HC Deb 29 January 1948 vol 446 cc1173-4
10. Mr. Scott-Elliot

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that there is a serious deficiency of soda ash, which is an essential component in the manufacture of glass; and what steps are being taken to rectify the position.

Mr. H. Wilson

I am aware that there is a shortage of soda ash which is a basic material, not only in glass manufacture but in a wide range of other industries. Existing capacity for manufacturing soda ash is being worked to the maximum extent, and further increases can come only with the completion of new capacity which I am doing my best to expedite. Certain additional quantities have recently been made available for glass.

Mr. Granville Sharp

In view of the recent statement made by my right hon. Friend at a Press conference, to the effect that he proposes exporting soda ash, will he assure the House that he does not propose to do so until the needs of the export trades, including the wool textile trade as well as the glass trade, are fully met?

Mr. Wilson

No, Sir. I cannot give that assurance because soda ash is one of the most important commodities which comes up for discussion in bilateral negotiations, and in certain countries a small quantity of soda ash might swing the whole trend of the negotiations. However, we keep very much in mind the needs of the export industries, and have made allocations as generously as we can to those particularly in need.

Mr. W. Fletcher

Is the right hon. Gentleman turning his attention to increasing the output from the Magadi Lake in East Africa, where there are enormous natural deposits?

Mr. Wilson

Yes, Sir, we have that source of supply very much in mind, as well as sources in this country.