HL Deb 25 March 1954 vol 186 cc752-70

5.43 p.m.


My Lords, I am now asking you to move with me from the slightly unattractive premises of the slaughterhouse into the much more attractive and, I am happy to say, less controversial premises of the British Industries Fair. As your Lordships are aware, Her Majesty's Government have been concerned for some time about the decline in popularity of the London section of the British Industries Fair, and the object of this short Bill is to enable management of the Fair to be reorganised. As a result of this reorganisation, it is hoped that we may be able to check the decline in the Fair's fortunes and to re-establish it as Britain's most important shop window.

May I, for a moment, remind the House of the origin of the British Industries Fair? Its history goes back to the First World War. It has since been held annually—except once, in 1925, and, of course, during the last war—and it is for me a particularly happy coincidence that the last reorganisation of the B.I.F., which took place after the Wembley Exhibition in 1925, was put before Parliament in plans that were introduced into another place by my father, who was then a representative of the Board of Trade in the House of Commons. The Fair, as your Lordships know, is held concurrently in two sections—London and Birmingham. In general, products of the lighter industries are shown in London, and those of heavier industries—engineering, building, and hardware, and so on—at Castle Bromwich, Birmingham. The London section occupies a little over half a million square feet of exhibition space at Earl's Court and at Olympia. It is organised by the Exhibitions and Fairs Branch of the Commercial Relations and Exports Department of the Board of Trade. Largely because of the change from a sellers' to a buyers' market, the number of exhibitors has fallen from something like 2,300 in 1947 to just over 1,000 in 1953, and the space occupied by exhibitors has been reduced over the same period, but not quite so sharply.

Your Lordships may wonder exactly why this has happened. I think I can best illustrate this by saying that, after last year's Fair, when I had gone round the stalls, it happened to strike my notice that one exhibitor whom I knew by repute was no longer showing his wares. I asked him why this was so and the answer he gave illustrates, I think, the whole problem which we are facing and trying to solve in the Bill. This gentleman manufactures very high-class textiles. He had exhibited for many years before the war. When I asked him his reason for discontinuing, he said: "I am no longer going to exhibit. If I were going to spend £3.000, which is what it would cost me to exhibit, I would rather spend it sending my trained salesmen around the world to markets with which I am familiar. If I spend this money at home, as I used to do on previous exhibitions, judging from my experience I shall not make a penny. Indeed, if I were to collect orders at home, I should be embarrassed because at the moment I cannot fulfil them. It would be a waste of time, a waste of effort, and a waste of money. If, of course, the Board of Trade want me to exhibit in order to add a little glamour and prestige to a national display, well, of course I will do my part, but"—and here is the important bit, my Lords—" the Government must pay."

That, my Lords, is the difficulty we are up against. We have to meet that diffi- culty, and one of the objects of this Bill is to do so. I must add that, with the exception of the 1952 and 1953 exhibitions, the London Section has shown a loss on its trading account in post-war years totalling very nearly £150,000. The Birmingham Section has quite a different record. It is organised by the Binning-ham Chamber of Commerce, who, apart from expenditure on publicity, are entirely responsible for financing their part of the exhibition. The Birmingham Section of the Fair now runs at a profit—it always has done. I think that is largely became Birmingham is fortunate enough to have its own exhibition building, and does not have to pay the heavy rentals with which the London Section is burdened. In fact, I think it is fair to say Mat the London rentals greatly exceed the average annual loss of about £30,000 in running the London Section.

Faced with this problem, the President of the Board of Trade asked his Exhibitions Advisory Committee- to review the management and the whole conduct of the British Industries Fair. This Committee is a standing body which advises the Department on all matters relating to exhibitions and trade fairs, both at hone and abroad. Its members include representatives of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of British Industries, the National Union of Manufacturers and the Trades Union Congress. The Exhibitions Advisory Committee set up a sub-committee, under the Chairmanship of a distinguished industrialist, Sir Ernest Goodale. After a most thorough examination, for which Her Majesty's Government are extremely grateful to Sir Ernest and his colleagues, the sub-committee produced a Report which was adopted by the main Committee and published in November, 1953, as a White Paper—Command Paper 9013—which is now on the Table of your Lordships' House. Because the Report has been published and is, I think, familiar to most of your Lordships who are interested in the subject, I will not do more than give a short summary of the main recommendations.

