Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £9,529,820, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1949, for the salaries and expenses of the office of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade and subordinate departments, including the cost of certain trading services; assistance and subsidies to certain industries, certain grants in aid; and other services.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley)
I was hoping that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade would give us some explanation of some of the items in this Vote.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. John Edwards)
I shall be very happy to do so.
§ Mr. Macmillan
The hon. Gentleman would not have risen unless I had done so, and the Vote would have gone through without discussion.
There are one or two major items, and one or two minor ones, to which I should like to call the hon. Gentleman's attention. I should like to take the smallest first—Subhead II, S, "Assistance to craftsmen." This Vote has caused me a certain amount of interest because it is one of the examples of the queer wonderland world in which we live today. A sum of £3,000 is voted in the revised Estimate for assistance to craftsmen. But
if we look to see what that Estimate really is we see a little note at the bottom of the page which says:
A sum of £1,000 has been advanced from the Civil Contingencies Fund for this service and a corresponding amount of this Vote is required to enable repayment to be made to that Fund.
That seems all right. Then we turn over the page to find out what this assistance to craftsmen is. It is a
Grant to the Crafts Centre of Great Britain to enable payments to be made to craftsmen to counteract the effect of purchase tax on articles reaching approved standards of design and craftsmanship.
This opens up a great vista of thought and speculation. How does this work? First of all, we have Purchase Tax on art and on design, though why we should have Purchase Tax on artistic designs I do not understand. I am happy to say that upon literary productions there is no Purchase Tax, but there is on artistic productions in the realm of drawing, painting and other crafts.
§ Having got this elaborate system of Purchase Tax, there is then what one might call a rebate or withdrawal of the tax when the articles reach the "approved standards of design and craftsmanship." Approved by whom? This opens up quite a picture of the new censorship upon artistic production; if the desigi meets the approval of the Government of the day then the Purchase Tax is repaid, but if the design does not meet with their approval then presumably it does not meet the "approved standards of design and craftsmanship," and the tax stands. I do not know how this is applied, or by what criterion it is applied—whether by the economic formulae or by the more advanced formulae.2383
§ Where would Picasso stand if he were to be subjected to this tax? It opens up quite an agreeable picture into which the Parliamentary Secretary, new to this position, no doubt has made some inquiries. It would be quite interesting to know, first of all, why there is the absurdity of this Purchase Tax upon artistic designs; secondly, why this elaborate system of withdrawal has to be made; and thirdly, how and by what authority, by what criterion and by what decision this splendid phrase "approved standards of design and craftsmanship" is decided.
§ Those of us who have recently been to the exhibition of the Chantrey Bequest pictures will know what is meant by approved standards of design and craftsmanship. I should like very much to have some elucidation of the procedure by which this now all-powerful Government, this new totalitarian State that advances upon us stage by stage, decides whether a picture, a drawing, a piece of craftsmanship or art is such as to merit a withdrawal of Purchase Tax or whether it should be still subject to Purchase Tax, and how it makes this grave decision between the Leicester Galleries upon one side, or Sir Alfred Munnings upon the other. I see that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply is here, refreshed by our morning's work in the Standing Committee on the Iron and Steel Bill. He does not come on until much later. He can go and have some refreshment if he likes.
§ I now come to something of greater importance, on which I would like to have some elucidation. We have had four days of Debate upon what is perhaps the most important subject—I say advisedly "the most important subject"—which now ought to occupy the minds of the people of this country, the defence of their freedom against the threats which now oppose it. We have had great Debates first upon the Ministry of Defence Vote, and then upon the three Service Votes. As we move into a situation which reminds me more and more of those terrible years before the war—I should say the situation is very much like it was in 1937—the people of this country are beginning to realise the weakness of their defence position, the neglect of it and the terrible dangers which beset them. Therefore, I, 2384 for one, am very glad to see, and certainly do not in any way challenge, Item 1.5 on page 64 of the Estimates—"Purchase and storage of strategic reserves." The original Estimate was £100,000 and the revised Estimate is £10 million. I am very glad indeed. I certainly should not in any way oppose this new item which has come before Parliament.
§ I very well remember the Debates in the years to which I have referred for an analogy with this year—1937 and 1938. I remember particularly the right hon. Member the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) calling our attention at that time, perhaps more than any other expert, to the importance of building up a store of strategic reserves of raw materials and of other important products in view of the dangers with which we were then threatened. In a similar situation, when the same or a comparable danger threatens us, I am glad to see, and I hope that the country will take note of, this important item: "Purchase and storage of strategic reserves."
