplies of wool for Canada there exist grounds for serious dissatisfaction and disappointment in the treatment that that Dominion has received. In the case of the United States, there is definite surprise at the tardiness with which the question has been dealt with. Among the other disadvantages which result there is disadvantage to the wool growers in the Dominions, and there is the virtual strangulation for a period of several weeks of the larger part of the export trade in controlled articles and derivatives of wool, and it must be remembered that there is involved between £50,000,000 and £60,000,000 of public money. This is a commodity which cannot be required for military purposes, and which in no circumstances would come to these shores, for this is entirely a Pacific Ocean problem and the war area is not involved. As a result of all this, we have delayed the receiving of much needed dollars from Canada and the United States.

I do not need to remind your Lordships that wool is a very important commodity of international trade and one of the most important exports of the British Empire, and particularly of the Dominions. Wool is something which is of particular interest to your Lordships, because apart from the financial point that I make with regard to the public purse, it is very near to the person of every one of your Lordships, for I suspect that everyone here will be wearing wool, and it will be wool that has come from the Dominions. But I would like to remind your Lordships that of this production which is so important to the Empire, a large part is of such a character, not being required for military purposes, as to be virtually a monopoly, and its position is not dissimilar to that of jute. I see in the official returns from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa that some thirty separate countries are normally importers of their wool. Now, since 1914, the Australian clip has virtually doubled from the same number of sheep through selective breeding, and there is thus that extra amount of wool to find a home for. The advance of science, however, has produced a competitor, which formerly did not exist, in rayon, and any injudicious handling of the wool problem or too high a price might well result in grave disadvantage to wool growers through the stimulation of the production and use of this competitive fibre, and so might well affect future markets.

It is interesting to remember that since 1914 the population of Canada has increased by 42 per cent., and when we are thinking of the help that Canada can render to the Empire in this war that is a fact which many of us are liable to forget. The United States, with its 140,000,000 of people, can be a very important customer, and we need both Canadian and American dollars. In the case of Canada, on September 14, the first intimation was made to this country of what Canada's wool requirements would be, and from the most reliable information there still exist grounds for the gravest dissatisfaction and surprise. The position may be illustrated by the fact that if these requirements are neglected it is quite likely that mills in Canada will shut down, and you can picture someone in Canada saying: "You ask us to send our sons to fight and then deny us—or at least delay—the supply of materials with which to clothe them." That is an extremely disquieting suggestion.

In the case of the United States, after careful conference in responsible quarters, urgent representations were made by the British Embassy as to the need for prompt action. That was on September 16. Two and a half months have gone by, and the best information I can get is that no satisfactory arrangements have yet been concluded. If difficulty now arises it is the result of grave neglect of immediate, intelligent conference subsequent to the acquisition of the clips. The effect was to disorganise the wool markets of the world, and the closing down of Antwerp left New York the only remaining yardstick of world wool value. Wool is traditionally one of the most controversial political topics in the United States. You have a solid bloc of two Senators from every one of the wool-growing States west of the Mississippi, plus two Senators from each of the principal wool-manufacturing States—may be few—east of the Mississippi. That can well constitute a formidable body of political opinion which, historically, has had very grave influence on internal conditions in the United States. It may well have a dominant influence in the future as in the past.

I might add, as showing the importance of commercial and federal authority in this matter, that the importation of 120,000,000 lbs. of cool means 40,000,000 dollars to the United States Treasury. In brief, the whole handling of this matter is fraught with dangerous political reactions in the United States, and it seems to have been inelegantly handled. I may remind your Lordships that in 1914 wool was on the free list in the United States. The fact that it was difficult to get resulted in the building up of these tariffs with which the Dominion of wool growers are faced at the present time. On this particular side I shall conclude this reference by quoting a telegram I have just received from a member of the Central Committee set up to deal with this matter in the United States. He is a close friend of mine whom I have known for thirty years, and he is a very good friend of England. I wired to him and he replied as follows: Glad to get wire. Sorry, we feel at present all contacts with British controlled materials too unsatisfactory to be interested. I shall let the House draw its own conclusions. It is because, after my return, energetic representations to authoritative quarters seemed to produce such meagre results that I felt compelled to table this Motion on November 15.