The principal recommendation is that the B.I.F. should continue annually. It should cater for those industries which are not able to run their own exhibition—in the way that, for example, the motor industry runs the Motor Show—and for those trade buyers from home and abroad who are interested in a wide range of goods and want to examine them at a single fair. The Committee further recommended that the B.I.F. should be more than a trade fair; it should be a pageant of all that is best in British industry.

May I at this point interpose a personal observation? It seems to me that if this recommendation is accepted—as accepted it has been—and if the B.I.F. is to be a shop window and a pageant of all that is best in British industry, there must be no rubbish in the shop window. Those of your Lordships who have been round the Fair year after year, as I have been, must have been struck by the number of exhibitors—not a great many, but a number—who do not seem to have realised the damage they do to British prestige by exhibiting shoddy goods. The trouble is that shoddy goods are contagious. One bad exhibit affects the whole show, and the foreign buyer is apt to take away with him a wrong impression taken solely from the exhibit we should least like to be remembered by. We are not going to hold our place in the markets anywhere if we do not sell our goods more competitively, and our best ground for competition is not mass production, not even keenness of price, but the fine quality of our goods. The new proposals that we are putting forward will not necessarily enable the Fair to display automatically the best possible goods, but I think that the company will have the effect of discouraging those who are still not prepared to put the best goods in our national shop window. Another point which I think I must make is that throughout the years the B.I.F. has provided a service to industry in organising smaller fairs, and it has been responsible for the birth of many specialised trade shows which are now an established and successful means of selling British goods at home and overseas. With the greater flexibility of private management which we now propose for the B.I.F., the Fair will be better able to continue as a general Fair and take under its wing any new displays which may be desirable.

The company's memorandum of association, which your Lordships may have seen, is drawn widely, as such memoranda usually are. It is drawn more widely than people have realised. The company now has powers to organise British exhibitions overseas, and in due course it may be able to perform a useful service in organising displays of British goods at overseas trade fairs. Of course, the main concentration at the moment is upon the B.I.F. at home and its reorganisation, but we have a large part to play in fairs abroad. I think that our organisation is a little haphazard. Either it is done by some private company organising national displays, as was done at the Stockholm Fair, or it is done by a chamber of commerce abroad, or by a commercial attaché, or, as in the case of the Baghdad Fair which is shortly to take place, by the Federation of British Industries who have formed a special company for the purpose. I think that these various arrangements have often worked in the past, but not always.

I speak from a rather melancholy experience. I had the honour of representing Her Majesty's Government at the opening of St. Erik's Fair at Stockholm, the big Swedish international fair. Not to put too fine an. edge on it, our performance there was nothing short of lamentable. I was very sorry, but there was nothing I could do about it. I could not explain to the many foreign buyers and representatives who approached me to ask why I did not do this or prevent that, that I had no power whatever to order any manufacturer to exhibit this, or to prevent any manufacturer from exhibiting that. All the Board of Trade were able to do was to set up an information stand and give such encouragement as people were prepared to accept. There was no more that we could possibly do. The displays made by East and West Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Holland, even China, in the aisles of the Fair did not increase my pride in the manufactures displayed by our own industries. That sort of thing does us much harm. If we cannot hold up our heads higher than most of our rivals in the manufacture of high quality goods, we might as well withdraw altogether and not suffer the loss of prestige which undoubtedly we suffered at the Stockholm Fair. I hope that the rearrangement we are proposing will enable the new company to be of powerful assistance to those who wish to have a British shop window abroad.

Despite many advantages of having a permanent home for the London Section of the Fair, the Goodale Committee thought that they were not justified, in present economic conditions, in recommending the Government to provide buildings which the Committee, known as the Ramsden Committee, whose Report is also on the Table, some years hack estimated would be of benefit to the B.I.F. The reason was solely economic. 'The proposal would have cost something like £6 million to £8 million at the time it was put forward, land to-day it probably would cost something like £12 million. At the moment, we do not think that that is an economically feasible proposition. The Committee therefore reached the conclusion that the management of the Fair, which had hitherto been in the hands of the Board of Trade. should be entrusted to a company which would be responsible for co-ordinating the policy of the Fair in London, in Birmingham and in any other centres which might be established. I should like to emphasise that point. The company should also make special provision for the management of the London Section.

