HC Deb 20 July 1953 vol 518 cc4-6
3. Mr. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Materials whether he will give an estimate of the extent of State bulk purchase and sale of those commodities and materials for which his Department is responsible, comparing 1st July, 1953, with 1st November, 1951; the decline percentum in such trading between these two dates, measured in terms of value; and the progress made towards elimination of State trading by his Department.

Sir A. Salter

Taking the value of imports in 1952 for the purpose of comparison, commodities of which my Department was the sole importer at 1st November, 1951, totalled £327 million. The corresponding figure for 1st July, 1953, was £143 million, a decline of 56 per cent. If account is taken of the return of copper to private trading next month, the decline becomes 84 per cent. I think that these comparisons show a considerable and rapid progress in the reduction of trading by my Department.

Mr. Nabarro

While congratulating my right hon. Friend on the limited progress that he has made——

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

No bullying.

Mr. Nabarro

—and while I have no desire to bully him in this matter, may I ask whether he realises that we on this side of the House deplore the continuance of this hoary relic of Socialism and that we want his Ministry disbanded at the earliest possible moment?

Sir A. Salter

My hon. Friend has raised that question before; I have pointed out then, and I now repeat, that to describe the purpose of the Ministry merely as one of public trading and as a relic of Socialism is a very inadequate account of its purpose.

Mr. S. Silverman

Was not the establishment of this Ministry one of the few triumphs of the Prime Minister when he used to occupy the corner seat on the Front Bench below the Gangway?

Sir A. Salter

indicated dissent.

4. Mr. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Materials the materials and commodities in which his Department traded by bulk purchase and sale on 1st November, 1951; those returned to the private traders to handle since that date and thus abandoned by his Department; those materials and commodities which his Department is still purchasing in bulk, as a monopoly, and selling to traders in the United Kingdom; and when this business will end.

Sir A. Salter

As the information for which my hon. Friend asks is somewhat detailed, I will, with his permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

With regard to the future of public trading by my Department, I cannot usefully add anything to the answer I gave my hon. Friend on 4th May.

Materials traded on public account at 1st November, 1951 Present Position
(i)Softwood (from North America, Yugoslavia and the Soviet bloc) Returned to private trading on 1st January, 1952.
(ii)Plywood (from North America, U.S.S.R. and Finland) Returned to private trading on 1st January, 1953.
(iii)Fertilizer Materials Returned to private trading on 1st July, 1952.
(iv)Lead Returned to private trading on 1st October, 1952.
(v)Zinc Returned to private trading on 1st January, 1953.
(vi)Aluminium Returned to private trading on 1st July, 1953.
(vii)Copper Returned to private trading announced 4th April, effective date 5th August, 1953.
(viii)Sulphur and Pyrites Remain on Public Account.
(ix)Jute and Jute Goods
(x)Tungsten and Magnesium
(xi)True Hemp
Certain limited trading activities (i) in which the Department sells the product of Government factories, e.g., flax, ammonium sulphate, calcium carbide, but has no monopoly of sales and (ii) terminal sales of stocks of materials in which full private trading has been resumed are excluded from the foregoing table
Mr. Nabarro

But that answer was not satisfactory. Is my right hon. Friend aware that we want some progress in this matter? We want each of the remaining commodities to be handed back to private enterprise. Is that not a primary purpose of a Conservative Administration?

Sir A. Salter

I should have thought that an 84 per cent. reduction, of which two-thirds has been accomplished in this calendar year, or will have been by the first week in August, was considerable progress.

Mr. Bottomley

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm what his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that our economic position in the last 50 years had been deteriorating entirely under private enterprise, and that with the advent of State trading there has been a great improvement?

Sir W. Smithers

Does my right hon. Friend not realise that if he tries to break the law of supply and demand that law will come along like a steam-roller and leave him and the country on the hard high road of reality? Will he observe his Leader's slogan, "Set the people free"?

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that that arises out of the Question.

Following is the information: