HC Deb 16 February 1954 vol 523 cc1812-3
46. Mr. Erroll

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is prepared to assist the Malayan rubber industry by making Government purchases in the same way as assistance was given to the British textile industry during a similar period of depression in 1952.

Mr. R. A. Butler

No, Sir, the analogy is not exact.

Mr. Erroll

But is it not the analogy sufficiently close for the Chancellor to do something to help this important Commonwealth industry?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. I discussed the problems of the rubber industry with growers and others in Malaya and anything that we can do, within the bounds of what is possible, we shall do.

Mr. Gaitskell

Did the right hon. Gentleman not say when he was in Malaya that the question of commodity agreements in relation to rubber would be discussed at the Sydney Conference? Would he now tell us whether it was discussed, and what agreement was reached there?

Mr. Butler

We had a debate on that subject, and if the right hon. Gentleman was unable to elicit information in the course of the debate he is not likely to be able to do so in the course of Questions and answers.

Mr. Gaitskell

Because the right hon. Gentleman refused an answer to a question of mine in debate, I am afraid that he is not going to stop me asking it again in Question time. This is a serious matter for Malaya, and indeed the whole Commonwealth. Has the right hon. Gentleman any intention of trying to reach some agreement in regard to a commodity scheme for rubber in the United States, or in the Commonwealth if the United States will not assist?

Mr. Butler

The right hon. Gentleman has noticed certain difficultiesarising from the report of the Randall Commission with reference to United States policy. As regards United Kingdom policy, we have purchased a considerable amount of rubber. Problems that arise as to rubber stockpiling are those of whether the cost should be borne by other nations as well as ourselves—which is absolutely vital, otherwise the charge would be too much on United Kingdom funds—and the extent to which we can obtain the co-operation of the grower. It was in order to have some idea of that co-operation that I had conversations in Malaya.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that commodity agreements on rubber and tin and other things are really vital to the prosperity of South-East Asia? Will he try to get the United States and Commonwealth Governments to take this matter seriously in order that the struggle for democracy in South-East Asia may be successful?

Mr. Butler

It is being taken seriously. A tin agreement is already being considered in Malaya and, to show howseriously we are considering this matter, the British Exchequer is supporting the Malayan Budget in order to support those great social developments to which the right hon. Gentleman attaches so much importance.