Mr. H. Wilson
(by Private Notice) asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what applications he has received in relation to the future capitalisation and/or ownership of the British Aluminium Company and whether he will make a statement.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Derick Heathcoat Amory)
I have received applications requiring Exchange Control approval and Capital Issues consent in respect of two sets of proposals affecting the future capitalisation and ownership of the British Aluminium Company. These are under consideration.
Since neither proposal can go forward without the Chancellor's permission, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that the facts are very much in dispute? In view of the important issues involved, affecting both the question of foreign participation in control and also the rights of shareholders, would the right hon. Gentleman consider asking an independent lawyer or accountant to prepare for him a report on all the facts of the case and the issues at stake before he comes to a decision?
I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion would be appropriate in these circumstances, but I agree that both these applications raise important and difficult issues. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Government will give very careful and full 1028 consideration to them before announcing a decision.
We all recognise that the Chancellor has a very invidious task to perform here, which involves interfering in these matters. In view of the very deep concern expressed by some financial newspapers and City columns about this matter, would it not be better if the right hon. Gentleman had the facts properly investigated, some disputes cleared up and the issues brought before him on an objective basis before he decides? When does the right hon. Gentleman expect to communicate his decision if, as I hope he will not, he rejects my suggestion?
I hope that the relevant facts will be shortly in the Government's possession. We realise the importance of reaching a decision as soon as possible, and I do not think that a decision will be very long delayed.
I am sorry to pester the right hon. Gentleman. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Well, this is a very important question. We do not want another Trinidad sell-out. Would the right hon. Gentleman recognise that I was not pressing him necessarily for a speedy decision, because there really is no hurry about this matter, but that the important thing is that the matter should be properly investigated in advance of a decision rather than that we should have an inquest on it, possibly in the House, and inquiries and comments and all the rest in the Press afterwards?
I assure the right hon. Gentleman again that we realise fully the importance of ensuring that we are in possession of all the information necessary before a decision in this important matter is taken.