HC Deb 12 December 1927 vol 211 cc1826-7

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether the Government of India have accepted the Tariff Board's recommendations that all the Railway Board's requirements of rails should be bought from Messrs. Tata's over the next seven years; and, if so, whether the Government have received representations on the matter from other steel-making interests?


The Government of India have entered into an arrangement with Messrs. The Tata Iron and Steel Company, to buy, at a fixed rate, the whole of their estimated output of rails for seven years. I am not aware that representations on the matter have been received by the Government of India from other steel manufacturers.


Is the Noble Lord aware that this will have an effect on the production of steel in this country, and also add to the unemployment already existing in that trade?


I hope the hon. Member does not take up an attitude that is not taken up by any party in the House, that in these matters we have to have regard primarily to the interests of manufacturers in this country. The Government of India naturally have to have regard primarily to the manufactures of India itself.


Does the Noble Lord suppose the price that is being paid to Messrs. Tata for these steel rails is less than the price in South Wales? Does he suggest that the people of India get the benefit of this?


No, but we have given to India a large measure of fiscal autonomy. It has been the deliberate policy, not only of the Government of India but of the Assembly of India, speaking for those who have votes for that Assembly, to adopt a certain policy. It is not possible in question and answer to discuss whether that policy is a wise one or not, but it is the policy that has been adopted.


Does this agreement cover a case where rails could be supplied from this country cheaper than they could be obtained from Messrs Tata?


On that detail, perhaps the hon. Member will put a question down, although I think the answer is that the agreement is a fixed one for a period, quite irrespective of price.


Surely the Noble Lord is aware whether the agreement was made or not. There is a protective tariff which protects Messrs. Tata's steelworks, and there is also a bonus to pay to Tata shareholders for every ton of steel produced, and this guarantee for seven years is something in addition to what the Assembly has already done.


We cannot argue the matter now.