Hardwood (De-control)

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Commerce – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th December 1949.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Thomas Horabin Mr Thomas Horabin , Cornwall Northern 12:00 am, 15th December 1949

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether any further de-control of the hardwood trade is in prospect.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Ormskirk

Yes, Sir. I am satisfied that the need for continuing to import hardwood on Government account has ended, and all hardwood will therefore revert to private trading on 16th January next. At the same time, price control of imported hardwoods will be removed. Details of the scheme for reversion to private buying have been worked out by my officials with a committee of the hardwood trade and will be announced shortly. It will, moreover, be possible, as part of the additional measures of import relaxation which I have just announced, to permit any private trader to import hardwood freely from a wide range of countries.

Photo of Mr Marcus Lipton Mr Marcus Lipton , Lambeth Brixton

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that this relaxation will not lead to an increase in the price of hardwood, and is he taking steps to ensure that that will not be so?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Ormskirk

No, Sir, it will not lead to an increase in the price. If I were not so satisfied I should have insisted on maintaining price control.

Photo of Mr John Haire Mr John Haire , Wycombe

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that sufficient supplies of hardwood under the proposed arrangement will be forthcoming to the furniture industry, and that there will not be an increase of price?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Ormskirk

Yes, Sir, I am so satisfied, but if events turn against us, naturally we should have to review the situation.

Photo of Mr Anthony Hurd Mr Anthony Hurd , Newbury

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House why it has been possible to free imports of hardwood and not softwood? What is the difference?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Ormskirk

There is a big difference in the availability of hardwood and, secondly, in the proportion obtained from dollar sources. If I gave the hon. Gentleman a full account of the difficulties I have had with the hardwood trade, to make sure that when they were decontrolled they did not completely restrict competition by quotas among themselves, and also prevent new entrants coming in, he would realise the great difficulty I should have to face in the case of softwood.

Photo of Mr Thomas Scollan Mr Thomas Scollan , Renfrewshire Western

Can the President tell the House if the Chancellor is prepared to allow a certain number of dollars for the purchase of this hardwood?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Ormskirk

There are a few types of speciality hardwoods essential for industrial use, and not available from other parts of the world, which have to be obtained from dollar countries, and will continue to be obtained from dollar countries.

Photo of Mr William Shepherd Mr William Shepherd , Bucklow

What does the right hon. Gentleman intend to do with the junk bought on Government account and now littering the country?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Ormskirk

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's word "junk" in any sense, but arrangements have been made between the timber control and the trade for selling off the stocks at present in Government hands.

Photo of Mr John Haire Mr John Haire , Wycombe

Can my right hon. Friend say if his proposal is based on the increasing importation of colonial hardwoods?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Ormskirk

Yes, Sir, we are importing vastly more colonial hardwood now than we have ever done before—I think something like five times or more the amount we were getting before the war—from the major timber producing colonies.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

Does the reply of the President mean that there is no immediate intention of de-controlling softwood?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Ormskirk

We have been looking at it and there have been preliminary discussions with the trade. But there have been thrown up a number of tremendous difficulties, and until those difficulties have been overcome there can be no question of de-controlling softwood.