HC Deb 22 March 1951 vol 485 cc2572-3
35. Mr. Chetwynd

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether any agreement has yet been reached about the allocation of sulphur from the United States of America; and whether he will make a statement about the distribution of sulphur to essential industries.

39. Mr. Tom Brown

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps are being taken to increase the supplies of sulphuric acid to the rayon industry.

Mr. H. Wilson

Agreement has not yet been reached with the Government of the United States of America on the allocation of sulphur, and I still await decision on the representations which have been made. Pending this, every effort will be directed to maintain supplies to essential industries, including supplies of sulphuric acid for the rayon industry, at as high a level as practicable.

Mr. Chetwynd

In view of the very severe threat to our industry, will my right hon. Friend say whether he intends to make a personal visit to the United States to raise this matter at the highest level; and, has he any comment to make on recent newspaper allegations that this shortage arises because we were not making dollars available?

Mr. Wilson

I think it is too early to say whether any visits will be paid to the United States on this question. On the second part of my hon. Friend's question, I did see the suggestion in the Press last Saturday that the shortage was due to a failure to allocate dollars. In fact, dollars have been allocated throughout for the whole amount of the supplies available to us, and there is no foundation whatever for the "Daily Telegraph" statement.

Mr. Brown

Has my right hon. Friend explored every avenue in order to secure new markets or new sources of supply, and have there been any attempts to secure sulphuric acid from Spain and Cyprus? Is he further aware that the rayon industry in Lancashire is depreciating very severely, and that we shall be faced with unemployment if something is not done?

Mr. Wilson

On the first point, we have been throwing the net very wide, not only for supplies of sulphur, but, more particularly, for pyrites, and we get large quantities from Spain. We are also going into the question of the development of supplies from Cyprus, and the development at home of acid supplies from anhydrites. On the second part, I fully agree with what my hon. Friend has said. In fact, the rayon industry has not been cut by anything like as much as it will be cut if the allocation scheme which I have already mentioned to the House has to be introduced.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that not only are these materials important in the rayon industry, but that sulphuric acid is very important from the point of view of the metal industry?

Mr. Wilson

A shortage of sulphur affects practically every industry in the country.

Mr. David Eccles

As the position will be very uncertain while these negotiations are going on, will the right hon. Gentleman say what is the Government's policy in regard to the export of superphosphates? Is such export allowed or not?

Mr. Wilson

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman an answer on that specific point, but, of course, sulphur exports generally are very small.