§ I do not wish to press His Majesty's Government to tell us the precise materials or products upon which this money is to be expended. I take it that it is really, at this high figure of £10 million—which is very small in relation to the enormous sums which will be required for this purpose—something in the nature of a token Vote. I do not suppose they can tell us just what they will require to spend in the ensuing year for this purpose. While I have raised the question and would like some elucidation of this matter, I have done so not in any way in a critical but rather in a complimentary spirit, because I am very glad to see that this important item is being taken care of, at least in an initial way, in a period so full of danger and trouble as the present time.
§ I do not think there are any other items to which I wish to call the Government's attention, although there is another item to which some of my right hon. and hon. Friends wish particularly to refer. I wish to mark, and to call the attention both of the Committee and the nation to this Item I.5, and I should be grateful for some information—whatever the Government feel within the grounds of security they can give by way of information. I should like to say that, so far as this side of the Committee is 2385 concerned, we do not challenge but welcome this particular item of expenditure. At the same time we should like to be reassured and to be given some picture of the general scale and the general plan on which this question of building up strategic reserves is in fact operating. I have called attention to what seems to us to be the most important item in this Vote. If the Parliamentary Secretary can say something about the smaller matter, I shall be interested and amused. On the major matter, I merely ask him to give the maximum degree of information which he thinks that it is proper to give on this important item.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Erroll (Altrincham and Sale)
There are several matters on this Supplementary Estimate to which I would like to call the attention of the Committee. Under sub-head H.8—Festival of Britain, 1951—I see that the initial sum of £25,000 is being granted. We have had an opportunity in a recent Debate of discussing the whole field of this Festival, and I merely wish to raise on this Supplementary Estimate one matter which seems to be going wrong already. I should therefore much appreciate assurances on this point. I understand that the new concert hall to be erected in connection with this Festival is to be erected alongside a very busy railway line, carrying a large amount of traffic.
§ Mr. J. Edwards
May I ask, Mr. Bowles, whether we are discussing the Festival of Britain broadly, or only the grant which is to be made to the Council of Industrial Design?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Gentleman is going rather too wide. Twenty-five thousand pounds has already been spent, and he must confine himself to that.
§ Mr. Erroll
In that event, could I have an assurance that the Council of Industrial Design has nothing whatsoever to do with the concert hall which is being erected adjacent to a very busy railway line, the traffic on which will interrupt the concerts?
§ Mr. Erroll
Then I am sorry that I should have gone so wide. I pass, 2386 therefore, to the next item on which I should appreciate information: namely, Item I.5, the purchase and storage of strategic reserves. This matter has already been touched upon by my right hon. Friend, but there are certain specific queries I wish to put. First, while appreciating the necessity of maintaining a degree of security in this matter, I ask whether the Minister could indicate what types of stores he intends to put to reserve. What minerals and what raw materials are actually to be purchased with this sum? Perhaps he could also give us an indication of the methods of purchase. I do not wish to embark upon a discussion of the relative merits of State purchasing and private purchasing, but it would be useful to have an indication from the Minister of the respective extents to which we will rely on private purchase on an agency basis on behalf of the Department, and the methods of bulk purchase, with which the Committee is already familiar.
Again, who will decide what materials should be so purchased? Will it be entirely a matter for the Department? Is it for the Service Departments, or the Ministry of Defence? Of will it be exclusively a matter for the Ministry of Supply to place an indent, so to speak, with the Board of Trade to lay in a stock of the necessary raw materials? Strategic stockpiling has been a feature of the economic activities of the United States for many months now, and I should like to learn whether we are collaborating with them to ensure that there is not an unnecessary duplication of this stockpiling. Are we, indeed, coordinating our respective plans in this regard?
I would query, too, whether the modest additional sum of £9,900,000 is really sufficient. It may be sufficient for purchases immediately contemplated, but perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary, when replying, could give an indication of his future intentions in this very important field—
§ Mr. Erroll
I may have bowled a wide, but I do not think I could have been 2387 off-side. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary could tell us if he wished. In any case, I wish now to pass to item T, the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices Commission. We are here granting a sum of £5,700 for their salaries and initial expenses. Thus, the Commission is to be set up, and the Committee has already been informed of the first six industries which are to come before it. In fact, everything would seem plain except one important and vital factor, and that is how the industries to be accused are to defend themselves. If we are to grant this money to the Monopolies Commission, then the Commission should, without any delay, outline its intentions on its method of working.
