HC Deb 16 October 1946 vol 427 cc871-2
5. Mr. Gammans

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a. statement on the rubber situation in Malaya and define the Government's policy with regard to the purchase of rubber.

Mr. Creech Jones

As the reply is long and contains a number of figures, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Gammans

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what will be the loss in millions of pounds to the British taxpayer arising from this disastrous experiment of State trading?

Mr. Creech Jones

The matter of buying rubber is obviously one for the Board of Trade, and the question should be addressed to the President of the Board of Trade.

Mr. W. Fletcher

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain the difference in price between that in Malaya of Is. and that in Ceylon of Is. 2d., and the fact that there is a difference of 2d. a pound in the price which the Americans have to pay and the price which the British manufacturer has to pay?

Mr. Creech Jones

I imagine that a sufficient explanation of the differences of prices has been afforded to the House, but in regard to recent negotiations I submit that this matter of buying is one for the Board of Trade, and a question should be put to them.

Following is the answer:

I am glad to say that the recovery of the rubber industry in Malaya has been more rapid than was expected. The amount of rubber available in the second half of the year is considerably greater than was estimated. This has however caused certain difficulties in marketing. The Rubber Development Corporation in the United States agreed in June last to purchase 95,000 tons of rubber from Malaya during the second half of the year at Is. 2d. per lb. f.o.b., but these purchases were completed by September. The Board of Trade have also been purchasing rubber since 1st July last at the same price to the extent which shipping was available to transport it to the United Kingdom. They have now completed their purchases for November and December shipment and in all have taken substantial quantities from the Malayan market.

The cessation of American buying and the slowness of other countries in taking up the allocations made to them by the Combined Rubber Committee led to some accumulation of rubber in Malaya. Recently, however, the United States have agreed to purchase as much rubber as can be shipped before the end of the year up to 200,000 tons from Malaya at approximately Is. per lb. It is hoped that other countries will take up their allocations promptly and that in this way any accumulation in Malaya will be avoided. As regards future arrangements for the marketing of rubber, I understand that my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade hopes to be in a position to make a statement shortly.