Orders of the Day — British Advertisements, Russia

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1 December 1944.

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Photo of Mr Osbert Peake Mr Osbert Peake , Leeds North 12:00, 1 December 1944

I am coming to that, but the point I am making is that, if orders can be influenced by Russian technicians and industrial managers, they have certainly had a unique opportunity during the war of seeing the actual implements that they require. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are not post-war goods."] That is exactly what they are. We have exported every sort of machinery to Russia for reconstruction purposes during the last two or three years. I could cite examples, such as complete electrical power stations, which have been exported in recent months. Orders are far more likely to flow through the instrumentality of a man who has actually experienced and derived satisfaction from a British machine, than from a man merely seeing a picture of a machine in a trade journal. There is a much better way of putting pictures and descriptions of what British industry can achieve before the persons who, my hon. Friend says, will influence the ultimate orders than parting with our very meagre resources of foreign exchange in competitive advertising of this character, in which individual firms are asked, through commission agents, to advertise their products in Russian trade journals.

Of course, arrangements already exist for the Soviet Trade Delegation buyers here to have every facility for seeing the achievements of British industry, but we could obviously go beyond that with a scheme on parallel lines to that adopted by the far-seeing and sensible business men of the United States, and my right hon. Friend who represents the Department of Overseas Trade, and the Treasury, will give every encouragement and assistance to schemes put forward by responsible bodies of industry for that purpose.

We have all seen before the war most admirable trade and engineering supplements published by our great newspapers—very often annual supplements. There might be something on those lines, prepared with the advice and assistance of my right hon. Friend beside me, but not put forward on behalf of individual manufacturers trying to sell their goods in competition. After all, if you put a picture of four or five different coal-cutting machines, or similar machines, into a Russian trade journal, most of that expenditure on advertising is wasted. What you want to do is to bring the organisations together, and let them build up not merely a catalogue but something more, with descriptive matter of what the British engineer can achieve and has achieved, prepared with Government assistance as regards paper and so forth—a descriptive book, or catalogue, covering the various fields of capital goods in which the Russians will be so much interested. To schemes of that character we would give every assistance and encouragement in our power. What we are not prepared to do is to see a wasteful and competitive use by British manufacturers, some no doubt paying Excess Profit Tax and therefore able to pass 80 per cent. of the cost of advertising on to the back of the taxpayer; we are not prepared to see our meagre resources in gold and foreign exchange frittered away in expenditure of a character which we believe would be very largely useless.

I think I have met my hon. Friend's point. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the matter, since I think my statement will enable British industry to understand the true position. We do not want to see British industrialists wasting their money, and in some cases the taxpayers' money, and making a wasteful call upon what are national resources, namely, our limited supplies of foreign exchange. As regards other countries than Russia, we shall do everything we can to encourage the advertising of British goods. [An HON. MEMBER: "Competitive advertising?"] Certainly, because in a capitalist country people can effectively buy as the result of seeing an advertisement. Conditions in Russia are wholly special and we must, therefore, adopt special methods in order to do trade there. I hope that business men and hon. Members will not be led into thinking that, because an individual manufacturer is refused exchange for inserting an advertisement of this character in a trade journal, we are not therefore anxious to do everything we can to promote trade with Russia. No doubt there will be a vast market there after the war for just the sort of goods which this country is most eminently fitted to produce. Therefore, I say, and I hope the House will believe that I am quite sincere, that we shall do everything in our power to see that British goods are made widely known in the Russian market. They are already better known there than they have ever been before, and no steps will be left untaken to follow up what has been achieved during the war years.