HC Deb 04 December 1946 vol 431 cc112-4W
Mr. N. Macpherson

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will make a statement regarding the commissions at present engaged in negotiating the purchase of furniture for import to this country; and whether any limit of value has been imposed on the quantities which may be imported monthly or yearly.

Mr. Marquand

Furniture imports are subject to two important conditions—first, that we should import only domestic furniture of a type and price suitable for inclusion in the Utility scheme; and second, that no purchases of furniture should be made which might in any way prejudice our supplies of timber. We buy furniture in addition to timber, not instead of timber.

When suitable offers have been made, missions are sent to the countries of potential supply to conclude firm agreements to purchase, and to see that their furniture will meet our requirements in every way. These missions consist of administrative and technical officers from the Board of Trade, whose job it is to see that the furniture conforms to Utility standards. They are accompanied by not more than three representatives of the Furniture (Emergency) Import Association, which is a body set up by the trade to make the actual purchases and to handle the distribution of the furniture. Such missions have so far visited Canada, Finland, Holland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria and Italy.

A total sum of £5 million has been authorised for these purchases. There is no fixed time limit on the expenditure of this sum and it is not sub-divided into monthly or yearly quotas. Up to date, firm contracts have been placed for just under £2 million worth of furniture. In addition, a further £1 million has been authorised for expenditure on furniture suitable for the rehabilitation of hotels and of this sum £746,000 has been spent.

I should make it clear that the purchases are not made on public account. The transactions, though approved by the Board of Trade, are between members of the Import Association and the foreign exporter