It has taken some time to reach discussion. Our political machinery provides for this method of defending the public purse and interest. In this case I feel that the policy followed cannot have been the result of the advice of wool men. Therefore, it is no reflection on the executives of the Wool Control that I here interpose that it may well be that at a later date, unless some more rapid tying up of the ragged edges of control occurs, we may hear of grounds of further criticism on this matter. I suspect that in this case responsibility lies higher up. I want to help the Wool Control, but to help the Dominion wool growers also, and the important customers, the United States and Canada. The plain fact is that there seems to have been some inept handling of the major disposals problem from the start and a suggestion of absence of thinking the thing through—in brief, the application to this vast commercial, not manufacturing, operation of the simple necessity instinctive to the technical wool man habituated to large-scale wool operations. Yesterday we heard much criticism of the difficulties with regard to export. We read also a debate in another place which brought this into very strong relief. We see that it is going to involve reply by the two most important of His Majesty's Ministers concerned with the assistance of export trade—namely, the Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade and the President of the Board of Trade. There will be great interest in the country in what they have got to say and in how this is to be handled.

Since I have only recently returned to this country from the United States and Canada, I cannot say that I have the full pulse of what may be the correct situation here, but I will not disguise the fact that one hears many specific instances of how the export trade is being impeded. Many of your Lordships will have read the most interesting article in The Times of this morning. It seems to confirm what was emphasized yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Rea, in his most interesting remarks. Intentions are good, but there seems to be a lack of co-ordination between the efforts of those various very proper organisations set up to control this country's trade. I should be the first to say that there should be no interference with a straight run through—a right of way—for everything concerned with armaments and preparations for putting a large Army in the field to the very proper support of France. But there is, without doubt, a feeling of a lack of coordination.

I cannot refrain from quoting from the article to which I have referred: What is needed for economic warfare is a similar geographic basis of organisation for trade with each major group of countries. From that it may well be said that the fault of control is in the direction of trade rather than in the character of the control. Further on in this article I see it stated that what is wanted is an Economic Commander-in-Chief assisted by a small expert Economic General Staff. If we are a commercial nation, it seems sad that there should be the insinuation that, while with such brilliant speed we have produced unified military control, we should be tardy in achieving the same thing in what is particularly our métier.

The noble Lord, Lord Rea, yesterday was bold enough to name one or two individuals who might be used for the purpose. I should be inclined to do a disservice to a very good friend of mine and to suggest the name of that robust Scotsman from north of the Tweed, Sir James Lithgow, who is direct and effective, with this advantage, that I believe he is the only man in the country who has filled the two posts of President of the Federation of British Industries and Chairman of the National Federation of Employers' Associations. Therefore he has an unrivalled knowledge of the interplay of all the industrial organisations of this country, and, if we are to work in with Government Departments, a man such as he, with his unrivalled knowledge of steel and shipping, is what we require. I know he will think I have done him a disservice in suggesting his name, and I am sure that the next time I see him he will utter some good Scottish epithets to me, but they are so pithy and refreshing that one always likes to hear them. But to return to the point I was making. Everyone is actively engaged in multitudinous ways of spending money, but my appeal is for a different object. It is to try by means of this particular Motion to enable money to be made in relief of taxation, to produce much-needed dollars, and to assist our export trade. It is to wage economic war for the profit which is so essential and is complementary to our vast war effort. I hope my noble friend who will reply for the Government will be able to make some reassuring statements on the particular point that I have explained to your Lordships. I beg to move for Papers.

3.52 p.m.


My Lords, I know nothing about wool, and the noble Lord who has just addressed your Lordships knows all about wool. In another place he was a recognised authority, and of course he is so here. I did not quite gather what the complaint was, but I guess it is that the Government have cornered the Australian and I suppose New Zealand wool clips and are very slow in releasing the parts they do not want for export to merchants to sell again to America and Canada. Is that the position?


For the supply direct to Canada and the United States, not to an English merchant.


For direct supply. The noble Lord means that the Government ought to be selling direct to Canada and the United States?