Are individual firms to be summoned to appear before it, or is the whole industry to band together first to present its case collectively? Indeed, are the firms to be told in advance the charges against them? How are they to state their cases? May they employ counsel? Who are to be the representatives of those firms? It is a matter of very real concern to the industries which have been named in this House, and I think that before granting a sum of money to this Commission we are entitled to have from the Parliamentary Secretary a clear indication of the intentions of the Monopolies Commission in this regard.
I know the Minister may say in defence that it will be for the Commission to decide the procedure; but I am quite sure that the Commission will not be deciding its procedure without a very clear directive from the Minister. The Committee is surely entitled to an explanation of the procedure and to be told how it will work in regard to the firms and industries affected. It is particularly important for the firms to know whether they are to appear individually or collectively, how much notice they will be given before they are summoned to appear and what they will have to say when they appear. These are matters of very great practical importance and they are essential if the work of the Commission is to be of the value we all hope it will be. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will give a very full outline of the procedure the Commission intends to adopt when it is granted the sum of £5,700.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. David Eccles (Chippenham)
I want to make some inquiries regarding item J, "Expenses in connection with recovery of salvage." I was prompted to look into this item which asks for £188,000 in addition to the original Estimate of £500,000, by the following extract from the 36th annual report of the Metal and Waste Traders' Association issued on 28th February:The Salvage and Recovery Department …of the Board of Trade—… appeared to know very little about the trade; this Department's work being confined almost entirely to salvage and recovery by local authorities. Time has shown that with constant change of personnel the Salvage and Recovery Department is not to be regarded as a Department which has any but a slight interest in the trade.It goes on in that spirit. That is a serious accusation from a trade association who say that they cannot co-operate with the Salvage and Recovery Department of the Board of Trade. However, they say in another part of the report—we would all agree—that the Raw Materials Department of the Board of Trade is a very good Department, and so is the Raw Materials Department of the Ministry of Supply. The money we are voting is probably divided between the stimulation of the collection of kitchen waste and the stimulation of the collection of waste paper. We must ask some questions about both these occupations. Does the Minister think he is getting his money's worth? How big is the staff of the Department? How much are they paying in advertising?
I start with the kitchen waste. After all, that is a subject into which we ought to inquire because the object of collecting the kitchen waste is to increase the supply of pig meat, and therefore it is of very great importance to hon. Members that this should be done efficiently and to the greatest possible extent. It is noticeable that this Estimate first appeared in the Board of Trade's figures only in 1946, when it was £266,000. That year there was a Supplementary Estimate of £116,000 for kitchen waste. I want to know whether the type of subsidies given then—we have not heard any different since—remain; that is to say, are local authorities still allowed 10s. a ton for the delivery of kitchen waste to concentrating plants not operated by themselves? 2389 That was the original subsidy granted in 1947.
It was estimated at that time that 270,000 tons of kitchen waste would be collected and that £160,000 would have to be paid as a transport subsidy over and above the original subsidy. That made a subsidy of 22s. a ton, roughly speaking. Is that worth while? That is sold to the pig keeper, I think, at 30s. a ton. The taxpayer is paying 22s. a ton. Can the Minister tell us how that works out in regard to the cost per pig? In November, 1947, a second subsidy was granted of 7s. 6d. a ton to those local authorities who had a concentrator of their own but who did not produce more than 7,000 tons a year. At the time, if my memory serves me right—
§ The Deputy-Chairman(Mr. Bowles)
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to interrupt. May I ask the Minister whether pig food and feedingstuffs for animals are covered by the Vote of his Department or not? I am not quite sure.
§ Mr. Eccles
That inquiry, Mr. Bowles, prompts me to say what an extraordinary thing it is that the Board of Trade, of all Departments, should be mixed up with the feedingstuff business. It is because I think it might be the Ministry of Food, the Ministry of Agriculture or even the Ministry of Health that this needs looking into. The hon. Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Mrs. Middleton) asked the President of the Board of Trade recently whether he did not think this type of 7s. 6d. subsidy to the small concentrators was a silly kind of subsidy. After all, why draw the line at 7,000 tons? If any local authority is processing 6,900 tons it gets a subsidy, but if it is stupid enough to process 7,100 tons it does not get the subsidy. That is absurd. If the object, as I am sure it is, is that we should get as much extra food as possible to the pigs, then the subsidy should be graduated, and if it is found that those local authorities who have large concentrating plants do not need so much subsidy, then graduate the subsidy in some way that preserves the incentive right through. I ask the Minister whether that has been changed in recent times.
Now I turn to what I think is a much more doubtful proposition, and that is the 2390 waste paper collection which was started in 1942. It must be the fact that waste paper arising from domestic houses does not pay for collection by the ordinary merchant; on the other hand, waste paper that arises from industrial premises always has been a paying proposition to the merchants. This Department of the Board of Trade did not collect as much waste paper in 1948, when the total quantity of new paper being turned out was much greater, as it did in 1942. It has not been doing as efficiently. Are we getting our money's worth there?
