§ 64. Mr. T. JOHNSTON
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he is aware that an offer was made for the ether plant at Gretna by the Alcohol Fuel Corporation, Limited, which corporation professed to be able ultimately to give employment to thousands of people in the manufacture of a motor fuel; if he can say why the offer was refused; and, if refused on financial grounds, will he say whether the Government itself intends to use this plant in the production of motor fuel?
The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. An offer was received from the Alcohol 1519 Fuel Corporation in May, 1923, and was, after full consideration, declined in June, 1923, on financial grounds. As regards the last part of my hon. Friend's question, the plant is being offered for sale by auction to-morrow (Friday) as a going concern.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
In view of the absolutely ridiculous prices at which this public plant is being disposed of, will the hon. Gentleman undertake that this very valuable plant will not be disposed of at rubbish prices so long as firms are able and willing to offer commercial prices for it?
§ Viscount WOLMER
Are we to understand from that question that the hon. Member is now in favour of private enterprise?
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
If the hon. Member will look at the last part of the question he will be able to understand.
§ Mr. HARDIE
In view of the large demand for this article for our defensive purposes in this country, will the hon. Gentleman take the advice of those who know and keep that plant, and use it for the production of fuel for national defence instead of handing it out at scrap prices, as has been done during the last few days with this national property?
In reply to a question some days ago it was stated that the Government had decided to put up this property for sale and that the sale was almost due, but as regards the major part of Gretna there is a safeguard in the terms of sale as regards the disposal of the property. The sale is proceeding.