HC Deb 29 January 1948 vol 446 cc1171-2
7. Sir P. Hannon

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the result of negotiations between Britain and the United States for the disposal of the United Kingdom stock of natural rubber; what is the volume stock which is being negotiated for sale; what was the price of the stock acquired by bulk purchase; and if a disposal price has been arranged.

Mr. H. Wilson

In response to a request from the United States Government, I have recently furnished details of the stocks held by His Majesty's Government, together with the prices at which these stocks have been on offer for some time past. These prices are based on 1s. 3 3/16d. per pound ex store for No. 1 sheet, and roughly represents the overall cost. I have also given some indication of the amounts which might be released for the United States Government stockpile. There have been no further developments.

Sir P. Hannon

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that in any negotiations which may take place in matters of this kind the interests of this country are always protected?

Mr. Wilson

In these negotiations we have very much in mind the interests, not only of this country, but also very particularly of the producers in Malaya, and the maintenance of a reasonable price for this commodity.

Mr. Walter Fletcher

Is it not true that two other Ministries are concerned in these negotiations; that they are consulting different people in the trade; and in order to avoid a repetition of what happened at Geneva would it not be better to consult officially the Rubber Study Group set up for this purpose?

Mr. Wilson

The Departments are working together very closely, and there has been no difficulty in the matter to which the hon. Member refers. As far as I know, the Rubber Study Group are not meeting for some time, so it would not be possible for them to discuss it.

Mr. Fletcher

Would not their advice be useful on this important occasion; is it not true that the Colonial Office representative did give the Press information which was not accurate; and how can negotiations be carried on by three Ministries who are not working together in the matter?