HC Deb 09 May 1968 vol 764 cc621-2
Q10. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister when he intends to make a statement on the siting and fuelling of the projected aluminium smelters.

The Prime Minister

I would refer my hon. Friend to the Answer given by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade on 24th April to Questions by the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey).—[Vol. 763, c. 202.]

Mr. Hamilton

Can my right hon. Friend say at this juncture whether a statement will be made in the next fortnight, as the talks with our E.F.T.A. parners seem to be either concluded or shortly to be concluded? Further, is it still the Government's intention to site all these aluminium smelters, however many there might be, in development areas?

The Prime Minister

I have been in day-to-day touch with this problem and I have had full reports on the negotiations.

My hon. Friend will understand our disappointment at not being able to give an answer earlier, but the delay arises not not so much from our discussions with E.F.T.A. as from the very detailed negotiations with the three firms with which we have been in negotiation regarding proposals to build all three in development areas. There are still some difficulties to be sewn up. The fact that there are three and we want to be fair as between the three, and the need to be extremely careful about commitments with regard to Government expenditure or Government assistance on the projects, are the reason why the matter has been delayed longer than I should have wanted.

Sir F. Bennett

Will the Prime Minister confirm or deny that one of the principal obstacles to his making a statement is the opposition of the majority of our E.F.T.A. partners to certain aspects of the proposals, and that as things stand today his only ally in the matter is Portugal?

The Prime Minister

It would not be particularly helpful to talk about discussions now going on in the E.F.T.A. Ministerial Council. There have been difficulties here, and there are some views expressed by some of our E.F.T.A. partners on the matter with which we do not agree. The main reason for the delay—and I had hoped that we could have an announcement even before Easter—is the reason I have given: not so much discussions with our E.F.T.A. partners as detailed and intricate negotiations which my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has been carrying out with the three firms.

Mr. Onslow

On a point of order. The Prime Minister commented adversely just now on the fact that he had to answer Questions from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Sir Knox Cunningham) which corresponded closely to a number of Questions he had been asked before. If the Prime Minister answered the Questions when they were first put to him the need for this would not arise.

Mr. Speaker

Very ingenious, but not a point of order.