Mr Harcourt Johnstone: The Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) was, as he said, intended rather to cover an inquiry than to be pressed to a Division. I should like to start by assuring him that the question of long credits which he raised is very much in the mind of His Majesty's Government. The difficulties which he enumerated are practical; they exist and must be...
Mr Harcourt Johnstone: The answer to both those questions is in the affirmative. That is the intention of the Clause.
Mr Harcourt Johnstone: The question asked by the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) and by the hon. Member opposite, can really be answered in the affirmative. The object of this Bill is to make easier, and to retain for this country the very large business in international merchanting, which has been and we hope will continue to be a very great asset to this country, particularly from the point of...
Mr Harcourt Johnstone: If a firm has a London office and is, by origin, a United Kingdom firm, the fact that it has branches elsewhere would not debar it from being able to take advantage of these facilities. You could not bar a firm because it happened to have a branch in Calcutta, or if it had 20 branches in 20 other countries.
Mr Harcourt Johnstone: The foreign exchange would come here.
Mr Harcourt Johnstone: My hon. Friend made a point about the premiums which are charged. I hoped that my right hon. Friend and I had managed to clear up that matter on the Second Reading. One cannot take very abnormal premiums and make no profit. In fact, the trading accounts of the Department over a long period of years almost exactly balance. The reserve in hand of £1,250,000 is very modest, in view of the scale...
Mr Harcourt Johnstone: (Secretary, Overseas Trade Department): There is. That is the whole thing.
Mr Harcourt Johnstone: That is not my Department.
Mr Harcourt Johnstone: No, it is not.
Mr Harcourt Johnstone: To save the trouble of answering later, I can tell my hon. Friend now, that they are paid into the Treasury. The Treasury acts, as it were, as the banker of the Department, but the reserves are still within the control of the Department, so that they can be called upon from the Treasury for the Department's use.
Mr Harcourt Johnstone: Yes.
Mr Harcourt Johnstone: Yes.
Mr Harcourt Johnstone: I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, but when the whole range of countries with which my hon. Friend is dealing are covered, the premium, which might be anything, for one of them not considered to be in a very high category, will, of course, be altered proportionately, according to the amount of business done with the first-class places.
Mr Harcourt Johnstone: They do not know how much other business other people were doing with the same exporters.
Mr Harcourt Johnstone: I am sorry, but I did not quite catch what the hon. and learned Gentleman said.
Mr Harcourt Johnstone: If I could put that right now, I would say that would be absolutely true in defining what was intended in the Bill, provided that those products were shipped by United Kingdom merchants.
Mr Harcourt Johnstone: Can I put this straight? The Department of Overseas Trade has its functions. The hon. Member mentioned the Export Licensing Department. It is a Department of the Board of Trade. As an Under-Secretary of the Board of Trade I take personal responsibility for all that, but it has nothing to do with the Department of Overseas Trade.
Mr Harcourt Johnstone: It is justified.
Mr Harcourt Johnstone: Yes, Sir. The officers of the Department are always willing at any time to see exporters and manufacturers who wish to explain their wishes personally. Very often it is the case that officials of different sections of the Department are all needed to talk on the same subject to one man, and it would be very much simpler if he could come to the Department. In innumerable cases, they are...
Mr Harcourt Johnstone: We have had, I am sure all of us will agree, a most interesting Debate. It has been so to me at any rate, although I must confess that the main interest in it lay in the discussion of subjects with which this Bill is in no way, or hardly in any way, concerned. During the afternoon the Government have been asked a great many questions on a large variety of subjects. These all dealt—I will...