HC Deb 24 February 1948 vol 447 cc1771-2
71. Mr. De la Bère

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he can state the approximate value in pounds sterling of timber purchased from America which was lying in British timber yards at 1st January, 1948; and how many times more expensive this timber was as compared to the pre-war prices.

Mr. Bottomley (Secretary for Overseas Trade)

I regret that the information regarding the value of American timber lying in timber yards in this country on 1st January is not available, as stock returns are not based on value or on place of origin. Softwood imported from America in 1947 was about twice, and hardwood about three times, as expensive as in 1938.

Mr. De la Bère

Is it not a fact that there are many millions of pounds' worth of American imported timber lying in yards, and of which no use is being made? Surely it is possible to find out the figure? I cannot accept that reply. I must voice a vigorous protest.

Mr. Bottomley

This is in the hands of private enterprise. To ask stock holders to include such information in their returns would throw unnecessary work upon them.

72. Mr. De la Bère

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether it is proposed to put the stocks of American timber now lying in British timber yards into consumption at an early date; and if the necessary type of trucks on the railways is available to move this timber, in view of the large sizes of timber purchased.

Mr. Bottomley

In view of our balance of payments position, the utmost economy is necessary in the use of stocks of all timber. Licence holders are allowed as free a choice as possible from the available stocks, and American timber, like timber from any other source, moves into consumption as required to meet licences. The wagon position has improved and the specialised wagons required for these movements are available.

Mr. De la Bère

Are we to understand that this timber cannot be transported on the roads in the normal way, and is it only available for rail carriages? Why was timber of this character bought in view of the need of proper timber for building? Why is it that the dollars were spent and no timber adequate for house-building obtained? Where are the houses?