HC Deb 11 December 1950 vol 482 cc801-3
34. Mr. Harold Davies

asked the Minister of Supply, in view of the world shortage of zinc, what steps he is taking to assure adequate supplies of this commodity.

67 and 68. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Minister of Supply (1) what action he has taken to safeguard the industrial requirements in zinc; and what steps are to be taken to increase supplies and the production of zinc;

(2) what steps he has taken to safeguard the country's needs in the supply of nonferrous metals.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

I would refer my hon. Friends to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Stechford (Mr. Jenkins) on 7th December.

Mr. Davies

May I ask my right hon. Friend if he and the President of the Board of Trade will bring all pressure to bear, both on O.E.E.C. and Washington, to emphasise that Western European progress and economy is being retarded by the lack of non-ferrous metals?

Mr. Strauss

Yes, Sir. I think we have made our position clear in that respect and taken all possible steps to ensure that as far as possible we get additional supplies.

Captain Crookshank

Yes, but since the reply to which the right hon. Gentleman referred was given in the form of a written answer, there was no opportunity for any hon. Member to ask him any questions arising out of it. No doubt he did it on purpose. Does he propose to give us an opportunity of hearing a further statement on the matter?

Mr. Strauss

No, Sir, I have no further statement to make. I wanted to make a general announcement about the metals position as quickly as possible so that industry could know how it stood. There was, obviously, ample opportunity for further Questions on the matter today.

Captain Crookshank

Does not the right hon. Gentleman know perfectly well that in the case of an important matter of this kind it is normal for Ministers to ask the permission of the House to make a verbal statement?

Mr. Strauss

I thought the arrangement which I chose was better. I made that statement on Thursday and as my Question day is Monday, those few days would enable hon. Members to frame such further Questions or supplementaries as they liked.

Mr. Smith

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the greatest proportion of exports from this country come from the engineering industry? Is he aware that there is great concern amongst managements in that industry, and can he give an undertaking that their needs will be safeguarded?

Mr. Strauss

I share their anxiety, but I cannot possibly say at the moment that they will get all the non-ferrous metals they require. We will do our best to protect their interests and see that they get as much as possible. I cannot say anything further.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is anxiety not only among managements but also among men about the possibility of short time employment in Birmingham?

Mr. Yates

Will the Minister give an assurance to the House, bearing in mind that some factories in Birmingham would have had to close a week ago but for his intervention, that when arranging for rationing of short supplies he will see that work in factories is not brought to an end abruptly, but that there will be adequate notice to enable them to replan?

Mr. Strauss

Yes, Sir, we will do our best. We are having discussions with the various interests concerned but, as I say, I cannot guarantee that there will not be short supplies to some sections of the engineering industry, which may have adverse consequences.