HC Deb 19 March 1928 vol 215 cc18-9

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware that during the past four years 956,420 tons of road-stone and 653,545 tons of setts and kerbing-stone have been imported into this country, mainly from Belgium and Norway; that the sum of £2,772,678 has gone abroad in payment of these goods, while at the same time there are British quarries equipped with the latest machinery and capable of supplying all possible demands; that over 2,000 men are at present unemployed in the British road-stone industry; and whether he will make it a condition of payments out of the Road Fund that stone from British quarries shall be used exclusively?

The MINISTER of TRANSPORT (Colonel Ashley)

I must apologise for the length of the answer to this question. [HON. MEMBERS: "Circulate it."] I will do so.

Following is the answer:

The figures quoted represent with substantial accuracy the amount and value of broken granite imported from foreign countries during the past four years, but I am not in a position to state how high a proportion of it was actually used as road stone, nor am I aware of the number of men at present unemployed in the British road stone industry as distinguished from the "Stone Quarrying and Mining" group. As showing, however, the relative importance of the figures of imported broken granite which my hon. Friend estimates at nearly 1,000,000 tons in four years, it should be observed that the total tonnage of road stone conveyed over the railways in Great Britain during the past four years amounted to upwards of 47,000,000 tons. To this must be added materials conveyed by other means of transport.

With regard to the suggestion that the exclusive use of British materials should be made a condition of grant from the Road Fund, I would point out that only a portion of the work of highway authorities comes under my review. Although the use of British materials was made a condition of grants towards works expedited for the relief of unemployment, I am not prepared to apply this condition to the whole of the work of highway authorities throughout the country. But as I have already explained, Circulars have been issued urging upon local authorities the desirability of using British materials and plant.