HC Deb 10 October 1946 vol 427 cc356-7
53. Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he will make a statement on the proposal entirely to close down five and partially to close down eight iron and steel plants in the British zone of Germany; if he will give the figures of unemployment among Germans likely to be caused by this development, the reasons for it, and the steps which have been taken to acquaint the local German population with the reasons.

Mr. J. Hynd

Owing to the growing depletion of coal stocks in the zone and the urgent need of increasing allocations of coal for such purposes as housing repairs, it has, unfortunately, been found necessary to reduce the allocations to certain other industrial activities, including steel. This has been done in consultation with the German Economic Advisory Board. I am unable to give exact figures of the effect on local Ger- man employment, but am obtaining these from Germany and will communicate them to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

Is my hon. Friend aware that owing to the failure to publicise in the British zone of Germany the information which he has just given out and the other details to which he has referred, considerable alarm and despondency has been caused among German civilians, and, taking a long-term view, may not the dismantling of factories be a case of cutting off our noses to spite our faces?

Mr. Hynd

I am quite certain that alarm and despondency would be caused among German workers and any other workers when there was interference, however inevitable, with their employment but, as I have stated in the answer to the Question, the immediate cause of the restriction on the operations of these factories at this stage has been due to the coal situation, which is unavoidable. The wider question of the dismantling or allocation of factories for reparations is another matter.

Mr. Edelman

In view of the world's steel shortage, would my hon. Friend be willing to maintain these steel plants in production should coal become available?

Mr. Hynd

It is our intention to encourage the production of steel up to the maximum permitted under the level of industry agreement. I am afraid we are a long way off that, and even if more coal were to become available it would be some time before we could reach that level, but we would certainly be anxious to increase the production of steel up to that level if at all possible.

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