Oral Answers to Questions — Overseas Trade Department (Reorganisation)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th December 1945.

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Photo of Mr Dryden Brook Mr Dryden Brook , Halifax 12:00 am, 17th December 1945

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any statement to make about the future of the Overseas Trade Department.

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

I propose, with Mr. Speaker's permission, to make a statement at the end of Questions.

Later

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

In the light of the decision taken by the Coalition Government to create a unified Foreign Service, the Government have reviewed the responsibilities and mutual relations of the Departments principally concerned with the greatly increased effort to develop overseas trade which is now necessary for the country's well-being. Hitherto the Secretary of the Department of Overseas Trade has been responsible jointly to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the President of the Board of Trade. In future he will be known as the Secretary for Overseas Trade and will be directly responsible to the President of the Board of Trade. The Department of Overseas Trade will be integrated with the Board of Trade and all overseas work will be under the direction of the Secretary for Overseas Trade, but the latter will, of course, be subordinate to the President of the Board of Trade, who remains responsible for trade policy both internal and external.

Arrangements are being made for close co-ordination of the work for which the Secretary for Overseas Trade will be responsible with the Treasury, Foreign Office, the Dominions Office, and other Departments concerned with external economic policy. In particular, arrangements will be made for the training of members of the Foreign Service within the Board of Trade, for their making frequent visits to manufacturing and commercial centres in this country, and for rapid communication between them and the Board of Trade on commercial matters. The Trade Commissioner Service, operating in the Empire and Commonwealth will be administered directly by the Board of Trade in consultation as necessary with the Departments concerned with Empire matters.

For the information of the House and the business community, I would like to say that the arrangements now announced are intended to improve the service which the Government can render to overseas trade. The Secretary for Overseas Trade will have under his immediate direction an organisation strengthened for this purpose and the area of his responsibility will be extended. Legislation will be necessary to give affect to these changes and will be laid before Parliament shortly.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

Has any arrangement been made for the President of the Board of Trade to meet his opposite number in Eire to discuss better trade relations?

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

That does not arise out of this Question.

Photo of Mr David Eccles Mr David Eccles , Chippenham

Will the Prime Minister take into consideration the great difficulty of getting good staff for the overseas secretariats? Will he continue the wartime practice of having temporary civil servants in these overseas services and make certain that the divorce between the Foreign Office and the Board of Trade does not result in the commercial secretaries being on a lower level than those of the Diplomatic Service?

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

While I could not answer immediately with regard to the question of temporary civil servants, I entirely agree with the hon. Member in the importance of this service, and there must not be separate grades and a grade below, because it is of vital importance to the whole country.