The trade say that the Salvage and Recovery Department, in order to increase their operations, go round the local authorities and try to persuade them to collect waste from industrial premises as well as from houses. That may be all right on the theory that municipal trading is better morally than private trading, but it is bad for the taxpayer because he has to pay a subsidy for these people. I cannot figure it out exactly, but it looks as though over about 200,000 tons of waste the taxpayer is paying some £83,000 to local authorities. under this arrangement directly—a sum at least equal to that of the salaries of the staff, the advertising campaign and the rest. That is 10s. a ton subsidy on waste paper.
There may have been a time when it was justifiable to do everything we possibly could to collect waste paper, but those days have past. We have now bigger newspapers and more newspapers, and waste paper today is in comparatively easy supply—so easy, that the Board of Trade is refusing to allow the Dutch to send us some here, which they would like to do. There may be a good reason for keeping it out if we do not have the Dutch exchange. It proves, however, as everyone knows, that waste paper today is not in the same short supply as it was. Local authorities were stimulated by the Salvage Department to do this job, but, apart from very rare exceptions, they do not sort or grade the waste paper which they collect. They make a direct contract with the Thames Board Mills, to whom they ship it direct. Once waste paper is made into cardboard it remains cardboard for ever; but if it is carefully graded it can he made again into its original form of quality paper and used, perhaps, 10 or 20 times before it is finally necessary to put it into cardboard. Therefore, not only is the Department doing an injury to 2391 merchants when it persuades local authorities to collect from industrial premises, but it is acting foolishly for the paper-making trade inasmuch as the paper is not sorted and graded as it would be if collection were left to the merchant. The time has come to try to save a few thousand pounds and I hope the Minister will shut down that part of the waste paper collection which could be done perfectly well by merchants.
Has the Minister put on the mat or sacked anybody for their peculiar antics over the salvage of bottles? No doubt, some of this Estimate goes to pay for the absolute fiasco of his bottle campaign. A year ago the Department said that there was a great shortage of soda ash and that everyone must collect his own bottles. A great campaign was launched and all local authorities were told to collect bottles. The trade was brought in and was told to take the bottles and that there would be a good market for them. There never has been a market for them. Everyone is over-stocked, and bottles are lying everywhere in heaps. Local authorities are now writing to the trade to ask, "Can you tell us of any merchant who will buy our bottles? We have been told by the Board of Trade to take them." The whole of the bottle campaign was a complete fiasco.
§ Mr. J. Edwards
As far as I understand it, no part of the bottle collection is to be borne on the Vote we are discussing.
§ Mr. Eccles
I hope the hon. Gentleman is correct, but I think that it was the officers of his Department who stimulated local authorities to make the collection. If this is not so, there must be yet another Department which deals with local authority salvage.
§ Mr. Edwards
I think the hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me. What I am saying is that in this Supplementary Estimate we are not concerned with any of the costs of bottle collection.
§ Mr. H. Macmillan
Since the Parliamentary Secretary did not think fit to explain what is in the Supplementary Estimate, we are placed in an extreme difficulty. We were merely given a certain figure, without any kind of the explanatory note which is commonly given 2392 to facilitate proper debate on these matters. If he tells us that no part of this £188,000 is connected with the matter of which my hon. Friend is speaking, then we accept it. It would be very much better if, with the Supplementary Estimates, we were given some information as to what was covered.
§ Mr. Edwards
I thought I might be able to save the time of the Committee and would be meeting the wishes of hon. Members if I pointed out to the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles), to whom I listened carefully, that the matter to which he referred was not included in the Vote, particularly as on an earlier occasion the Chairman had asked me what the Supplementary Estimate covered.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I well remember that at one time this salvage operation was in the hands of the Ministry of Supply. But for my activities it would still be there. I succeeded in selling it to the Ministry of Works. Lord Reith bought it from me. It was a very bad business and it is unfortunate that it now resides in the Board of Trade. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply is well out of it. Are we to understand that the Vote covers not the whole of salvage, but only certain particular items? If so, may we be told what those items are, so that we may know what part of the Debate will be in Order? Unless some explanation is given the Debate becomes very difficult.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Now that we are told that bottle salvage is not in the Supplementary Estimate, any further reference to it would be out of Order.
§ Mr. Eccles
We have sufficient evidence on the bottles tonight and I shall not refer to that any more, but this is a block Estimate for the Department and therefore I was not able to know what it contained. I would like to end on a point which my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) raised. It is quite clear that we are not—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Member is not in Order if this 'Supplementary Estimate does not cover bottle salvage.