In saying that, I do not wish to imply any criticism of the civil servants who have been running the Fair in London for a long time past. The Goodale Committee recommended, and the Government have advised that the management of a Fair of this kind is a complex job which can best be done by people who are employed continuously on work of this nature, rather than by civil servants who are switched from one job to another every three or four years. I should be the last person to have a word said against the staff of the Board of Trade who have run this Fair. To start with, they have been running it for some twenty-five or thirty years, and nobody has found any serious criticism to level against the way they have done it. In suggesting that the Goodale Committee are right, and that the Government are wise to accept their views, I recognise that civil servants who change from year to year, and Who, by their own regulations, have one hand tied behind their backs, are not perhaps the best equipped, in their position as civil servants, to run this Fair to the greatest advantage and to the greatest confidence of British industry. The arguments for handing over the management of the Fair to private hands are that civil servants, working within the confines of a Government Department, and restricted by rules of Government accounting and accountability, could not run the Fair perhaps quite so well as those who are unrestricted—for example, they cannot build up reserves in good years to carry them over lean periods. If industry were given a greater share in the management, they would regard the Fair more as their own venture and would be prepared to give it greater support than they have in the past.

Therefore, British Industries Fair, Limited, was incorporated on February 3, 1954, to assume responsibility for the Fair. It will have a board of directors of not more than seven in number, comprising a chairman, four independent members, a representative of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and one Government nominee. The power to appoint and remove the chairman and the four independent members of the board is vested in four trustees, who are respectively the Presidents for the time being of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of British Industries and the National Union of Manufacturers—here I should like to say how much. it pleases the Government that the President of the National Union of Manufacturers is my noble friend Lord Rochdale—and, lastly, the Chairman of the Trades Union Congress. Sir Arthur Smout, who, until recently was a director of Imperial Chemical Industries., and who during the war was Director of Ammunition Production for the Ministry of Supply, has. I am glad to say, accepted the appointment of chairman of the new company. Sir Arthur has another important qualification for this post, because for a number of years he was on the Fairs Management Committee of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. Sir Ernest Goodale, who was chairman of the subcommittee which produced the Report to which I have referred, and who has many important interests in the textile industry, has agreed to serve as the director nominated by Her Majesty's Government.

The Bill is a simple one, covering in the first clause the provision of working capital for British Industries Fair. Limited, and. in the second clause, a contribution by Her Majesty's Government towards defraying the expenditure incurred by the Company in advertising the fair. Clause 1 empowers the Treasury to guarantee loans up to £100,000 made to the company during the first five years of its life. The maximum liability to Her Majesty's Government, and therefore to the taxpayer, is £100,000; and I think this might well be compared with the £150,000 losses, to which I have referred, which were incurred in connection with five of the post-war Fairs. Not only, therefore, is the liability of the Government limited in amount, but there are adequate safeguards to ensure a proper control of public funds. Subsection (1) states that the Treasury may give guarantees in such manner and on such conditions as they think fit. Subsection (3) states that the Treasury shall inform both Houses of Parliament when any guarantee is given, and shall present a final statement at the end of the first five years when the guarantee ends. This, coupled with the standing of the four trustees, should, I submit to your Lordships, ensure that the management of the Company is in good and prudent hands.

Clause 2 empowers the Board of Trade to make grants towards the cost of advertising the Fair. These grants will be given on such conditions and will be of such amounts as the Board of Trade may determine. No definite annual sum has been fixed, but the Government recognise the importance of advertising the Fair abroad. The number of overseas buyers who visited the B.I.F. has averaged about 15,000 a year over the past three years. This, I believe, is a higher number of business visitors than attended any of the large international trade fairs in Europe: and I would remind your Lordships that, when compared with the Milan Fair, Brussels, Zurich, Stockholm and so on, it is well to bear in mind that the B.I.F. is a national Fair, while all the other big Fairs are International Fairs. The figures I have given to your Lordships indicate the attention which the Government have given to advertising the Fair in the past. This policy will most certainly be continued. It is sometimes said that the European Trade Fairs, to which I have referred, are advertised more widely and more skilfully than the B.I.F., but most of those Fairs are unable to attract nearly as many overseas visitors as we manage to attract to the B.I.F.

