HC Deb 24 May 1954 vol 528 cc7-8
14. Mr. Lawson

asked the Minister of Supply to what extent efforts are being made to secure for this country supplies of iron ore from the Quebec-Labrador deposits; and how far Scotland will benefit from these supplies.

The Minister of Supply (Mr. Duncan Sandys)

Arrangements for raw material supplies are the responsibility of the industry under the supervision of the Iron and Steel Board.

Mr. Lawson

Whilst thanking the Minister for his reply, could I ask if he is aware that the Board has already indicated that it is interested in those deposits, but that no information is given as to the extent of its interests? No doubt the Minister will be aware that those deposits are extremely rich, that American concerns are already developing them, and that it is expected that between 10 million and 20 million tons of ore will be brought in quite soon. Could we have an indication as to the extent of the interest of the Iron and Steel Board in those fields, the extent of the proportion of the investment it has made, and the amount of ore it expects to obtain?

Mr. Sandys

I understand that the Board will be happy to supply the hon. Gentleman with the information on the point raised in his Question.

Mr. Woodburn

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this question of the Labrador deposits goes beyond a mere trading concern and could be an important factor in economic integration between ourselves and Canada; and are the Government not taking any steps to try to make it available to the West of Scotland, because the iron is actually nearer the West of Scotland than it is to the American steel interests?

Mr. Sandys

The House of Commons, in the Iron and Steel Act, 1953, placed specifically upon the Board the responsibility for supervising the arrangements for the supply of raw materials, and I have no doubt that it is discharging its duty conscientiously and satisfactorily. I do not think it is for the Government to intervene at this stage.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

Could the right hon. Gentleman be more precise in telling the House who is really responsible? Supposing the supervising arrangements go wrong and there are not sufficient materials, will the responsibility to the nation then be that of the industry, of the Board, or of the Government?

Mr. Sandys

I think that the right hon. Gentleman knows the provisions of the Act as well as I do. The basic responsibility rests with the industry. The Board has the responsibility, under the Act, of supervising the arrangements made by the industry, and in the last resort, if the Board is unable to persuade the industry to make satisfactory arrangements, there are provisions in the Act which enable the Government to intervene.

Mr. Follick

Is the Minister aware that the whole output of the Knobe and Seven Islands area goes, by agreement, to the steel industries situated in Duluth and Chicago, and is that one of the reasons which has prompted the United States to ratify the St. Lawrence Waterway Agreement?

Mr. Sandys

I think the St. Lawrence Waterway takes us a long way from the Question on the Order Paper.