HC Deb 14 July 1949 vol 467 cc665-6
72. Sir J. Mellor

asked the Minister of Supply what will be the estimated loss upon his stocks of copper, lead and zinc acquired before 12th July, 1949.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply (Mr. John Freeman)

It would be premature to give any estimate at this stage, since the figure will depend on the prices at which stocks are eventually realised.

Sir J. Mellor

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that that would be a fair answer if the Minister had agreed to reopen the Metal Exchange and permit a free market?

Mr. Freeman

No, Sir. I do not admit that that supplementary has got anything to do with the Question. The answer I have given is a perfectly fair one to the Question put down.

Colonel Haughton

Will the Parliamentary Secretary say on what date the Ministry propose to take stock?

Mr. Freeman

There is no question of taking stock. Obviously, the stocks are perfectly well known. The figure the hon. Baronet is trying to get cannot be determined in advance. In fact the prices of two of these non-ferrous metals have changed in the last two days, since the major revision which my right hon. Friend announced.

Mr. Churchill

Is it not very important that the House and the country should have in their possession the true figures of the very heavy losses made by the State-management of these purchasing affairs, and the consequent burden and handicap imposed upon our export trade thereby?

Mr. Freeman

The "very heavy losses" that have been made to date on these metals amount to a profit of about £6 million.

Mr. Churchill

Then why did the Minister not say that before? If it had been to his detriment he would have concealed it.

Sir Frank Sanderson

Will the Minister give the House an assurance that he will enter into no long-term contracts for any type of metal or other commodity which does not include a break clause?

Mr. Freeman

That is a totally different question.