HL Deb 17 October 1961 vol 234 cc436-8WA

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What Department has inherited the duties and propaganda of the pre-war Empire Marketing Board and whether modernised publicity, along the invaluable lines on which they worked, can be re-introduced to-day.


The Empire Marketing Board was in existence for only seven years. It was set up in 1926, following a recommendation of the Imperial Economic Committee, to assist in furthering the marketing of Empire produce in the United Kingdom, and to foster the interests of inter-Imperial trade generally. It was recommended by the Imperial Committee on Economic Consultation and Cooperation in 1933 that it should be dissolved, since it was considered that the series of inter-Imperial tariff agreements concluded at the Ottawa Conference made its continued existence as a separate entity unnecessary.

Upon its winding up, however, many of the activities of the Board continued. The periodical market intelligence notes and surveys of production and trade which were issued by the Board were taken over by the Imperial Economic Committee. This Committee was later renamed the Commonwealth Economic Committee which still produces these economic intelligence reports.

The scope of the Commonwealth Economic Committee was reviewed at the meeting of Commonwealth Finance Ministers at Montreal in 1958 where it was agreed that the Committee's existing activities should be expanded, and that the Committee should undertake new work in collecting information on Commonwealth development and in making further studies on raw materials. This year the Commonwealth Economic Committee has been strengthened by the appointment by the Committee, with the approval of all Commonwealth Governments, of Mr. Mohammed Ikramullah as salaried Chairman for a term of years.

As regards the publicity activities undertaken by the Empire Marketing Board, it is generally recognised that it was a pioneer in this field. It is doubtful, however, whether, thirty years later, more modern versions of this publicity would be equally effective in the promotion of the sale of Commonwealth foodstuffs, which is now the direct concern of many other organisations, both trade and governmental, operating in this field. The Board's methods of operation were very much the product of the circumstances in which it was set up. Its funds were provided by the British Government, but it had to take account of the interests of Dominion Governments before taking action. In view of the changes in status and economic interests of the Commonwealth countries concerned, such an arrangement would scarcely be appropriate to-day.

The economic problems of the Commonwealth are now regularly discussed by the Commonwealth Economic Consultative Council and its constituent organs, of which the Commonwealth Economic Committee is one. The development of inter-Commonwealth trade is one of the matters which these bodies consider, and the promotion of this trade is kept under constant review.

House adjourned at twenty-four minutes before nine o'clock.