HC Deb 26 April 1951 vol 487 cc546-7
5. Mr. Dodds

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement as to the steps he proposes to take to promote the production of the new discovery made by scientists at the Chemical Research Laboratory of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research which will relieve the sulphur shortage.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas)

Recent work at this laboratory has produced two results which may help to relieve the shortage of sulphur. One opens up the possibility of substituting nitric acid for rather more than half the sulphuric acid in the manufacture of phosphate fertilisers; the other, which is perhaps the one referred to by the hon. Member, is the possibility of producing sulphur by bacterial means.

Sulphur has been produced by bacteria in the laboratory but further research is required before its industrial possibilities can be assessed. This research is being undertaken with vigour, but at present it must be regarded as a long-range undertaking. The fertiliser manufacturing industry has been told of the results of the laboratory's work on the use of nitric acid in making phosphatic fertilisers, and the matter is being discussed with representatives of the industry.

Mr. Dodds

Will my hon. Friend ensure that everything possible is done to press on with this important work? Is he optimistic about the future, even if it is the long-term future?

Mr. de Freitas

It is long-term. We are pressing on, but one of the problems is that it is a slow process and we cannot devise any incentive to get the bacteria to speed up their work.

Sir Herbert Williams

Do I understand that bacteria which will change one chemical element into another has been discovered?

Mr. de Freitas

Not at all. This is a matter of using some substance like gypsum, from which it is possible to produce sulphur.

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