§ Mr. Macmillan
On a point of Order, Mr. Bowles. Since this is a block Vote, merely stating expenses in connection with the recovery of salvage, surely under that any question on salvage is in Order, for it is not within the knowledge of the Committee what subjects of salvage—whether potatoes or paper—are covered. If the Government place a block Vote of this kind on a general item is it not in Order to discuss all the matters which are within the province of the Board of Trade and to deal with the question of salvage?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I think the right hon. Gentleman is wrong. A Supplementary Estimate is needed for certain items of the Department. They may need it for bottles or they may need it for paper, or for pig food, but now we are told by the Parliamentary Secretary that it does not cover bottles and discussion on that matter must be out of Order.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)
No doubt it will be in your recollection, Mr. Bowles, as you are an old Member of this House, that on numerous occasions when it has been desired to exclude certain items, the phrase has been used, "other than 'and it would have been possible to have said" other than bottles.'
§ The Deputy-Chairman
That may be so and it may be helpful to the Committee on another occasion, but I am afraid that on this occasion I must rule as I have ruled.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
Bottles are a most absorbing subject, if I may say so. The Parliamentary Secretary has said that bottles are not included. Have we just to accept that statement? Surely, in order to show that bottles are not included, he should read the list of what is included.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Perhaps if no other hon. Member gets up and the Minister is allowed, he will do so. The hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) has the Floor and I ask him to continue.
§ Mr. Eccles
When last speaking, I was not referring to the subject which is now out of Order. I was trying to pick up a point from my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley that this is an omnibus Estimate. What stands out alarmingly that the efficiency of this Department must be impaired because it deals with so many subjects—to wit, pig food, for one—which do not come under the Board of Trade at all. I ask whether this is not the result of starting with waste paper, paper being a Board of Trade commodity and the collection by local authorities being considered necessary, and then gradually as someone came along and said they would like something else collected by the local authorities, a whole lot has been wished on to the Salvage and Recovery Department of the Board of Trade. The fact is that this is now a tremendous muddle and we ought to know how many people are employed and what are the expenses of the advertising campaign they carry on.
Would it not be better to put back the business of collecting these commodities to the Departments which really should deal with them? That is the opinion of the trades concerned. The trades concerned all tell me, "When we deal with the main problem of our commodity, we get on very well with the civil servants whose business it is to study that all the time. When we come to the waste products of our commodity, if it is anything to do with the house-tohouse collection we have to go to the Salvage and Recovery Department of the Board of Trade. Those gentlemen know nothing about the main facts of our business so the thing is not efficiently done." So a lot of the taxpayers' money is wasted. It would be much better if this Department were shut down and the work re-allocated amongst Ministries which know something about it.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)
I do not propose to explore further the subject of bottles since it is not very easy to know whether hon. and right hon. Gentlemen wish to make a contribution about bottles or whether they have received a contribution from bottles. I begin by making the submission to you, Mr. Bowles, that in respect of one item which has already been discussed, that is Item I.5, my hon. Friend 2395 the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) is perfectly in Order in asking that the Minister should give some answer upon this matter of the stockpiling of strategic reserves and the association of the Americans with British policy. It appears that in the original Estimate a sum of £100,000 was provided which could be taken as initiating the whole procedure of stockpiling. Within six months of that time a revised Estimate for £10 million is brought forward, namely, an excess of £9,900,000. Therefore this Supplementary Estimate represents the initiation and early development of this whole policy of stockpiling. I submit that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade would be perfectly in Order in replying to some of the questions put by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale.
I wish to say a word about item J—the recovery of salvage, particularly with reference to waste paper. Some time ago the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg), whom I do not see in his place, raised a question about this matter, and we were then told that the price paid by the Board of Trade for this waste paper was £6 7s. 6d. per ton, but the President of the Board of Trade said there had recently been a re-arrangement of prices and that the result was that the collections from local authorities would be stimulated. This does not appear to have been the case, because there is a good deal of evidence today that the recovery of salvage is not proceeding adequately. Indeed, it is so bad that the Board of Trade has been compelled to buy from Sweden and in one order alone has brought 5,000 tons of waste paper here at a cost of £120,000.
