HC Deb 30 March 1950 vol 473 cc550-1
30. Captain Duncan

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the price of binder twine has increased from £143 per ton to £162 since last November; whether this is being taken into consideration in the review of agricultural prices now being undertaken; and what steps he is taking to reduce the price of this commodity which is now five times the pre-war price.

Mr. H. Wilson

After discussions between the Central Price Regulation Committee and the manufacturers, the price of binder twine for the current season has been fixed at £162 a ton, £19 higher than last season's price. I understand that this increase was not taken into account in the recent review of agricultural prices because the data for that review had been assembled before the decision on binder twine had been reached. The increase is due to the rise of over £30 a ton in the world price of sisal since last September. I am afraid that no reduction in the price of binder twine will be possible until there is a fall in the price of sisal, which is now seven times the 1938 price.

Captain Duncan

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is a typical instance of rising prices which affect agriculture and fisheries, and which, in turn, will adversely affect the cost of living, which is steadily rising? Will he take steps to control this increased cost?

Mr. Wilson

I am delighted to hear an hon. Member of an Opposition ask me to control prices of goods which are available in a free market—[An HON. MEMBER: "No."] Really, hon. Members of the Opposition should not try to believe their own propaganda on this. The plain fact is that since sisal was returned to the free market there has been a very big increase in price, but if hon. Members opposite now press me to reimpose control I will consider it.

Mr. W. Fletcher

Has not the right hon. Gentleman forgotten that the rise in price of sisal brings in an enormous dollar crop as compensation, and is he not drawing a most unfair picture of the situation?

Mr. Wilson

I am aware of that fact; dollar earnings from sisal are very important, and I suggest that the hon. Member should bring that fact to the notice of his hon. and gallant Friend below the Gangway.

Mr. John Hynd

Will my right hon. Friend ascertain what proportion of the tremendous increase in the price of sisal is going to the producer in Africa?