No, I am glad my noble friend gives me the chance to make that point specifically. It is that there should be no action on the part of His Majesty's Government which would tend towards accelerating Governmental participation in this matter if it were not desired, we will say, by the United States, but that supplies should be made available as rapidly as possible so that the goods can go through the ordinary trade channels and the money realised thereby come to the British Treasury.


I am much obliged to the noble Lord. I understand, therefore, that it is desired to use the merchants who have been in this business for generations and who know their customers in the United States and Canada to do quick business, and that they have at present great difficulty in getting licences for export and for the release of wool. Well, I imagine that that is what is happening, and I agree it is a rather serious state of affairs. Although I know nothing about wool, we all have already learned something about the result of the overswift application of a complete war economy in a few weeks. With the best intentions in the world the Government have over-organised all these Controls and war-time organisations, which it took four years in the last war to work up to. When the present war broke out, they started from where we ended in 1918 and did everything at once. I think that is not an unfair picture. The result has been inevitably a good deal of friction and slowness of application and disorganisation. That was inevitable. I do not think we can blame the Government for over-organising. It was better to over-organise than to under-organise. But what my Party is very conscious of (and we have been studying these matters) is that there is a lack of direction at the top to put these difficulties right.

I make no apology for mentioning this matter to the members of the Government present and to your Lordships once again. There is a lack of higher economic direction. There are creakings and difficulties such as Lord Barnby has illustrated, and there is no one to put them right. We are told that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is Chairman of a Committee dealing with these questions of economics. Well, that Committee is not working well. That is the short statement which has to be made. It is not functioning properly. Lord Barnby mentioned one very important difficulty that has arisen, and your Lordships are aware of many others in all sorts of directions. What is happening at present is this. You have your newly formed Ministry of Shipping; your newly-formed Ministry of Supply; you have the old-established Board of Trade quite rightly trying to stimulate our export trade; you have the Treasury always overhanging everything; you then have a Ministry of Economic Warfare, of tremendous importance, and there is bound to be friction and conflict between either one or other of these Ministries and the Ministry of Economic Warfare. You cannot help it. The Ministry of Economic Warfare has to prevent goods of any kind getting to the enemy; the Board of Trade has to stimulate exports; the Ministry of Shipping has to find ships; and the Ministry of Supply has to be certain that the goods required in this country do not go out of it. There you have these three or four conflicting interests, and as far as I can make out nobody to reconcile them or to act quickly enough to remove the difficulties.

Then on top of that, you have the Food Ministry and the Ministry of Agriculture, and so on. The really practical people who are trying to deal with this are those who are on the Committee which, I gather, is under the Chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Stamp, and which consists of the permanent heads of the Departments concerned. I think that is a right description. Now these are the last people you ought to have on such a Committee. The permanent heads of these Departments are terribly busy men at the present time, and it must be difficult to get them together round a table. To do these things is for them an agony, because they want to be back in their own Departments where they have all sorts of internal problems to solve. To set them to work to try and do this work of co-ordination is absurd. I said so when the great scheme was announced. I said it would not work, and it is not working, and cannot work. Either these permanent civil servants neglect their own Ministries or neglect this other work. That is why we have complaints from the friends of Lord Barnby in the United States and from our own people.


There are too many theoretical economists on the Committee.


There is Lord Stamp and two Dons from Cambridge and someone from the Bank of England.


Statisticians know nothing about the conduct of our trade.


I dare say that is the case. I am not in conflict with the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, here. The statistician has his own work to do, and to put him in charge of trade is quite wrong. I have not had the advantage yet of reading The Times article. I usually do not find time to look at The Times till late in the day. I suppose that if the man knows his business who wrote the article, he is urging the need of an Economic General Staff; in other words people who have not any administrative work to do in their own Departments, not the Permanent Secretary of the Board of Trade, for example. You do not want to take these people from their Departments to do this kind of work. You want people who can give their whole time to it. Even Lord Stamp himself has not felt at liberty to give up his other important posts in the railway, banking and insurance worlds. He is not a whole-time economic adviser, and I suggest that what we want is a whole-time Economic General Staff to do this work.

