15. Mr. Lee
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer in what degree the sterling area is now dependent upon dollar imports of raw materials; how far such dependency is increasing; and which types of raw materials are involved.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
In order to answer the hon. Member's question I must give a full reply.
Imports from dollar sources represent approximately one-third of the sterling area's total imports of raw materials from the non-sterling world. Materials which the sterling area draws wholly or in substantial proportion from dollar sources include aluminium, nickel, molybdenum, sulphur, synthetic rubber and manila hemp. There are also large imports, although forming a smaller proportion of total supplies, of cotton, softwood, wood-pulp, paper and copper.
It is not possible to provide any simple measure of whether the area as a whole is becoming more or less dependent on dollar supplies. New sources of supply are continually being developed both inside and outside the sterling area, and although I cannot speak for other Governments the extent to which U.K. importers have been given freedom of choice of sources has progressively increased.
Is the Chancellor satisfied with the tendencies of our trade with Canada? Secondly, would he agree that, if we are to go into the age of automation before long, we shall find that the absorption rate of raw materials in the world will be far greater than now, and that if we are to be dependent upon imports from the dollar area we may suffer a raw material famine? Would he consider what we can do to step up the geological survey in Britain and the Colonies and to find more geologists, technologists and people of that type?
§ Mr. Butler
Yes, Sir. The Government have given attention to the very important supplementary question which the hon. Member has asked. We are in process of seeing what alternative sources of supply there are in the conditions which the hon. Member states.