§ 10. Mr. R. ACLAND
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has any statement to make relating to charges and profits made by the British Iron and Steel Federation upon imports of steel?
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Dr. Burgin)
I am glad of this opportunity to modify and amplify the information on this subject which I gave in Debate on 24th November. As a result of further inquiries I am informed that on the annual importation of 525,000 tons of steel under the cartel agreement, the British Iron and Steel Federation make an office charge of 6d. a ton, based on the prices ruling in March, 1936, with an additional 1d. a ton for every increase of 2s. 6d. a ton in price since that date, after the first increase of 2s. 6d. a ton. In addition, about 300,000 tons of semi-manufactured steel have been bought by the federation at fixed prices to meet actual or anticipated shortages in this country, and about 240,000 tons have been delivered. All this material, with the exception of 600 tons, is of a kind used only by members of the federation and has been sold to them, sometimes at a loss and sometimes at a profit, at the prices ruling at the time of sale for British material of a similar kind. Up to the present the transaction has resulted, after deduction of administrative expenses, in a profit to the federation equivalent, on the average, to 2s. 5½d. a ton, but it is not yet possible to estimate the result to the federation of the transaction as a whole.
§ Mr. ACLAND
While thanking the hon. Member for his statement, is it not the fact that this increase in the imports of steel will only occur at times when the supply of steel is very much short of demand; and is it not, therefore, overwhelmingly likely that a profit will always 2259 be made on those transactions, and what will become of the profits which are so made?
§ Mr. LOUIS SMITH
Are we to understand in the House that every endeavour will be made by the Iron and Steel Federation to increase their supplies of steel in this country and avoid the excessive imports which have taken place.
§ Dr. BURGIN
Both of the matters raised in these questions are quite separate from those in the question on the Paper. Certainly, the iron and steel industry of this country desires to supply, as far as possible, the requirements of our own country. With regard to the points raised by the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Acland), that was a pure hypothesis, and obviously is not a matter with which I can deal now.
§ Mr. BENSON
As the hon. Gentleman said that 300,000 tons was steel only used by members of the Federation, does that mean that the Federation did not import steel used by non-members and get the advantage of importation purely for their members?
§ Dr. BURGIN
No, Sir, it does not mean anything of the kind. What it says is that 300,000 tons of semi-manufactured steel was bought by the Federation in certain circumstances. With the exception of a small quantity of about 600 tons that was of a kind used only by members of the Federation, it refers to a particular purchase to meet a particular shortage.