HC Deb 08 March 1951 vol 485 cc890-2

4.0 a.m.

Wing Commander Bullus (Wembley, North)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, praying that the Order, dated 8th February, 1951, entitled the Iron and Steel Scrap Order, 1951 (S.I., 1951, No. 208), a copy of which was laid before this House on 10th February, be annulled. I sincerely hope that the Minister of Supply will give me an answer to some of the points I want to raise, because I am seriously seeking information. I should like to ask if these increased prices are due to the shortage of this raw material, and I should like to have a categorical answer. I am aware that the imports of scrap we have received in these post-war years from Germany have now dried up. I realise that the United States are importing more scrap from Europe. I should like to know if the shortages of this metal are due to the fact that ships have been diverted by the Government to import coal and that therefore the shortage of this material has been accentuated and this increase in price has been necessitated.

If the Minister can envisage in the not too distant future further rises of price, is it not likely that scrap will be held back until higher prices are forthcoming? I suggest that these present increases are due wholly to the Government policy in the past. I suggest that the Government must accept the blame for the shortage and therefore for causing the increase of prices. The House passed a resolution on Friday condemning the Government for their past policy. I seek this information now, and I hope I shall have the privilege of an answer because I have been brief.

Sir John Mellor (Sutton Coldfield)

I beg to second the Motion.

4.2 a.m.

Mr. Jack Jones (Rotherham)

I am surprised that the hon. and gallant Member for Wembley, North (Wing Commander Bullus) should be seeking information about why additional prices are being paid for scrap. He has himself given the real reason. It is because scrap is at a premium today. We have ceased to get the supplies of scrap we used to get from Germany to keep up production of steel at its present level and it is essential that every ounce of scrap in this country should be collected.

Hon. Members opposite who are always talking about incentives, private enterprise, setting people free and advocating profits and wanting to get things vitally necessary for the country, ought to know the simple and logical reason why people have now to be given an incentive to go out into the wilds and gather scrap that has been lying around rusting and rotting for years. The hon. and gallant Member knows perfectly well that the Iron and Steel Federation pays a subsidy, and has done so for years, for the collection of uneconomic scrap, and has paid for it by taking money from economic scrap which is easy to obtain. To ask such a simple question at this time of the morning, and in this day and age, is a reflection on the intelligence of ordinary individuals.

4.4 a.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply (Mr John Freeman)

I can answer briefly the questions put to me by the hon. and gallant Member for Wembley, North (Wing Commander Bullus). This Order gives an increased commission of 1¼ per cent. on the commissions allowed to scrap merchants in the collection of scrap. It is necessary for two reasons. In the first place the commission has not been increased since 1940. It seems reasonable that the increase should be allowed because costs have risen considerably over that period of nearly 11 years.

Secondly, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) has just pointed out, we desire to give dealers every incentive at the moment to bring in every ton of scrap they can. The hon. and gallant Member seemed to suppose that this increase would reflect itself in an increase in the price of steel. The fact is that the increase this Order permits in commission to scrap dealers is approximately the equivalent of one-eighth of 1 per cent. of the price of ingot steel, and that it is not reflected in any increase whatever in the price of steel

Question put, and negatived.