We had exactly this trouble in the Admiralty in the last war and this, I am sure, will interest Lord Stanhope for he probably remembers it. In the Admiralty we had not got any one except the First Sea Lord himself who had any leisure to think. The Second Sea Lord was up to his neck in details of personnel, the Third Sea Lord with material, the Fourth Sea Lord with dockyards and so on, while the Director of Operations was engaged in the day-to-day operations of war and the Director of Intelligence had his own work to do. There was no one to do any planning or thinking ahead or working out policy. We had to form a separate division for the purpose, and eventually it worked quite well. When the Air Ministry was formed they learned this lesson and formed their own planning division. The Germans did this fifty years ago. The great German General Staff was formed on these lines. The planning division, the thinking division of the General Staff, was actually put in a separate building away from the administrative division so that it should not be involved in details of administration. I think it will be found to be absolutely necessary, as the war goes on, to have an Economic General Staff, a sort of duplicate of the War Cabinet to deal with questions like those raised by the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, which are certain to be raised by other noble Lords as they come to their attention and as they think it their duty to ventilate them.

The War Cabinet itself cannot do this. It has other work to do. You do need another body with very great authority who can find out where there exist difficulties, delays and frictions like those described by the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, because the removal of such difficulties, delays and frictions will become more and more necessary as time goes on. I support the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, because I am certain that what he says is true. He speaks of the wool business. Most business men are complaining of delays. Some Ministries appear to be very good but others are very slow. What we need is an Economic General Staff for reorganising these matters.


May I be allowed to interrupt for a moment to say that I agree with everything the noble Lord has said, but I hope he will go further and say that there should be on that staff men at the head of great businesses who have the knowledge of making up raw materials and taking them in finished form abroad and selling them in foreign markets? It is no good putting economic theorists on that job.


You can call in those heads as advisers and assessors, but you have to get experts on this Economic General Staff, men with first-class brains no matter how they may have been trained. They may be trade union leaders. I do not know. If we form a Labour Government we should call for those people and they could bring in these other people mentioned by the noble Lord to advise them.

In some cases these business men have been put at the head of the control of their own trades and I do not think that works well. You should have at the head of a Control absolutely independent people, whether civil servants or others, and if they do not know the details of the business, they can call on the important men in the business to advise them. Now, I believe, men intimately engaged in a business are trying to control that business. That is not our view of the way in which it should be done. With regard to bulk buying—I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, agrees with or opposes that—my Party for years have advised that that should be done, and we are glad that the war has brought at least one good thing: the Government are doing this. It is a kind of Socialism if you like, but that does not matter. You have to run a war on Socialist lines if you are to win. As I say, my Party have been exercised over this problem for some time past and it is going to be raised again shortly in another place. It is a very important matter and we say that it is wrong to put the Chancellor of the Exchequer at this time, when we are fighting the most expensive war in history, as Chairman of the Economic Committee doing this work. The Chairman should be somebody from outside who is quite independent and can give his whole time to the work. The noble Lord, Lord Stamp, if he could have given his whole time to it, would have been an admirable selection, but whoever is appointed must have the right power and the right prestige. The War Cabinet can give decisions when great difficulties arise between Departments, but until the War Cabinet is called on in that way, the man at the head should have authority to impose his will on the Departments. Until you get to that position you will have these difficulties.

We are all agreed in this House that we must help our export trade and, as far as possible, business generally and keep it going. It is a question of balance, as I ventured to say before. You can make absolutely certain that no British goods get to Germany by stopping the whole export trade of the country, or you can risk a few goods going to Germany and at the same time keep going an invaluable export trade and capture German markets, which we ought to be commencing to do. The same point arises in regard to the black-out. We are all agreed about the necessity for the black-out, but where you can make relaxations in industrial districts to help production it is worth taking a risk. For that sort of thing you must have some body with the right staff who can give his whole time to thinking out these problems and dealing with them. I apologise for going a little beyond the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, but I am really trying to help him, as I hope he will realise, and to help not only him but the people in the cotton trade and all other great industries.

4.8 p.m.


