HL Deb 08 April 1943 vol 127 cc95-115

LORD BARNBY rose to call the attention of His Majesty's Government to the present position in regard to raw materials; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Motion standing in my name is sufficiently wide to make your Lordships realize that it would be difficult to compress into a reasonable time any adequate approach to the subject. I hope, however, that it will be the means of stimulating a constructive discussion, so that a proper review may be made of the position of raw materials and of matters connected therewith. I understand that my noble friend Lord Portal will reply for the Government, and one knows well that the subject is one which places a large burden of responsibility on him. The result of this discussion will be, I hope, to put your Lordships in possession of a statement which will enable us and the country in general to have an up-to-date appreciation of the position in regard to several raw materials. I would say in advance that I know well that Lord Portal's record in industry and in connexion with raw materials, with which he is particularly familiar, qualifies him for the very onerous duties which devolve upon him concerning the wide range of essential commodities which fall under this head. I think he would be the first to admit that great as are his responsibilities and the contribution which he personally can make, the matter is also to a very substantial degree the responsibility of the Minister of War Transport, who, by his brilliant handling of the shipping resources of the country, has contributed to the services which Lord Portal is able to render.

I propose to approach this subject under three headings, and I suggest that convenient headings are, firstly, the immediate and near-future supplies of materials, critical and general; secondly, the question of salvage; and thirdly, long-term policy with regard to such materials. I had the experience yesterday, as I went out of this House, to be told by a candid friend—and I am profoundly grateful for his remark—that he had not understood the first thing I had been talking about. As those of your Lordships who were here remember, my Motion yesterday raised the question of the powers of the Government under Defence of the Realm Regulations and particularly the power of appointing directors of public companies. I was interested in what my noble friend said because he is himself a director of several public companies and I should have thought that as one who receives pay from shareholders to watch over their interests, it would be natural that he should inform himself of the intentions of that Order. However, profiting by that remark, I am going to begin by expressing the hope that my noble friend Lord Portal will give to your Lordships—he has to some extent done it in the past, but events move so swiftly in regard to supplies of raw materials that it would do no harm to bring it up to date—a statement of the exact position with regard to control.

He himself is Chairman, I understand, of the Raw Materials Board of the Ministry of Supply, but he is under the Ministry of Production for this purpose. Your Lordships do not need to be reminded that he is also Minister of Works, but presumably that is not sufficient occupation for his immeasurable energy, so he takes on this other job as well, and the country must be grateful to him for doing this additional work. But here is a Minister with a Portfolio who is responsible, I understand, for and on behalf of the Minister of Production, for assuring to the country supplies which in turn are on the charge of the Minister of Supply; which, in cases where they involve large stocks, must be under the responsibility of the Treasury, and where they are of a character involving large supplies for civilian purposes, must be the responsibility mainly of my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade. I mention all that because it may seem to the ordinary member of your Lordships' House a sufficiently complicated question to warrant an explanation by my noble friend. That, I hope, will dispose of the charge that I have not put clearly that to which I am asking your Lordships to be so indulgent as to listen.

In approaching this question I realize that it may be said that materials which are of a critical character at the present moment will include steel, timber, rubber, leather and flax. Your Lordships will remember that I divided my suggested approach to this matter under three heads. On the first and second I hope that we may, indeed I am sure that we shall, get some illuminating information from my noble friend. With regard to the third, I cannot hope for more than his sympathetic assurance that he will represent in the right quarters such remarks as I may venture to make. Coming to those subjects in turn, I propose to deal with them quite briefly, because I am sure that there are many members of your Lordships' House who are much better qualified to deal with them technically. That being so I hesitate to say very much.

If one may start with steel, the consideration to which I would particularly draw attention is that in so far as circumstances of shipping have denied us the supplies of scrap which we received habitually in the past, largely from overseas, we have had to turn in a large measure to domestic ore. Without quoting figures, which can often be misleading and controversial, I would say that there can be no argument that steel produced at home from low-grade ores must involve consumption of coal on a much larger scale than is necessary for the conversion of imported ores of high iron content. It is, I am sure, well within the knowledge of the House that the curve of coal costs has been progressively increasing, and increasing rapidly since the outbreak of war. Therefore the cost of steel must be proportionately increased and intensified where the tonnage required is produced from domestic low-grade ore and not from imported high-grade ore. Such a situation is of course fraught with great menace to our export trade because so many of our exports basically depend on steel.

In dealing with steel one calls to mind the belief that the Government, in the main, are inclined to recoil under any questioning on to the assurance that supplies, if insufficient, must be adjusted either by a reduction in consumption or by the use of synthetics or substitutes of some kind. Straight away it will occur to members of your Lordships' House that the British Empire is rich in resources of ore of high-grade iron content. I myself have had experience showing that. It was, I think, in 1940 that I spent some time in Newfoundland, and took the opportunity of visiting some civilian factories where I heard much about Wabana iron fields which, I understand, contain high-grade ore. Now those iron fields are comparatively close to this country compared with other sources of supply overseas upon which we used to draw. I mention that only as one instance in which I suggest the resources of the British Empire could be substituted for other sources of supply.