I wish to find out exactly what is the policy of the Government in this regard. They are not paying sufficient prices to the home producer of waste paper to extract it so that, as we all know, local authorities are having to put on the rates their expenditure for the duties laid upon them. Alternatively the waste paper is not coming forward and yet the Government buy from Sweden and perhaps from other countries a great deal of waste paper. In all the circumstances there appears to be a policy of complete muddle on this question of waste paper. I am quite certain that my hon. Friend The Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) 2396 is right in saying that the whole process should now be divorced altogether from the Government and local authorities. Why do they interfere with it? Why does Socialism require us to go on and on with this business of State trading albeit in such mandane questions as waste paper? They cannot even make a success of waste paper. They cannot make a success of the Armed Forces of the Crown. They cannot make a success of waste paper. Had not they better get out of the whole thing and save the taxpayer a good deal of money by decentralisation, by the elimination of controls and Board of Trade operations which now govern this whole business? The sooner it is returned to the simple merchants of this country the better.
§ The President of the Board of Trade(Mr. Harold Wilson)
I am reluctant to interrupt the noble Lord on such an important point, but as I spent two or three hours last night with the simple waste paper merchants and had long discussions with them; as it was made quite clear to anyone who read the speeches last night that this business is in the hands of the merchants, and has been for a very long time; and as, apart from price control, there is no control over their activities, I hope the noble Lord will be satisfied.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
That is the whole point. So long as the price control policy of the right hon. Gentleman operates, so long will we rind in these Estimates and Supplementary Estimates, year by year, large sums laid out which have some attachment to this policy of the purchase of waste paper. I suggest that he gets rid of the whole thing and allows not only the actual physical trade to be conducted by the merchants but the price to go free.
I desire to pass finally to subhead H.6, the British Institute of Management. I wish to know what is this sum of £20,000 which is there laid out? There appears to be quite a number of different authorities concerned with business efficiency at the present time. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are very sensitive about productivity and restrictions on industry of one sort or another—trade union and otherwise. They have formed all sorts and kinds of organisations and societies to take care of these things. There is the British Institute of Management which is here provided for; 2397 the Production Efficiency Service, about which Questions have been asked in Parliament, and one of their appointees, a Mr. Chappell, resigned in curious circumstances a little time ago; the Anglo-American Committee on Productivity—
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I am not proposing to go on to develop the point, but may I say that the fourth item is the Committee on Industrial Productivity. I wish to know what is the relation of all these bodies to this single item of £20,000 laid out in respect of the British Institute of Management? Would not it be much better to dispense altogether with the production Efficiency Service, which cost about £35,000 up to 18th November, 1948, and allow the British Institute of Management—which is a very fine concern and one we all know very well—to carry on with its duties? This Production Efficiency Service was born in rather doubtful circumstances and fathered by Mr. Chappell, the individual who resigned, also in rather doubtful circumstances. Apart from that single question of whether the two could be merged together, I should like to know whether the other institutions which are so concerned with productivity—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I have already told the noble Lord that he cannot refer to any other institute except the one in this Supplementary Estimate.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
That being so, I hope that we can ascertain from the hon. Gentleman whether any part of this sum of £20,000 goes to the other institutions I have named and, if it does not go to them, I hope that we can ascertain the Government's policy.
§ 9.10 p.m.
Mr. John E. Hake (Wycombe)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) gave us one of his now rare excursions into Bohemianism when he referred to Item S. "Assistance to craftsmen."
§ Mr. Haire
Into Bohemianism. In fact, he was in danger of charging the Committee £3,000 for his own Heath Robinson extravaganza of Picasso giving away the Chantrey Bequest. In doing so, he showed a total unawareness of the need for encouraging craftsmanship in this country. I would say to him and the party opposite that the disappearance of craftsmanship is something which has been going on for some time and which they have completely neglected in the past.
I only referred to the absurdity of first charging a Purchase Tax upon art and then going through all the motions of remitting it again but subject to the censorship set up by the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. Haire
And, of course, in doing so the right hon. Gentleman showed again his complete ignorance of the Council of Industrial Design which has been set up for this very purpose. I should like to have heard some recognition from the right hon. Gentleman of the disappearance of craftmanship in such industries as stone-masonry, furniture, pottery and so on. He apparently has not heard of the difficulty we had in the rebuilding of the House of Commons to get stone masons and wood carvers. My only complaint is that £3,000 is not nearly enough for the encouragement of craftsmanship. I should like to know whether it cannot even now be increased.
