HC Deb 22 February 1951 vol 484 cc1430-2
9. Mr. Osborne

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that rayon production has been cut recently by 15 per cent. owing to the shortage of sulphuric acid; and since rayon has risen least in price of all fibres used in the manufacture of clothing, what steps he proposes to take to increase supplies of sulphuric acid, and so avoid further unnecessary rise in clothing prices.

Mr. H. Wilson

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) on 30th January.

Mr. Osborne

As I have not that reply with me, may I ask the Minister whether the shortage is due partly to the lack of dollars which the Treasury would not supply or whether it is due to a physical shortage which could not be foreseen?

Mr. Wilson

It is not to the slightest extent due to the lack of dollars. Dollars were allocated for the full amount we were able to get last year, but we were notified some months ago by the sulphur producers of the United States that they were not able to maintain the rate of supply to us. Since then, when a small cut was made, the American Government have imposed strict export licensing and our allocation is again radically insufficient to meet the needs of the rayon industry and other industries.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

Could the President assure the House that this question of sulphur shortage will receive high priority in the forthcoming talks which, we understand, he is to have soon in America?

Mr. Wilson

If and when I am able to go there, naturally there would be a number of questions of common interest, on economic affairs to discuss. The question of sulphur and other raw materials is, of course, very important, but I would inform the hon. and gallant Gentleman that in the very near future the Commodity Committee, which deals with sulphur, will be meeting.

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

When is the Sulphur Committee to meet? Is even the composition of the Committee known at the moment? What steps is the right hon. Gentleman taking to secure sulphur from sources other than the United States?

Mr. Wilson

I understand that the Committee will meet in the next few days, although I am not sure of the exact date. We have given every encouragement to the purchases of sulphur in any form wherever it may be found, but there are very few supplies, available outside the United States. We are, of course, encouraging the maximum use of pyrites and other alternatives, but it takes a very long time to convert the plants.