My Lords, I did not intend to intervene in this debate but I should like to say one thing. I know something about the problem of wool and the way in which it was dealt with during the last war. When we came to the final settling up of pounds, shillings and pence, we had a profit of no less than £70,000,000 after paying all expenses, interest and charges, which we divided between Australia and ourselves. The Control was a simple one because it was on a commercial business basis. You cannot run a business such as this all over the world unless you adopt business methods with men who have given their lives to that business. You cannot sweep them aside. The solution is simple. Turn to business methods and you will find difficulties disappear and your dollars will arrive and help the exchange.

4.9 P.m.


My Lords, in the absence of my noble and gallant friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence on business connected with the War Cabinet, I have been asked to reply to my noble friend who raised this question. I shall go into the history of the matter and I hope to prove to him that the results of the Government's efforts are not quite so meagre as he thinks. Shortly after the outbreak of war, as my noble friend anyhow is aware, negotiations were begun for the purchase of the entire exportable surplus of the Australian and New Zealand wool clips. The primary purpose was to secure the supplies of wool needed by the fighting Services, but another important consideration was the maintenance of control over the prices of wool in this country for all purposes. It will be appreciated that the negotiation of an arrangement of that magnitude presented some difficulties, but by the middle of October it was possible to announce that agreement had been reached in principle that we should buy the clips for the duration of the war and one clip after it, at stated prices, subject to consultation with the Dominions in the light of any changes in economic or other conditions. Any profits made on sales of wool outside the United Kingdom were to be divided equally between ourselves and the Dominion concerned.

While this has enabled us to proceed so far as supplies to this country are concerned—and, in fact, Australian wool is now coming forward on United Kingdom account—a good deal of further work has been necessary. The details of the financial and practical arrangements had to be settled. It has been part of the definite policy of the Government that so far as possible, and subject to the supply of the requirements of the fighting Services, every endeavour should be made to maintain the normal exports of wool from the Dominions concerned, and, as far as far as possible, through the usual trade channels; but a settlement of the price basis was an obvious essential before supplies could begin. The price agreed upon between the Governments was in each case a single figure of so many pence per pound for the clip as a whole. This for reselling purposes required to be translated into a scale of prices for all the many grades of wool; and such a scale could not be drawn up until progress had been made with the appraisement of the various grades in Australia and New Zealand. Only then was it possible to calculate at what prices wool could be sold for shipment to the United States and other countries. These prices had on the one hand to be not so high as to spoil the market and encourage substitution of other materials for wool, and on the other hand not so low as to put our own manufacturers at a disadvantage.

I have to say that these matters have now been settled, and that the Minister of Supply has been fortunate enough to secure the services of my noble friend Lord Essendon as Chairman of the Committee for the sale of wool abroad. My noble friend has kindly consented to help the Minister in this important work, and will represent him in all negotiations with the Empire Governments in connection with the Empire wool clips which are being acquired by the Ministry, in negotiations with other Governments, and in all other matters in connection with the disposal of the wool not required for this country. Good progress has already been made in the arrangements for the early release and shipment of wool so far as it is available for the immediate requirements of Canada and the United States. There is increased pressure on the crossbred wools, which are largely used for the equipment of the fighting Services, and these must be regarded as in short supply so far as export and civilian trade are concerned; but so far as merinos are concerned ample supplies are available for sale abroad.

The anxiety of the wool-consuming countries concerning future supplies has been fully realised by His Majesty's Government, and the United States in particular were told in October—that is, as soon as agreement with the Dominions had been reached in principle——


Might I ask the noble Lord who he said were told?


The United States were told in October. As soon as agreement with the Dominions had been reached in principle, they were told that we should give them as soon as possible details regarding supplies. About the same time we told their representatives here that we were likely to have considerable supplies of the finer wools for disposal. I should like to add that in the case of Canada it has been possible to supply direct from the United Kingdom wools immediately required by the Canadian mills for the production of military equipment, as well as certain other wools. The supply of wool required for civilian purposes against new orders is now again possible as a result of the recent establishment of a price at which we can supply.