§ 9.13 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade(Mr. John Edwards)
A number of points have been raised and perhaps we might start with the point on which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) began and on which we have now closed—the matter of assistance to craftsmen. I was a little surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should have devoted time to this subject in the way that he did. He did rather leave the Committee with the feeling that this has suddenly come along in a Supplementary Estimate and that nobody knew anything about it before. It will be within the recollection of the Committee that hon. Members on both sides were concerned in Debates on the Finance Bill about the position of craftsmen. It was pointed out that many of the craftsmen were in very great difficulties because of the high rates of Purchase Tax applying to certain categories 2399 of goods. There was a feeling that craftsmen producing the tip-top stuff might be driven out of business. Of course, some of them were working partly for export and partly for the home market.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer was urged by a number of hon. Members to try to do something about it. He said, I think as far back as 8th June, that he could not find a way through the use of the Purchase Tax Schedules to discriminate between this first-class craftsmanship product and other products which were not in that standard. He, therefore, told the House on 30th July, 1948:I do not think that this is a matter that can be dealt with by amending the provisions of the Purchase Tax Schedule. But I have now arranged with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to give such relief as will counteract the effect of the Purchase Tax on furniture and textiles and articles made from precious metals (other than personal jewellery), provided that they are hand-made and reach approved standards of design and craftsmanship."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1948; Vol. 454, cc. 206-7.]He then pointed out that we should have to finance this by votes to the Crafts Centre, and this independent Craft Centre is in fact the body which has been administering these powers. Although I would not suggest that anything very spectacular has been done, it has brought some relief to some people who are producing really first-rate quality articles.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I hope the hon. Gentleman does not think that I was opposing this Vote. I was simply pointing out the Alice-in-Wonderland position in which we have to take this Purchase Tax and then give it back through machinery which, in fact, involves a censorship.
§ Mr. Edwards
I did not take the right hon. Gentleman to be opposing the Vote. I am trying to explain to him how it came about. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman on some other occasion will perhaps explain how in fact relief could be granted in any other way. The question is not whether all craft products are to be exempted from Purchase Tax, but whether those craftsmen who are producing these really first-class products should be given some relief, and I understood that the arrangement that was made had the full approval of the House. At any rate, if the right hon. Gentleman did 2400 not like it, he has had since last June to do something about it, and this is the first occasion on which he has poured scorn on this method of helping the craftsmen.
I hope, therefore, that I may be permitted to pass to the second and rather smaller point, that about the British Institute of Management. It would not be right of me to follow the noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) in his discussion about all the other related bodies. I am glad to see that the noble Lord is now back in his place. I was explaining that the British Institute of Management was set up as a result of the Baillieu Report in 1946, and that Report recommended grants of up to £42,000 and £35,000 in the second and third years of the Institute's existence. The actual grants authorised to be given were as follows: 1947–48, £40,000; 1948–49, £40,000. As some hon. Members may be aware, the Institute has made a somewhat cautious beginning, and, in 1947–48, spent only £16,000, keeping the remaining £24,000 in hand for the following year. Thus, within the two years, they would still keep within the total amount authorised on the basis of the Baillieu Report.
The purpose of this Supplementary Estimate, therefore, is to meet in part the carry forward of the £24,000 into 1948–49, and a further application to the Committee is only necessary because of the unspent balance of the grant in 1947–48. Actually, the B.I.M. now gets a grant in aid and unspent balances are not surrenderable. That is the technical point which I thought I ought to explain to the noble Lord, who evinced such interest in the British Institute of Management.
I shall now turn to this extremely important matter of strategic reserves. This is a matter of which, I am afraid, I cannot say very much. The first thing I want to make clear—I quite understand that it was not necessarily clear from the printed document—is that we are here making a book-keeping entry, and apart from the storage and turnover of stock this figure does not represent expenditure. For some time past we have been keeping stocks which have been accounted for under our heading of "Trading Stocks." When we ceased to trade in a number of important materials, such stocks as we held were nominated as "Strategic 2401 Reserves."It has now been decided that, from the point of view of accountancy, it is desirable to credit the value of them to the trading services head I1, where they were previously held, and to debit them to the Strategic Reserves head I.5.
§ Mr. Edwards
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we were responsible towards the end of the war and just after the war for trading in a number of important materials. The stocks of materials which we had in hand at the time the trading in these particular commodities ceased—I do not wish to mention the names of these commodities—were held as strategic reserves, and we accounted for them under the head of Trading Services— I.1. We have now transferred them. We have credited the I.1 account and have debited this strategic reserves head which is 1.5.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I understand that from that point of view, it is merely a book-keeping transaction, but from the point of view of reality, this carry over of minerals or other materials in which the Government are no longer trading does in fact exist? The stocks are there to the extent of the value placed upon them; it is merely a transfer of the Vote? There are £10 million worth of these minerals or other commodities which the Government have temporarily decided not to trade in themselves, but the stocks are actually held to Government account?
§ Mr. Edwards
Yes, the right hon. Gentleman is quite right. We are here talking about stocks which we actually have, and which we shall not dispose of unless we replace them.
