HC Deb 30 March 1950 vol 473 cc557-8
39. Mr. John E. Haire

asked the President of the Board of Trade what has been the percentage increase in the price of hardwood since decontrol.

Mr. H. Wilson

The wide variations in quality and wastage in the different types of timber included under the general heading of hardwood make impossible any precise comparison between present prices and the statutory prices in force before 16th January. In general, prices, particularly of better grades, appear to show an upward tendency; but they have not yet had time to settle at a realistic level.

Mr. Haire

Can the Minister discriminate between home-grown and imported hardwood? Is he aware that in the case of the former there has been an extortionate increase in prices recently?

Mr. Wilson

I am aware of the speech my hon. Friend made on this subject recently. The plain fact is that the controlled prices could not make a proper allowance for differences in quality in really exceptional types of home-grown timber. It is certainly possible, and I am not surprised, that a small amount of such timber is now fetching a higher price than the maximum controlled price.

Mr. Nabarro

In view of the satisfactory results which have attended the recent decontrol of both imported and native hardwoods will the Minister consider extending these arrangements to include imported and native softwoods at an early date?

Mr. Wilson

The fact that I have said that it will take time to see whether prices will settle down is hardly to be taken as evidence of an unqualified success. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that it is no guide to softwood, which involves a very high dollar expenditure. In the case of softwood the merchants concerned would not agree to my offer to revert to private purchase provided ceiling price control was retained.

Mr. Turton

Is it not a fact that in certain categories the price is considerably lower than it was when control was in force?

Mr. Wilson

No doubt that is so.

Mr. Haire

Can the Minister justify the increase in the price of hardwood as sold by timber control—I refer to the national stock being sold.

Mr. Wilson

The prices of national stock were brought into line with what we regarded as the estimated market values.

Mr. Vane

Will the Minister bear in mind that any temporary, undue, fluctuation is largely due to his Department's too long retention of unreal control of prices at a level below the cost of production and only 25 per cent. above the 1939 level?

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