HC Deb 22 February 1951 vol 484 cc1424-5
3. Mr. Gerald Williams

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that canning factories are closing down owing to the shortage of tinplate; and if he will immediately stop exports to avoid unemployment.

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to him on 29th January on this subject.

Mr. Williams

Since that reply said that exports of tinplate were vital, would the Minister say why they are vital, especially to the Argentine? We exported coal and have brought on a crisis, and we are now exporting tinplate and exactly the same thing happens.

Mr. Wilson

I have already made it clear that exports to the Argentine have been cut. As to the reason why exports are vital, I would remind the hon. Member both of certain imports into this country and the very high priority requirements of the Commonwealth in that connection.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Is the Minister not aware that unemployment is actually being caused in Perthshire and other parts of the country through the closing of canning factories? Has he no interest in that particularly important matter?

Mr. Wilson

Yes, Sir. That question has already been discussed in the House and, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman is aware, we have reduced exports as far as we can.

20 and 21. Mr. De la Bère

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) whether, in view of the importance of maintaining food production from the canning factories situated in this country, he will ensure that the supply of tinplate is made adequate for their requirements; and whether he will reduce the tinplate allocation to the Argentine;

(2) whether, in connection with the agreement which has been entered into between the Government and the Argentine Government in connection with the supply of tinplate for five years, steps will be taken to ensure that this agreement is ended by giving two months' notice at 30th June, 1951, so as to supply additional tinplate for canning of food in this country.

Mr. H. Wilson

As regards the hon. Member's first Question, I would refer him to the reply given on 29th January to the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. G. Williams), and would add that Argentina is certainly one of the countries, exports to which are being restricted. As regards the hon. Member's second Question, the future of the Anglo-Argentine Trade and Payments Agreement could not be determined solely by reference to tinplate.

Mr. De la Bère

Why should the home producer of food, whose products are so sorely needed by the country today, be handicapped for the benefit of the foreigner? Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the agreement should be terminated? If it is the case that it should be, why not do the right thing now, and not in the unknown future?

Mr. Wilson

I have said that most supplies are not going to what the hon. Gentleman calls "the foreigner" but to the Commonwealth. It would be extremely difficult to interfere with those supplies.

Mr. De la Bère

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that I was dealing with Argentina? This is thorough muddle. This is thoroughly unsatisfactory.

Mr. Douglas Marshall

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the needs of the fishing industry?

Mr. Wilson

The Minister of Food and I are fully aware of the need for the products of the fishing industry, and other industries, and we are doing all we can to meet them in this matter.

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