§ Mr. Edwards
They are here. This Estimate arises not from anything new that has been done, but solely from the fact that we have introduced a new method of accountancy.
§ Mr. Macmillan
This is important as naturally this is an extremely interesting item to us. Is the £10 million the purchase value of these stocks which have been accumulated over the past year or years, or is it the present value?
§ Mr. Edwards
I hope I am right about this, but my impression is that it is the transfer value. In other words, we have really made a double book-keeping entry, and the value formerly placed upon them under the trading services head is the same as the value now placed upon them under the new strategic reserves head, apart from an amount which I think is allocated to cover interest so that we may get a proper figure of costs.
§ Mr. Edwards
I will confirm that with the right hon. Gentleman. I should like to assure him that these stocks of raw materials which are held as strategic reserves have been so held on the recommendation of the Joint War Production Staff. That is to say that in this matter the Minister of Defence is really the prime mover; the Board of Trade are acting for him and actually holding the strategic reserves.
§ Mr. Macmillan
The hon. Gentleman says this is a bookkeeping transaction, which we do not quite understand, for it is a little complicated. It is a transference from one account to another. Where, however, is the reduction shown—in what account?
§ Mr. Edwards
I am sorry, I thought I had explained that what we are here doing, in accordance, I believe with the right principles of double entry bookkeeping, is, we are debiting the recipient, the recipient here being strategic reserves under the heading I.5, which is what we are discussing now. There is available a credit on trading services, heading I.1. Of course, that does not arise at this moment. It is purely a bookkeeping arrangement, I would assure the right hon. Gentleman. Of course, he is right to raise the importance of this, but I think it would not be right for me tonight to attempt to go into the strategic hypothesis on the basis of which the strategic reserves are held. That, I imagine, should more properly be raised on other occasions when the Minister of Defence would be able to deal with the matter more exhaustively.
Let me now take up the matter raised by the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) about the Monopoly 2403 Commission. He does not seem to be acquainted with the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices (Inquiry and Control) Act, 1948. If he would read that Act he would know that it is quite wrong of him to talk as though the Commission were an agent of the Board of Trade. The Commission is an independent body established by Act of Parliament, and its procedure is laid down in Section 8 of the Act. In so far as it is not precise there, it could be subject to a direction from the President of the Board of Trade, but he would have to lay that before the House, so that the hon. Gentleman can be quite sure that, in substance, the procedure is laid down in the Act. If there should be any details of it on which my right hon. Friend may have to issue a direction, he would give it, and it would lie before the House. What this really means is that this is an independent Commission. If the hon. Gentleman will read the Section again he will see that absolute safeguard for all the people who may have to appear before it. Quite clear rules of procedure are laid down there.
§ Mr. Erroll
Are the rules of procedure laid down in the Act? I am sorry I have not sufficiently close knowledge of the Act to say whether they are or not. If, however, they are not, will the hon. Gentleman hasten the Statutory Instruments to which he has made reference?
§ Mr. Edwards
I have only one minute more left, so I will communicate with the hon. Gentleman, as also I will with the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) on the matter of salvage. I will send to him my comments on what he said. I think I have given way so frequently to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley that I must not be blamed, I hope, for the fact that I have not replied to all the questions and comments as fully as I should have liked to do.
§ Mr. H. D. Hughes (Wolverhampton, West)
May I draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that, by carrying on this discussion on the very important subjects of waste paper and bottles and so on, the Opposition have not carried out their promise made earlier today that they would launch a discussion on meat 2404 rationing, and have given up their chance to discuss the Supplementary Estimates on bulk purchase and food subsidies?
§ The Chairman
No point of Order arises. It is my duty at 9.30 p.m., under the Standing Order, to put all the outstanding Votes. The only reason why I did not do so was because the right hon. Gentleman rose, and I imagined that he was about to reply, had time permitted, to the intervention of the hon. Gentleman, but time did not permit.
It being half-past Nine o'Clock The CHAIRMAN proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 16, to put the Question necessary to dispose of the Vote then under discussion.
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £9,529,820, be granted to His Majesty to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1949, for the salaries and expenses of the office of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade and subordinate departments, including the cost of certain trading services; assistance and subsidies to certain industries, certain grants in aid; and other services.
§ The CHAIRMAN then proceeded to put severally the Questions,
§ "That the total amount of all outstanding Estimates supplementary to those of the current financial year as have been presented seven clear days, and of all outstanding Excess Votes, be granted for the Services defined in those Estimates, Supplementary Estimates, and Statements of Excess."