This Bill does not mean that Her Majesty's Government are losing interest in trade fairs, in general, or in the B.I.F., in particular. On the contrary, it is because the Government hope that the Fair will become a more effective means of selling British goods that this reorganisation is suggested. I need not remind your Lordships that competition for overseas markets is daily becoming keener and keener. In the difficult days of German and Japanese competition that must lie ahead it is also essential that there should be the closest association between industry and the Government; and the purpose of appointing Sir Edward Goodale as the Government nominee on the board of British Industries Fair, Limited, is to ensure that there shall be close and permanent links between the company and the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade, and my right honourable friend the President, will give the company all the help they can, and will continue to assist industry, as they have done in the past, to ensure that United Kingdom participation in overseas trade fairs also is maintained at the highest possible level. The Government hope that this Bill will create conditions under which the B.I.F. will flourish, and that the Bill, embodying the recommendations of a representative committee of businessmen. who examined the problem thoroughly will commend itself to the House. I conclude by hoping that your Lordships will give this Bill and the B.I.F. your support. The Fair opens on May 3, and closes on May 14, and I hope that as many of your Lordships as possible will visit it during the hours of 9.30 until 6. I beg to Move.

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

6.6 p.m.


My Lords, we are indebted to the noble Lord for a most interesting presentation of this Bill. I hasten to assure him that my support for this measure is just about as warm as my support for the slaughtering episode previously was cold. I feel that the noble Lord has done a service by frankly saying many of the things he has said. I should like to start from where he left off. I support this Bill. I support it because, in my view, we are starting on the most intensive commercial battle that this country has ever known. Anything that will help this country in its export drive—and that is what we must face as being priority No. 1—should have the support of us all. I can, at least, speak from some experience. Why I like this Bill, and why I like the British Industries Fair, is that, in my view. it is the right type of national advertising. I hold the view that there is far too much money and far too much of the national wealth wasted in persuasive advertising. This is an outstanding example in this country of the form of advertising which is to be commended that is to say, informative advertising.

I think the noble Lord is right. We have to examine why the attendances and the attractions to exhibitors at the British Industries Fair are falling. The noble Lord put his finger on the point. We must in future reorientate our ideas of salesmanship. We must take our goods to our customers: we cannot expect our customers to come here to see the goods. I believe he is right, also, in bringing forward a measure like this which will enable the British Industries Fair to go abroad. His experience in Stockholm was precisely the same as mine when I represented the Board of Trade there during the period of office of the Labour Government. One of the most outstanding examples of the success of industry in taking goods to the customer is to be found in the experience of the motor trade at Geneva. The highest class of product of the British motor industry had an outstanding success there.

But there is something we must do which I suggest the noble Lord and the Government will find most difficult. We have to persuade our manufacturers to intensify their personnel in the overseas markets—because personal contact, by representatives of first-class personality and a great knowledge of the product they are selling, is the finest instrument for selling. Letter writing, and all those old fashioned ideas, have gone. We should take a leaf out of the book of Germany to-day. They are employing intensely-trained young men to go into the bazaars of the East and the remote corners of the earth. They are not sending managing directors who have to stay at nice hotels, but hard-working salesmen. That is the way to capture markets. I have always agreed with the noble Lord that some of our manufacturers do not know the first principle of selling. Good articles, good engineering products, have an external finish that would repulse anybody. I hope this new company will have something that the Board of Trade found it difficult to have, and that is the power of veto—the power to say, "If your goods are not up to standard we will not allow you to exhibit." The Board of Trade never had that power. I hope that that will be a cardinal factor, because it is no good this company thinking that its success as a space-letter is the be-all and end-all of its existence.

