HC Deb 25 May 1937 vol 324 cc97-8
5. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the President of the Board of Trade what action was taken on the report of the Board of Trade Committee on the iron and steel industry that advised the formation of a syndicate for the purchase and distribution of the iron-ore resources within the British Empire; and why has this policy not been applied in the case of the Yampi Sound and the Blythe River resources of Australia?

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Runciman)

I presume that the committee to which the hon. Member refers is that which was appointed by the Board of Trade in 1916 to consider the position of the iron and steel trades after the War. Since the report of that committee was issued there has been a greater degree of co-operation between the units of the iron and steel industry for the purchase and distribution of iron-ore, both from Empire and from foreign countries, and the British Iron and Steel Federation have been able to increase the measure of cooperation. As regards the last part of the question, the possibility of importing iron-ore into the United Kingdom from Australia has been considered from time to time, but I am informed that the cost of freight in relation to the value of the ore renders it impossible to deliver ore to the United Kingdom at an economic price in competition with ore from other sources involving much lower transport costs.

Mr. Smith

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the very deep concern which exists in Australia about this matter; and in view of the growing shortage of iron-ore in Great Britain, ought not steps to be taken to safeguard these supplies for British industry?

Mr. Runciman

I believe the granting of leases for the mining of iron-ore in Australia is in the keeping of the Australian Government.