I pass from steel to timber. Upon this subject, in view of the extent to which home-grown timber enters into the interests of many members of your Lordships' House, I doubt not that there are many noble Lords who feel that they would be well qualified to urge that more could be done in regard to the encouragement of growing in this country. I hope that my noble friend when he replies on behalf of the Government will have something to say about that. With respect to timber, again it springs to the mind that the British Empire can easily supply many of the deficiencies which may have resulted from changes due to the war in our normal sources of supply. There must be many parts of the Empire that have hardly been tapped for different kinds of soft and hard timber. When one speaks of soft timber one naturally thinks of Canada; when hard timber is mentioned British Honduras springs to the mind, for in these places there are immense forest reserves. I realize that measured up against the total requirement of this country these supplies would be, in effect, mere drops in the bucket. And now I would take this opportunity of bringing to your notice a picture which impressed itself upon me when I recently visited some of the mining valleys in South Wales. One saw there everything going at full blast, and one also saw stacks of pit-props which had obviously been imported. One felt what folly it was that we could have permitted so much unemployment in these areas in past times, such a terrible experience of grinding poverty for the mining population, when employment could have been offered in the reafforestation of the hillsides as the result of which the timber for pit-props, or at any rate for some portion of the total required, could have been grown close to the mines.

If I may have the indulgence of the House, I would like to revert for a moment to the subject of steel because of a matter which I have just recollected. I wish to make this comment; that in the production of steel South Wales comes prominently to mind and one sees now complete vindication for the installation for the great plant of Richard Thomas and Company, Ebbw Vale. The originator of the idea for that project seems to some of us to have had harsh treatment in the past, but the great installation now in operation stands as a tribute to his wisdom and foresight.

Passing from timber to rubber two thoughts immediately occur to one—the recovery, internally, of rubber, and the supply of synthetics. In connexion with the subject of recovery one turns at once to the second of the parts into which I suggested dividing my remarks. I hope, therefore, that it will not be out of sequence if I mention that recovery of rubber must be a matter of grave concern. There are many who think that this subject could have been tackled at a much earlier stage and with much greater energy. But perhaps a slow start has been followed up by action prosecuted with really forceful energy. I doubt not that my noble friend, in conjunction with the Minister of Supply, has been responsible for stimulating the necessary campaign so that the collection of rubber throughout the country is now producing some really effective results. So far as rubber is concerned, I feel sure that the possibilities of the Empire are being exploited to the full, so that the largest possible amount of natural rubber is being secured and new sources tapped with energy. Here is an opportunity for the Colonial Empire to contribute to our requirements. We hear much in this House of the backwardness of the business development of our Colonial Empire, but there must be many parts of the Empire in the sub-tropical zone which can contribute either to the immediate collection of rubber or to immediate plans for later production. I recognize that production takes a considerable time to develop.

So far as synthetics are concerned, we must be largely dependent on the United States of America. I hope that my noble friend will be able to give us some information about the position in this respect, because many of us feel great anxiety about it. I understand that outside the production of the Polymer Company in Canada, which is undertaking the production of 34,000 tons of synthetic rubber a year, we are not proposing to do anything in the British Empire, but are relying entirely on the United States; and the programme in the United States may be affected by an alteration in the priorities in that country.

Turning now to leather, I understand that there is some anxiety as to the supply of heavy hides, which is due to the changing habits of the population. People want small joints rather than large, and this in turn involves an earlier kill and consequently lighter hides, leading to a shortage of heavy hides. I hope that my noble friend will be able to give us some assurance as to the position in this respect, because it affects both military and civil supplies. The question of flax has been debated in your Lordships' House, and it is known how tardy were the plans for dealing with a situation in which the linen which is essential for war purposes, and which is vital as a contribution to our export trade, was dependent for four-fifths of the raw materials necessary on imports from countries no longer under Allied control. There remains sisal, which in the early part of the war was superabundant and threatened to involve the Treasury in substantial commitments on its long-term contracts. Owing to the change arising from Japan's entry into the war, sisal is now in short supply, and comes into the category of critical materials.