The other thing I want the noble Lord to do, if he viii, is to try and improve the standard of our commercial attaches in our Embassies and. Ministries abroad. The universities of this country and the Civil Service are no training ground for the hard work of selling in a fierce commercial market. The commercial attaches attached to our foreign service fall far short of the standard that will be required in the future. I am glad that an attempt has not been made to centralise this Exhibition. One of the reasons why the London site of the British Industries Fair has not been a success is because we have no facilities in this great city to house a decent exhibition. I think Earls Court is the most wretched building have ever seen erected for the purpose of a fair. The amenities are deplorable and the catering arrangements are a disgrace—and that is the biggest exhibition building we have in London. We sadly lack some of the fine halls for exhibition purposes that can be seen in some of the great cities of the world.

I have little more to say, because I do not wish to embarrass the noble Lord by being too full of praise. I hope it will be very successful. I am glad the noble Lord has shown such a splendid example. If he will forgive me for a seemingly personal remark, he himself is a shop window this afternoon for the textile industry. That is commendable. They did not do things of that kind when I was in the Board of Trade, and I do not know why they do it now. There is one serious suggestion I have to make to your Lordships regarding this Bill. One section of the financial provision of this Bill is a guarantee and the other is a grant. It is a grant in aid towards advertising, and it is a guarantee of £100,000 for its operation. Parliament, in its wisdom, will give a grant in aid for advertising, and there Parliamentary responsibility will end. I believe we need greater Parliamentary responsibility on the guarantee side. I make the suggestion to the noble Lord that the President of the Board of Trade should be the chairman of the trustees. The President of the Board of Trade is the Minister who will be answerable to Parliament for what is done under that guarantee. I hope the noble Lord will find that suggestion acceptable. If he does, I am quite willing to put down an Amendment on Committee stage to that effect.

Let me end by saying that now that the British Industries Fair is passing under new management we should at least pay some tribute—and I join with the noble Lord in paying tribute—to the Exhibitions Department of the Board of Trade. I am glad that Mr. Reading, who was such a figure at the Board of Trade when I was there, is now the Director of the British Industries Fair. With his knowledge and the noble Lord's new company, I think we can expect the Fair to play an added part in what we have to do to maintain the exports and the economy of this country.

6.16 p.m.


My Lords, this is a very short Bill, but the shortness and also the small number of your Lordships who I understand wish to speak on it is in no way indicative of the importance of the subject matter, because, underlying this measure, we have something of considerable significance—in fact, the whole future of what has been so aptly described as the national shop window, the British Industries Fair. British industry has sometimes been criticised in times past for paying too little attention to salesmanship. I am not sure that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, did not rather support that point of view. I have heard it said overseas and also by people who otherwise would be our well-wishers that we are inclined at times to take it too much for granted that our goods are wanted and that the world markets are waiting for them to come. Now there may be some justification for that criticism—I hope there is none to-day. At any rate, it would be a dangerous assumption for British industry to act upon now.

To-day, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, says, we cannot afford to neglect any possible way of selling our goods in the highly competitive markets that we are now finding, and we cannot afford to neglect any possible medium that may offer itself to us. I agree with the noble Lord when he says that there is no better way of selling than personal contact. I would add only one point to another connected statement he made, when he referred to the importance of hard-working salesmen. Something more is wanted. The salesmen must not only be salesmen, but they must have quite an amount of technical knowledge. That is equally important. Despite the importance of personal contact, there is a definite place for trade fairs and our participation in trade fairs. My noble friend gave us various figures as to what had been happening in the British Industries Fair over the last few years, and I think that what he told us was quite enough to justify concern as to the trend of things, at any rate in London. So it was right indeed that Her Majesty's Government gave to the Goodale Committee the task of examining the whole position.

In order that we can get the breadth of this examination clearly before us perhaps I should be allowed first to remind your Lordships what the terms of reference of that Committee were. The Committee were asked whether, in the light of recent experience, any change in purpose, character, scope and location of the Fair were called for. Then they were asked: Whether it is desirable and practicable that responsibility for the organisation and administration of the Fair should be assumed in full, or in part, by industrial and commercial interests; and if so, to recommend on what basis this should be done. They were further asked to consider the financial aspects. The result, as my noble friend has said, has been this White Paper (Cmd. 9013) from which I have just been quoting. I should like to join with my noble friend and with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, in applauding the care and energy with which that Committee has done its work. The White Paper has been followed up by this new company, and the Bill, as we have been told, establishes the financial arrangements under which it will start its career.

