HC Deb 05 December 1950 vol 482 cc202-5
67. Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on his recent discussions at the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation on the Report of the Economic Committee on Raw Materials.

Mr. Gaitskell

In accordance with decisions taken by the Council of O.E.E.C. on 7th October, a Report on the raw materials situation was prepared by the Economic Committee of the Organisation on the basis of studies made on individual commodities by technical committees. This Report was considered by the Council at its meeting on 1st and 2nd December, and in the light of the Report a number of decisions were made. I will place in the Library, as soon as they are available, copies of the resolutions which embody these decisions.

Meanwhile, they may be summarised briefly as follows:

First—and generally—all Member Countries are asked to take all possible steps to increase supplies of scarce materials, to restrict internal demand and to encourage the use of substitutes.

Secondly, in the case of certain materials, in which Europe is to a large extent self-sufficient, such as coal and metallurgical coke, schemes for equitable distribution of the available supplies are to be worked out.

Thirdly, an O.E.E.C. Mission is travelling to the United States tomorrow to discuss with the United States Government the general situation in raw materials, and in particular the difficulties which have arisen in the case of cotton and cotton linters and sulphur owing to the reduction in United States exports.

Fourth, as regard certain other commodities produced to a large extent outside Europe, for example pulp, but including timber also, the Organisation is to discuss with the principal producing and consuming countries the feasibility of holding international conferences; in the case of wool the United Kingdom has been invited to convene such a conference.

Fifth, in view of the specially important influence exerted by defence requirements on the market situation for zinc, copper and nickel, Member Countries and the United States and Canada are asked to give special and urgent consideration to this aspect of the problem in advance of any international conference.

Finally, in the case of hides and skins, sisal, tin and rubber, the appropriate technical committees are to continue their surveys and to submit proposals to the Council in due course; the other technical committees will also remain in existence to keep the market situation under continuous review and will report from time to time.

Mr. Eden

In the case of territories of the British Commonwealth where further increased production is possible, will the Government do all they can to help? I have in mind the situation in Rhodesia where, if more copper could be produced and the coal were available to produce it, some of the difficulties could be met.

Mr. Gaitskell

We are in continuous touch with Commonwealth countries on this and other matters. We shall certainly do all we can to see that production is increased as quickly as possible.

Sir R. Acland

In view of the increasing difficulty in regard to raw materials, will the Government consider re-introducing a large number of the controls which have been relaxed?

Mr. Gaitskell

The President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Supply are the appropriate Ministers to answer that question.

Earl Winterton

Arising out of the point which was put by my right hon. Friend—and here I must disclose my interest in a particular country—is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the case of Northern Rhodesia the difficulty is railway communications? Will the right hon. Gentleman give special consideration to railway communications to get these raw materials out of Rhodesia?

Mr. Gaitskell

I am aware of the difficulty of railway communications. We want urgent results as soon as possible.

Mr. Maudling

Are the Government considering the re-establishment of something like the war-time joint resources board with which European countries could be associated?

Mr. Gaitskell

We will not overlook that question.

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

The Chancellor has given a large number of proposals to meet this situation, but can he give any indication of when he will be able to make a statement showing how the proposals can be worked out?

Mr. Gaitskell

Naturally we shall keep the House informed on the situation of raw materials. So far as the O.E.E.C. are concerned, the Council is meeting again on 15th January to consider the position. No doubt I shall make a further statement after that meeting.

Mr. Assheton

In view of the grave anxiety about the shortage of cotton, can the right hon. Gentleman give any information in regard to the Question on stocks which he answered last week?

Mr. Gaitskell

I do not think I answered the Question about stocks. It was probably the President of the Board of Trade. Perhaps a further Question could be put to my right hon. Friend.

Sir W. Smithers

When will the Government realise that these controls and committees only make confusion worse confounded, and that the only solution is to let the law of supply and demand operate and set the people free?