I think I have dealt with the points raised by my noble friend behind me, and I hope I have gone some way anyhow to satisfy him that His Majesty's Government have done and are doing all they can in this important question. I should like to refer to a few remarks which were made in the interesting speech delivered by the noble Lord opposite, Lord Strabolgi. He found fault with the Government, I think, because he said that with the exception of the War Cabinet, which of course is supreme in all these matters, there was no proper directing body—I think he called it a General Staff—to deal with matters like this. I should just like to remind the noble Lord that there is the Home Affairs Committee, which meets continually under the Chairmanship of my right honourable friend the Lord Privy Seal, who is a member of the War Cabinet, and which does indeed deal with questions of this kind and is continually consulting business men. In fact it has, as I said, obtained the services of my noble friend Lord Essendon, who is certainly a business man if ever there was one, to help in this matter of the wool.

I cannot go very deeply into the various matters raised by the noble Lord opposite. That indeed would need a debate by itself, and I cannot attempt to answer him. But I should like to say that naturally—I dare say this has been said before, but I think there is no harm in saying it again—when one going, as this country has gone, from peace to war conditions in a very short time, mistakes and overlapping do occur. I do not know whether the noble Lord opposite found fault with His Majesty's Government. I do not think he did: he said that a lot of mistakes were made because they were doing in two months what it took three years to do in the last war. I do not think he found fault with us, and it would have been rather hard lines if he had. I do not know what the noble Lord opposite, and indeed the country, would have said if, having the experience of the last war behind us, we hack not got a hustle on and done these things rather more quickly than last time. Anyhow, I should like to emphasize to my noble friend and to the House that His Majesty's Government are just as desirous as he or anybody else is to get these matters put on a proper footing. I believe that these matters will get better and these mistakes will get fewer and fewer until the machine is running in all respects with the ease which I am sure we all desire.

4.17 P.M.


My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend for dealing with the points I have raised with the consideration and charm which it is his custom to employ. Before I pass to some of the observations I should like to make, I wish first to ask him categorically—because I find myself at some disadvantage in taking in the technical aspects of the remarks which he read with such clarity but at so great a speed—whether it is to be understood that the Canadian authorities or industry are completely satisfied with the treatment which they are receiving in this matter. Secondly, is it to be understood that an announcement has been definitely made to the industry of the United States that supplies of this class of commodity which is not required for military purposes are now available? Thirdly, is the price definitely stated at which export may be made, either from this country or from the Dominions to which the noble Lord referred?


My Lords, I can only speak again by leave of the House. My noble friend asked me if the Dominion of Canada is completely satisfied with the arrangements which have been made. I do not think anybody in this world is ever completely satisfied, and I should be very surprised if the Dominion were. On the other hand, I have not heard that they were dissatisfied with the arrangements. Concerning his second question, whether the United States were told that we should have considerable supplies of wool for them, my information is, yes, they were told last October. To the third question I am afraid I have not got the answer at the moment, but I will endeavour to obtain it and let my noble friend know,


I thank my noble friend for his reply. I fully realise the difficulties under which he would find himself in dealing immediately with some of these questions, and I will not press him for a specific reply; but I hope I may receive his assurance that there will be active investigation of these points so that there may be no delay in attempting to correct what appears to be some ground for anxiety and restlessness on the part of Canada and on the part of the United States with regard to their supplies. I would draw his attention on that point to my Motion, by which I referred to supplies from the Dominions concerned to Canada and the United States.

On the question of price, I understood my noble friend to say that a price had now been published at which it could be understood that these supplies would be available for export. I refer to prices for controlled articles and wool derivatives from this country and from the Dominions referred to, that is, Australia and Canada. I would remind him that he said that by mid-October an announcement was made in the United States that there would be wool available through the usual channels. I have not been able to get any information with regard to that decision having been made public. There is also the question of a price decision being necessary; but I would draw the noble Lord's attention to his own admission that nothing took place for several weeks. It is hard to understand how there could have been this delay except in the absence of clear thinking as to how to get the thing through. If it took a month to do this, I ask your Lordships, would it have been possible in the purchase of our whale oil, in the purchase of the whole amount of the Dominions sugar, to take a month or six weeks over it before you announce a price and tie up the whole trade of the world? I do not think it is possible. I will conclude by saying that I appreciate the noble Lord's assurance that the questions which I have raised will receive prompt attention. I appreciate also the consideration with which he dealt with my Motion. I hope he will convey to the Department concerned that it has been raised with a view to being helpful and in no way to hinder them. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

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