Towards the end of his remarks, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, made a suggestion with regard to the trustees who appoint the directors and chairman. I should like to comment on that, but I feel it is only right that I should declare an interest to which my noble friend has already referred—not a financial interest but a rather special one, in that in my capacity as President of the National Union of Manufacturers I happen to be one of the trustees. In saying what I am going to say, I do not want it in any way to he thought that I should not be delighted on many occasions to serve under the President of the Board of Trade, but on this occasion, quite frankly, I think the noble Lord's suggestion would not be a right one. I will give a reason for that. After all, the trustees have no financial responsibility that trustees in the ordinary sense have. But, in addition to that, I think the answer is to be found in the White Paper, in one of the recommendations of the Goodale Committee. They went to some pains in paragraph 18 to say that what they had suggested in regard to these trustees was in order to take the matter out of the political field. I know the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, agrees with me that industry is much better if it can be kept away from potties. I would say to him that, appreciating what he has in mind, I think it would be better to leave this particular matter as it is, for that reason.


Will the noble Lord allow me to interrupt? I am grateful to him for taking the trouble to answer my point, and I agree with him; but there is one thing you cannot take out of the political field, however hard you try, and that is the responsibility to the taxpayer for the proper use of the £100,000 guarantee. I would beg him to consider that when you have taxpayers' money, you cannot avoid public responsibility for it. I do not think there is a sufficient responsibility to the public in this particular case. I may be wrong; I am not dogmatic about it; but I would press that point and ask the noble Lord to appreciate the difference between the grant-in-aid, which is voted by Parliament in full knowledge and in its wisdom or otherwise, and the other, which is a guarantee.


The noble Lord will appreciate that the guarantee is due to run out in 1959, when it is estimated that the company should stand on its own feet. We hope, and I feel certain, that that will be the case. I take the noble Lord's point, but I should have thought, in the circumstances and taking both sides of the case, that the nominee of the President of the Board of Trade on the board itself should be a reasonable safeguard.

However, to pass on, I should like to refer to what my noble friend has already said on the appointment of Sir Arthur Smout to the chairmanship of this company. I certainly wish him well in his task, particularly sc. because I think the task has great opportunities. My noble friend referred to another matter in the White Paper when he alluded to the Goodale Committee's statement that they regarded the British Industries Fair as more than a mere trade fair and as something that should project British industry on the world and be the pageant of all that is best in it. To my mind, that raises the whole concept of what some of us may have felt about the Fair in the past. It puts it on an entirely different level altogether. It offers something with immense scope and great opportunity for imagination and all that is best in private enterprise.

I would only add on that particular point that I am glad that that concept has been translated, admittedly in rather more prosaic words, into the memorandum of association of the company. Conditions have changed so much over the last few years, as has already been referred to—for instance, there has been the passing of the sellers' market, and so on. Most of us have forgotten the sellers' market by now, and there is no doubt that the type of Fair that was applicable yesterday may not be the type of Fair that we want to-day, and may not necessarily be the type of Fair that will be needed to-morrow. I can quite see that, with that need for flexibility, my noble friend could perhaps not be expected to be any more precise in the financial arrangements which he described to us. I personally think that there are adequate safeguards.

I come back here to a point that the noble Lord has mentioned. Of one thing which we have we can be sure: we have, first of all, a company which will start off with a sound financial backing. Secondly, we have a chairman and, I have no doubt, soon we shall have a board of directors as well who will have the support and confidence of industry which is essential if the show stands are to be filled. Thirdly, we have a body that, whilst able to enjoy a far greater degree of continuity of direction and management than hitherto, will also be free to pursue a policy as completely flexible as practical considerations permit. The noble Lord opposite mentioned in the course of his remarks the power of veto. I had not thought of that, but I must admit that it seems a very right and proper power for any board of directors to have in regard to its operations. I have heard it suggested in some quarters that this flexibility offers all sorts of opportunities, and in particular the suggestion I heard was that there might even be a floating British Industries Fair to tour the world. I remember in the War hearing of, seeing, and being on floating headquarters ships that bristled with wireless and radar, but whether it would be appropriate for any dictum on such a suggestion to emanate from Parliament at this stage and perhaps prejudice the board whom we want to start off with completely open minds, I am rather doubtful. I certainly wish the new company well.

