HC Deb 01 April 1946 vol 421 cc816-7
35. Mr. Marples

asked the Minister of Supply why the stocks of refined lead had dropped from 126,500 tons in June, 1945, to 64,800 tons in December, 1945; whether he is satisfied with the reduced stocks now held in this country; and what action he is taking to improve the situation.

Mr. Wilmot

Production has not expanded to match the large increase in world demand since the end of the war. Present stocks of lead are, therefore, low but we are doing all we can to secure a fair share of available supplies and, by rationing it and using substitute materials wherever possible, we expect to meet all essential needs.

Mr. Marples

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware, that steady inroads have been made on these stocks since the present Government took office, and, unless they do something about it, the present housing programme—which is pathetic enough, in all conscience—will suffer terribly?

Mr. David Eccles

Is the Minister aware that this bad stock situation is due to a wrong decision by his Ministry to hold themselves aloof from the market, and that this situation would not have arisen if we had not had hulk buying but had the London Metal Exchange working freely?

Mr. Wilmot

I cannot accept that interpretation.

Mr. Eden

May I ask the Minister whether, even if he cannot accept the interpretation—which is a matter for argument, because the figures themselves are sufficiently alarming—he is really confident this fall will not in any way affect the work of building?

Mr. Wilmot

We shall do our best to avoid it. There is a severe world shortage of lead due to the sudden expansion in demand with the end of the war. It is not one of the metals largely used in modern war. There is an abnormally expanding general world demand and a fall in production

Mr. Marplcs

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that not far from his house there are six houses which are held up for completion because there is no lead to complete the water pipes?

Mr. Eccles

In view of the situation, how can the Minister substantiate paying less for lead in this country than the world price when, obviously, he cannot get a stock by those methods?

37. Squadron-Leader Sir Gifford Fox

asked the Minister of Supply why there has been a 30 per cent. cut from 15th January, 1946, in lead to sheet, pipe and paint manufacturers.

Mr. Wilmot

There is a severe world shortage of lead, which makes it necessary to ration supplies to all consumers who must make the fullest possible use of substitute materials.

Sir G. Fox

Arising out of that unsatisfactory answer, is the Minister aware that paint and lead pipes are essential ingredients for building houses, and that no houses are being built in my constituency by the local authority at the present time?

Mr. Stephen

Could the Minister say that by bulk purchase he is able to do something to improve the housing position of this country?