§ 12 and 14. Mr. Ellis Smith
asked the Minister of Aircraft Production (1) if he is aware that the Magnesium Elektron, Limited, is pouring caustic soda into the sea; how long is the pipe-line used for that purpose; what did it cost; why, in view of the fact that his Department has assisted the expansion of this firm, this waste is permitted; and with what other firms is Magnesium Elektron, Limited, connected; (2) if his attention has been directed to the revelations in the case of Thompson, His Majesty's Inspector of Taxes, versus Magnesium Elektron, Limited, and the restrictions contained in an agreement made between Magnesium Elektron, Limited, and I.C.I., providing that the former company should not sell caustic soda and other by-products; whether this agreement has remained in force during the war; how it has affected our total war effort; and how is the company disposing of the caustic soda produced.
§ The Minister of Aircraft Production (Sir Stafford Cripps)
I have seen the Report to which my hon. Friend refers in Question 14. From it I gather that in 1936 I.C.I. paid Magnesium Elektron a sum of money in return for an undertaking by that company not to make liquid chlorine or caustic soda and to buy from I.C.I. the chlorine required in the manufacture of magnesium. The agreement, however, contained provisions 1301 which permitted Magnesium Elektron to make chlorine under certain conditions. The agreement is, I understand, still in force. The arrangements made under it do not affect the supply position of caustic soda required for war purposes.
In regard to Question 12, the facts are that from a Government factory managed by Magnesium Elektra under an agency agreement, a solution containing a low percentage of caustic soda is produced as a by-product and is discharged into tidal water by means of a pipe-line. The pipe-line is about 27 miles in length, and together with the necessary ancillary equipment, cost approximately, £86,000. The method of disposal by pipe-line was selected after carefully weighing a number of possible alternatives because it entailed a much smaller capital expenditure and could be brought into operation much more quickly. Measures to recover the caustic soda would have involved a capital expenditure of the order of £250,000, and in view of the supply position of caustic soda, the erection of such recovery plant would not have been justified. Magnesium Elektron Ltd. is a private company and information is not,. therefore, available regarding other firms with which it is connected.
§ Mr. Smith
Is it not a fact that 10 per cent. of each gallon of liquid poured into the sea would produce one pound of caustic soda; that several products which can be produced from caustic soda are in short supply and are affecting our war effort; and seeing that the restrictive agreement is still in force, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman take steps to see that this caustic soda is used?
§ Sir S. Cripps
The restrictive agreement does not apply to a Government factory anywhere. I cannot confirm the figures which the hon. Gentleman has given as regards the use of caustic soda from the effluent, but no further caustic soda is required at the present time.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Cannot the right hon. and learned Gentleman answer the simple point? Has this firm entered into a restrictive agreement with I.C.I. which prevents it selling caustic soda?
§ Sir S. Cripps
I have already answered that in 1936 such an agreement was entered into between I.C.I. and this firm, but it does not relate to the factory in which the caustic soda is manufactured.
Is not a great deal of the wasted caustic soda valuable; and is it not required for many products needed now in medicine?
§ Mr. Woodburn
May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether, in view of statements made in America regarding this firm, the Government propose to make any inquiry into this restrictive agreement to see whether, in other ways, it has impeded the course of the war effort?