Before I conclude, like my noble friend and the noble Lord opposite, I should like to add my tribute to those in the Board of Trade who have so gallantly and imaginatively carried on the work of the British Industries Fair in London since it was started, I think in the middle of the First World War. One other thing I should say is that I am very glad that the debate on this Second Reading has passed so harmoniously, because it looks as though the remaining stages of the Bill may pass through quickly. I can assure your Lordships that there is a need for haste. It may not always be recognised that it is already getting rather late for the consideration of the planning of the 1955 Fair, and therefore, if there is anything that we can do to hasten this measure so that the work can go ahead, so much the better. I am glad to support this Bill.

6.30 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to the House for having given this Bill such a friendly welcome. There are very few points, so far as I can understand, that separate either the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, or my noble friend Lord Rochdale and myself. The only one I could detect was this question of the President of the Board of Trade, or one of his representatives, being chairman of the trustees. My Lords, I do not think that is a very good idea. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, that it is essential that there should be Parliamentary oversight of the taxpayers' money; but I think we already have that under the Bill. There are two separate financial provisions: the guarantee of the first £100,000 and the grant. The guarantee can be supervised by Parliament, because under the Bill both the initial application for a guarantee and any subsequent application have to be laid before both Houses of Parliament. Therefore, the application can be debated, and rejected if considered unsatisfactory.

As to the other financial provision, the grants, which are largely for advertising, they, of course, can be debated by Parliament on the Board of Trade Estimates, so that the whole sum that can possibly be expended on this B.I.F., Limited, is subject to Parliamentary control. Even if that were not so, I should not welcome the presence of my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade, under whom I serve so happily, as the chairman of the trustees, because, as my noble friend Lord Rochdale has said, it would do the one thing we are trying to avoid—namely, perpetuate the link between the Board of Trade and industry. It would immediately arouse in the bosoms of businessmen the suspicion that the hand of the President was upon them once again. That is what we want to avoid. I agree that some link must be there, but we have the link through the President's nominee. I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, to think that one over; if he is not happy, I will try to convince him further afterwards. But I do not really think that that would be in any way a satisfactory solution to his problem.


I can give the noble Lord my answer now. I think that perhaps the balance of argument is in favour of what the noble Lord has said, and in order that there should be no difference of opinion at all upon this, and in order that we may go forward harmoniously, I shall not raise the matter again.


I am obliged to the noble Lord. That is the first time I have convinced him of anything in the last six months; it is a very happy event indeed. For my part, the noble Lord has entirely convinced me (not that I needed much convincing) of the need for dynamic salesmanship. And my noble friend Lord Rochdale added strongly to that point. I remember visiting a firms about six months ago, and being impressed by seeing, hanging above the desks of every executive in that firm, a small notice bearing the words: "Our goods will not sell themselves." I wish more manufacturers would bear that in mind. I wish that more manufacturers would realise that sales will not necessarily be achieved by their sitting behind a large cigar in the Savoy Grill. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, is right in saying that the only way that manufacturers can sell goods is by journeying into the market where somebody else is underselling them.

The noble Lord, Lord Rochdale, asked me about a floating B.I.F. I take it that he was referring to the proposal that when the "Gothic" returns from her present happy task she should be reconstructed, rather in the way that the "Campania" was reconstructed during the Festival of Britain. I do not strongly favour that proposal. The "Campania" cost £500,000 to reconstruct; so would the "Gothic." I do not believe for a moment that industry would support such action. It would be very expensive and impracticable, and I do not believe that the harbours of Great Britain would welcome such a project. Furthermore, I think that the principal effort of the B.I.F. should be to attract the buyers to the goods, and not take the goods round to the potential buyers. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, raised one more point—namely the subject of commercial attachés. There may be something in what he said—I do not know. He has probably read the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates on this subject. If I may say so, it is a little wide of the Bill, and is something that we might discuss on another occasion. My Lords, I think I have answered most of the major points raised in this debate. I conclude by thanking the House for giving the Bill such a friendly reception.

On Question, Bill read 2, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.