HC Deb 05 April 1951 vol 486 cc358-61
17. Mr. Hollis

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he can make a statement on the expected imports of sulphur into this country.

27. Mr. Janner

asked the President of the Board of Trade what is now the position with regard to our sulphur supplies.

Mr. H. Wilson

I regret I am not in a position to add anything to the reply which I gave on 22nd March to similar Questions on this subject.

Mr. Hollis

Is the right hon. Gentleman not yet even in a position to answer the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) on 22nd March, whether superphosphates are still being exported from this country during the present critical situation?

Mr. Wilson

That is another question. The Question I am now answering relates to the expected imports of sulphur into this country.

Mr. Janner

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is very considerable apprehension in the hosiery industry in Leicester and the surrounding district about the supply of sulphur; and can he tell us when he will be able to say something more definite about the position?

Mr. Wilson

I am aware that there is widespread apprehension in practically every industry in the country, because practically every industry is affected by the shortage of sulphur. In spite of repeated pressure we have still had no reply from the American Government as to the supplies we can expect for the second quarter, though we have been told that we can have 19,000 tons on account.

Mr. Fort

Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to keep experts who are familiar with the sulphur business in Washington until the present shortage is overcome, whether that be in a year or two years' time.

Mr. Wilson

As long as their presence in Washington is required and can in any way help to solve this problem, they will be kept in Washington.

Mr. Jennings

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the shortage of raw materials in this country is directly due to the policy of His Majesty's Government?

24. Mr. Shepherd

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether any action is being taken to obtain the sulphur sup plies available in Iceland.

Mr. H. Wilson

The possibility of obtaining sulphur from Iceland is being investigated, though I understand that no immediate supplies are practicable.

25. Mr. Osborne

asked the President of the Board of Trade if the supplementary quota of 19,000 tons of sulphur which is being given by the United States Department of Commerce to meet our current production needs will be sufficient to avoid the previously anticipated 40 per cent. cut in rayon production; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. H. Wilson

The 19,000 tons provided by the United States authorities are to cover the period until export allocations for the second quarter of the year are notified. Until our allocation is known, I cannot say whether or not the effect on rayon production will be of the magnitude previously anticipated.

Mr. Osborne

As the Minister warned the industry that there would be this 40 per cent. cut, is he aware that it will mean an increase in the cost of utility garments as well as a shortage of supplies? Cannot he say to the trade and to the nation that this 19,000 tons of sulphur will at least keep us going for the next three months?

Mr. Wilson

I said that a cut of the order of 40 per cent. would be inevitable if the allocation were not increased above 81,000 tons. Until I get a clear statement that we are to get more than 81,000 tons in the second quarter, I cannot give the assurance for which the hon. Gentleman rightly asks.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

Even if the allocation of raw sulphur is sufficient to avoid this cut, would the right hon. Gentleman explore the possibility of substantially increasing the production of sulphuric acid in Germany in order to get increased supplies from there?

Mr. Wilson

We are doing everything possible, and allowing free importation of sulphur and sulphur products from wherever they may be found. It is a very long job indeed to increase the production of sulphuric acid, particularly in this country.

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

In view of the low delivery of sulphur compared with what we want in the first quarter, is this figure of 19,000 tons to be taken as an advance on what we are to receive in the second quarter and as having nothing to do with the possible increase required in the first quarter?

Mr. Wilson

We all hope that this will be 19,000 tons in addition to the figure of 81,000 tons, but although we have made many representations and asked for more information for industry, in order to know where it stands, we have still had no confirmation of that.

Mr. Harrison

Will my right hon. Friend see if there are any prospects of supplies of synthetic or manufactured sulphur, so that we may be relieved of trespassing on supplies from the United States of America?

Mr. Wilson

I am not aware of synthetic or manufactured sulphur, but we are pushing ahead very fast, as I have explained to the House, with the use of anhydrites, pyrites, spent oxide and other substances.

Mr. Drayson

Will the Minister assure us that he is doing all that he can to facilitate the importation of sulphur chemicals? Is he aware that these chemicals are available on the Continent, but that the 33⅓ per cent. ad valorem duty makes the price to the manufacturers prohibitive? Will he discuss this matter with the Treasury to see if, while the shortage exists, the duty can be waived?

Mr. Wilson

This seems to be another question. Many manufacturers in this country have been buying sulphur and other products at four, five and six times the American price, so I should not have thought that the duty which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned would stand in the way of importation.