HC Deb 20 July 1953 vol 518 cc15-7
16. Mr. Willey

asked the Minister of Materials what action he has taken to secure international agreement on the prices of essential raw materials.

Sir A. Salter

The United Kingdom takes an active part in international discussions, such as have recently been taking place with regard to tin and rubber, designed to reduce fluctuations in the prices of raw materials.

Mr. Willey

Will the right hon. Gentleman disregard the irresponsible statements which have been made by hon. Members on the benches behind him and pursue this matter with the greatest vigour and activity, because it vitally affects most of our industries?

Sir A. Salter

If the hon. Member will recall the recent discussions in Copenhagen about rubber, and the discussions that have just taken place about tin, he will realise that we are actively proceeding with this problem.

Mr. Burden

Will my right hon. Friend give very serious consideration to this matter before he commits this country too deeply, as it might well be that agreement internationally could react to the detriment of this country, whose labour costs are so high in comparison with some of its competitors? Might it not be true that in many cases private enterprise could go out and buy raw materials better than can be done under the present arrangements?

Mr. Noel-Baker

In his discussions on this very important matter of international commodity agreements, will the Minister bear in mind that the fluctuation in the prices of rubber and tin has been little less than a disaster to Malaya and other British territories? Will he do all he can to secure such agreements?

Sir A. Salter

I do not think that my hon. Friend need be alarmed that there will be any hasty rushing into agreements without adequate consideration.

As regards the point made by the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker), I entirely agree that there is a common interest between producers and consumers, not necessarily to make the price, on long-term, either higher or lower, on the average, than it would otherwise have been, but to reduce fluctuations.

Sir H. Williams

Will my right hon. Friend take notice of the fact that our refusal to sign the International Wheat Agreement has led to a fall in wheat prices?

Sir A. Salter

It is a little premature to say what the effect of that will be.