HC Deb 25 April 1939 vol 346 cc947-9
21 and 22. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) whether he is aware that, approximately, 60,000 tons of calcium carbide is imported annually into this country; that the need is on the increase in view of the growing need of carbide, certain chemicals, plastics and material for manufacturing high-speed cutting tools; and will be take action in order that the manufacture of carbide and ferroalloys can be carried on in this country, and treat this matter as one of urgency;

(2) in view of the growing world demand for carbide, what steps are being taken by the Government to stimulate production in this country; what proposals have been made to the Government on the production of carbide; what is holding up the development of production plants; in what areas does the Government consider carbide might be produced; and what steps are to be taken to expedite the erection of production plants?

Mr. Cross

I am well aware of the uses to which calcium carbide and the plant for making calcium carbide can be put. But the House has on more than one occasion rejected the Caledonian Power Bill, which was designed to develop hydro-electric works to provide cheap current for carbide production; and while my right hon. Friend would welcome any well-considered plan for setting up a factory in this country, he has no powers to intervene with private enterprise. The provision of Government factories is not in contemplation.

Sir Percy Harris

Is it not time that, in the light of the circumstances, the Government took the initiative and, if necessary, introduced legislation themselves?

Mr. Cross

My right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for the Dominions has already made a statement on this subject to the effect that, while the provision of carbide in this country would be desirable, he did not regard it as vital.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that when this House rejected the Caledonian Power Bill a pledge was given from that Box that we were going to produce carbide in this country?

Mr. Cross

My right hop. Friend has already dealt with that question in a recent answer.

Mr. Petherick

Can my hon. Friend say what was the result of the negotiations which took place between industrial groups as a result of the failure of the Caledonian Power Bill to pass this House, with a view to starting the production of calcium carbide in South Wales, and will he give every encouragement to any group anxious to start such a scheme?

Mr. E. Smith

Is it the fact that a certain English company has taken up a sufficient number of shares in a foreign company to enable them to manufacture carbide so that it may be imported into Britain?

Mr. Cross

I should require notice of that question, but there is at the moment a project on foot for starting a company in this country, and we very much hope that it may come to fruition.

Mr. Noel-Baker

If private enterprise is failing to produce essential war materials, will the Government consider national manufacture such as was undertaken in the last War?

Mr. Macquisten

Is it not the fact that the reason why the Caledonian Power Bill was rejected was that the Government would not support it?