I understand that there is sufficient leather to meet the general demand for footwear, but that some manufacturers may not be able to get all they would like of special types. In this respect, I do not think that the position in Kettering differs appreciably from that elsewhere. Heavy purchases of hides for upper leather have recently been made in the Argentine, and a substantial quantity of hides and skins has been provided for in the new Argentine agreement. I anticipate, therefore, that there will be a considerable improvement in the quantity of upper leather during the next few months.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of the manufacturers in Kettering have now stocks for little more than a week and that they believe that a better quality of upper leather in larger quantities is available, either as skins or tanned, from France and that it has been offered to this country quite recently?
I am aware of the position in France. We are in discussion with the French authorities on this point and I hope to make an announcement in the very near future, but I am sure my hon. and learned Friend would not wish to suggest that we should take all the French supplies of leather without having a reasonable proportion of French supplies of skins for our own tanning industry.
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider dispensing with some of the Government's system of bulk purchases of skins and leather and reverting to private purchase, which would result in a better supply?
Yes, Sir, but it is very much easier to get wines from France. While the discussions are still going on—and I hope to make an announcement shortly—I hope my hon. and learned Friend will not press for more information.
Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that there are adequate supplies of leather at least to provide shoes for children, in view of the fact that if they run about barefoot there is grave danger of their becoming Presidents of the Board of Trade?
asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) what information he has about quantity, quality and price of upper leather, skins or tanned, available in France for export to this country; what are the figures of imports of upper leather from France recently, last year, and before the war; and what are the present restrictions on such imports;
(2) what are the figures of imports of upper leather from dollar countries, and from other countries excluding France, recently, last year, and before the war.
The information asked for by my hon. Friend on imports of upper leather is largely statistical, and I am sending him a statement on this matter. I understand that substantial quantities of certain types of leather may be available in France, but I have no precise information as to the quantity, quality or price. Under arrangements recently made, however, imports of leather from France are likely to be greater this year than last. A proportion of the leather to be imported from France will be subject to the condition that the goods made from it must be exported. The level of imports from all sources has to be determined with due regard to our international obligations in the field of commercial policy.