§ The Minister of Materials (Sir Arthur Salter)
I understand that various estimates have in the past been made, by both the Government and the timber trade, of the possible increase in softwood consumption and of the reduction in the use of other materials which might result from the abolition of the softwood licensing system. I have discussed this matter with representatives of the Timber Development Association, in consultation with whom my officials are now working on a fresh assessment in the light of today's conditions and timber prices.
§ Mr. Hurd
While the Minister is satisfying himself about these figures could he tell us whether we have now reached the point where softwood timber is so plentiful and comparatively economical in use that it will pay the country to do away with the strict rationing of softwood timber and make economies in aluminium and other more costly substitutes?
§ Sir A. Salter
So far as I am aware, there is no shortage of softwood in the world. My hon. Friend will be aware that we import for foreign exchange something like 95 per cent. of the softwood we use in this country. As at present advised I do not think we can afford the extra expenditure in foreign exchange that would result from the complete abolition of this system.