asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade whether the Report of the Executive Council of the Association of Chambers of Commerce for the year ending 28th February, 1922, has come to his notice; and whether, in view of the statements therein contained relative to the use of Form K by consular officers and the value to British commerce of prompt and concise information with regard to foreign markets, he will state the reason for the decrease in the number of these reports during the past year and account for the fact that certain consular districts, notably in France and Belgium, have returned no such reports?
I have seen a proof copy of that portion of the Executive Council's report which deals with Form "K" information. The decrease in the number of Form "K" reports during the past year is due to a variety of reasons, the principal of which is that reports circulated under this system relate only to importing firms whose financial position appears to be sound, and that, in view of the worldwide trade depression, Consular Officers have refrained from reporting on many firms in respect of whom Form "K" reports would normally be rendered. It must also be remembered that the number of firms reported in a single year is not a fair criterion, since a Consul would not normally repeat in the subsequent lists the name of a firm once reported. It follows, therefore, that if a Consul has made extensive returns in one or two years, his returns in subsequent years would give fewer names. The variations in the extent to which the Form "K" system has been carried out by Consular Officers in different countries have been receiving the attention of my Department, and fresh instructions are in course of preparation, but the extent to which a Consular Officer can furnish "K" form reports depends on the size of his staff and the volume of his other duties. I should also explain that failure by a Consular Officer to furnish a large number of "K" form reports does not imply neglect of the commercial side of his work, for much the greater proportion of the commercial information received by my Department from its overseas officers comes quite independently of the "K" form system. I should add that very many of the posts mentioned in the Executive Council's report as not having furnished reports are posts held by non-salaried officers, from whom "K" form reports cannot in ordinary circumstances be expected.