§ 2.41 p.m.
§ [The question was as follows:
§ To ask His Majesty's Government how many American dollars they contemplate making available for the purchase of tobacco and films from the United States of America in 1947, and whether, having regard to the accentuation of this country's economic difficulties by the direct and indirect consequence of the recent cold weather and floods, they adhere to the policy announced by the President of the Board of Trade on March 10 last of taking no immediate steps to reduce this expenditure of dollars for unessential purposes.]
§ LORD HENDERSON
My Lords, as regards tobacco, it is not yet possible to estimate accurately the reduction of consumption which will follow upon very sharp increases in prices caused by the increase in the import duty on tobacco recently approved in another place. Nor is it possible to foretell the prices which the 1947 tobacco crop will fetch at the American auctions when they open in the autumn. But if expenditure on United States tobacco last year to cover home consumption is reduced by 25 per cent. the saving would be some£8,000,000. The expected expenditure on films, as stated in the Economic Survey (Cmd. 7046), is£18,000,000. If he is a smoker he noble Lord will realize that very strong measures have already been taken to reduce the consumption of tobacco. As regards films, every effort is being made to increase the production of British films of high quality so that more British screen time will be occupied by British films. This policy is having a considerable measure of success, but the whole position is being kept constantly under review. I would remind the noble Lord that the Cinematograph Films Act, 1938, will expire at the end of March, 1948, before which time the general policy will have to be fully considered.
In reply to the last part of the noble Lord's question, I am unable to agree with him in the interpretation which he seeks to place upon the speech by my right honourable friend, the President of the Board of Trade, to which he refers. My right honourable friend was not then, so 6 far as I am aware, seeking to lay down what is or is not an essential import On the other hand, in his reference to tobacco and film imports on that occasion he made it clear that His Majesty's Government were giving serious consideration as to the best way in which action could be taken to reduce dollar expenditure on these items.
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
I thank the noble Lord, if I may, for the manner, rather than for the matter, of his reply. May I suggest that it does not answer my question at all, as to how many dollars in the planned economic system for which the Government are responsible they contemplate spending on these purposes? May I ask, further, whether there is any real reason why the number of dollars spent on unessentials like tobacco and films should be left to be determined by the consumer, while the number of dollars spent on much more essential purposes is rigidly limited by the Government?
§ LORD HENDERSON
The noble Lord has bowled a fast ball. I am not able to give the answer. I have indicated in my reply that dollar expenditure will be reduced by reason of the effect of the new taxation. If the noble Lord wishes to pursue the point which he has raised in his supplementary question, I think that perhaps the best thing would be for him to put down a question on the Order Paper.