§ 22. Mr. Bossom
asked the President of the Board of Trade what special efforts are being made to get all the softwood essential to prevent any hold-up to this year's housing programme.
Mr. H. Wilson
In planning the housing programme, account is taken of the softwood which will be required for this and other essential uses. In addition to our imports from Scandinavia and other normal suppliers, we are attempting to increase the rate of supplies from Russia, while imports are, of course, being made also from North America.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question on that, but I can assure him that we are doing everything possible to maintain and improve supplies, and he may care to know that the Timber Controller is next week going to Moscow to negotiate for supplies from Russia.
§ Mr. Bossom
The right hon. Gentleman does not seem to have heard what I said. I was not talking about Moscow, but Sweden. Have we not actually cut down the amount of softwood which we are getting from Sweden this year?
There has been no question of cutting down the amount this year, but the negotiations for buying there are not yet completed.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Can the President say whether any progress has been made in the negotiations between his Department and the merchanting firms who, in prewar days, were responsible for softwood imports, in regard to the decontrol of softwood on lines similar to the decontrol of hardwood?
Yes, Sir. I made a statement last week about the particular conditions, which I am quite sure this House would wish to insist upon before there were such reversion, and I commented that the private traders considered that my suggestions for the removal of these controls were impracticable.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
The right hon. Gentleman said that a high official was going to Moscow, but could he assure the House that everything possible has been done to increase the import of softwoods from Canada rather than going to Moscow?
The hon. and gallant Gentleman should be aware by this time—because we have dealt with it many times in the past—that a simple barter of steel against timber in Canada would make very little difference indeed to the amount of timber we should get, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman can work out for himself if he looks at the price.