HC Deb 01 August 1952 vol 504 cc1864-6
The Secretary for Overseas Trade (Mr. H. R. Mackeson)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and the leave of the House. I should like to make a statement in connection with the Anglo-American tin agreement.

I am glad to be able to inform the House of the satisfactory outcome of the arrangements which were made in the supply of tin to the United States under the Anglo-American Agreement of 18th January last.

Hon. Members will recall that as part of the Agreement the two Governments expressed the desire that more normal arrangements for the conduct of this trade should be established as soon as possible. The Government of the United States recently informed Her Majesty's Government that they proposed to remove the ban on the private import of tin into the United States which has existed since March, 1951.

In view of the fact that purchases of tin under the Agreement have now been virtually completed, Her Majesty's Government have readily agreed to release the Government of the United States from the limitations in Clause 4 upon the buying of tin in competition with our purchases on their behalf. The text of Notes exchanged between the two Governments has been published as a White Paper today.

When deliveries have been completed sales of tin under the Agreement will have realised nearly 53 million dollars. The net charge on the relevant Vote is not likely to exceed £150,000. This is considerably less than was expected.

The private import of tin into the United States is being restored with effect from today.

Mr. Gaitskell

Can the hon. Gentleman say what effects he thinks this change is likely to have on the dollar earnings of the sterling area? Secondly, can he say, in the light of the new situation, what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking to try to secure greater stability in the price of tin and avoid the very serious fluctuations in price which have occurred in recent years?

Mr. Mackeson

The right hon. Gentleman's first question concerns a matter of opinion which I do not think I should give. As regards stability of the price of tin, now that we have restored the normal freedom of the market it is considered by both Governments that there should not be the wild fluctuations in prices which have occurred in the past.

Mr. Gaitskell

Are we to understand that the Government are to take no steps whatever to try to get an international tin agreement? Is it not quite clear from experience in the past, when tin was handled by private enterprise, that there were serious fluctuations? Does the hon. Gentleman not think he had better do something about this?

Mr. Mackeson

We are going to restore the freedom of the London Metal Exchange.

Mr. G. Wilson

Are we to understand that the net result of the Prime Minister's visit to America and the consequential agreements is that not only has this country received a great deal of steel but that we are now able to free the tin market, to the mutual benefit of both countries?

Mr. Mackeson

Yes, Sir. The Americans have more than honoured their agreement and have delivered in the past half year more steel than they promised the Prime Minister when he was last in the United States.

Mr. Harold Davies

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this tin agreement is not giving to the Singapore smelting industry a fair deal, and that the smelting is now being moved to Texas, with the result that Malayan tin smelting is being destroyed?

Mr. Mackeson

That remark is quite inaccurate.

Mr. Hayman

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the whole history of private dealing in tin in this country has shown a great instability of prices, with heavy employment at one period, followed by work, and then unemployment again?

Mr. Mackeson

As a result of the steps that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister took, we have been able to sell tin to the United States. Most hon. Gentlemen know that there was no purchase of tin for several months last year. We have reached a reasonable agreement which should be of great assistance to the workers in the tin industry all over the world.

Mr. Shinwell

In view of the fact that we have had several statements made by Ministers this morning, cannot we now, on the eve of the Recess, have a few words from the Prime Minister in the course of which he might advance valid reasons why this Government should remain in office?