I have briefly touched on these various raw materials, and your Lordships will note that I have purposely refrained from referring to the non-ferrous metals, because the use of many of them is almost entirely confined to military purposes, and it is the responsibility of the Government Departments concerned to deal with them. I have preferred to confine myself to those materials which may be of importance for civilian as well as for Government requirements. There is a fear of indiscretion if too much is said about some of these materials, and the Minister alone is aware of what information can safely be given. At this stage I should like to refer to the Combined Raw Materials Board in Washington. It will be within the knowledge of your Lordships that this Board was set up under the arrangements for the supply strategy of the war under the joint chairmanship of Mr. William Batt, of the United States, and Sir Clive Baillieu, I am sure that Sir Clive's wide commercial experience will contribute to the value of the deliberations of this body. They have recently isued their first annual report, which I am sure is of great value. It emphasizes the value of comprehensive statistical data, and its fundamental concern is to stimulate output.

There are other raw materials the supply of which is not in a critical position, but of which there is a superabundance, and here there must be planning from the point of view of a long-range policy. I am a firm admirer of the recommendation regarding war activity made by my noble friend Lord Beaverbrook; he says that time not spent in the prosecution of the war is time wrongly spent. In the main I think that that must be true, but he will agree, I think, that my noble friend has the responsibility of ensuring that provision is made for the careful handling of these difficult problems in the period following the Armistice. After the last war, Government surpluses were handled by the Government Surplus Property Disposals Board, which dealt with material of a value between £500,000,000 and £1,000,000,000, and formed a convenient channel by which this could be disposed of. We have been told that it is now the intention of the Government that as regards much of the surplus material the industries concerned will be consulted after the war, and if possible it will be disposed of through them. My right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade, in a very clear and constructive speech in another place, dealing with the economic future, criticized the Government Surplus Property Disposals Board for dealing with its responsibilities carelessly. I happened to be a member of that Board, and I say most emphatically that that was unfair criticism, because it was the Treasury which was pushing the Board all the time to get rid of its property.

We are assured that the regulation of raw materials—I prefer the word "regulation" to the word "control"—must continue for an extended period after the war. Therefore the civilian angle of this must come in. I assume that after the war the responsibility for many of these materials now on charge with the Ministry of Supply must pass to the Board of Trade. This is a very intricate mechanism for arranging these plans now among the different Government Departments concerned, with the assurance of a harmonious and smooth-running changeover afterwards. But the Government have very big responsibilities in this matter because the taxpayer is heavily committed. I would remind the House that there are at the present moment in surplus supply in the world five leading raw materials—wheat, cotton, wool, cocoa and copper. It may very likely be asked why cocoa, which is a food, is included in this list. Cocoa is the raw material for a very large industry; so that while it does not fall under the head of materials and surpluses which come under my noble friend's control, the co-ordination of policy between my noble friend's Department and the Ministry of Food will be affected. As the House will know, an international agreement with regard to wheat has already been completed, and I suppose that must be a pilot for what is contemplated as a possibility with regard to other commodities.

In regard to cotton, the Government are of course also heavily committed, and I think they are the dominant holders of stocks of Egyptian cotton. Those are essential raw materials for war purposes, but the whole of them cannot be required, so surpluses will remain. There have been striking changes during the war in the world acreage under cotton, and it may be that the early post-war shortage will be followed by a world surplus with a rapid change in prices, perhaps partly through the diverse influence of synthetics, and this will need good planning, and good planning always begins at home. I should like to say here that I admire the skill with which Sir Raymond Streat, Chairman of the Cotton Board, has handled the situation up to now, but in his public utterances he has emphasized the difficulties of the future. The United States are heavily interested in cotton, and I should like to refer to their position, of which I have some knowledge through residence in that country. While I am inclined on all matters to be strongly pro-American, it should be remembered that there is no need for subservience; indeed, as those who know the United States well will recognize, a stout assertion of one's own case raises, not irritation but definite respect, and our unfettered mutual contributions can be the best help to the world. I mention that because in a recent debate my noble friend Lord Wedgwood, perhaps without sufficient thought, asked what has the British Empire got to contribute in raw materials. We have, he said, virtually nothing to contribute, and we are going with nothing in our hands to the conference table. I think that loose statements of that character will only weaken the negotiating power of this country.

When it comes to wool, there again there is a very heavy commitment by the British taxpayer. The Government's purchases of wool already by the end of June will have exceeded £360,000,000, and they are committed, if the war goes beyond the 30th of July, to a further £122,000,000, making a total of very nearly £500,000,000. In these days of astronomic figures, that does not sound very much, but in former times we used to think that that sort of sum was pretty appreciable for any group of commodities. Probably not more than a third of this wool has been used for Government purposes. The rest of it must have been sold in some measure to other countries, doubtless profitably, and the United States have helped us out liberally. But there is believed to be a handsome stockpile in the United States, and I think this Government contributed to a very happy arrangement by Mr. Dean, the Director of Wool Supplies who, in 1941, successfully made the existing arrangement with the United States. I would like to pay a tribute also to Sir Harry Shackleton for his brilliant and complicated work on the provision of wool textiles for diverse purposes. But these big surplus stocks exist, and great sagacity is needed in the price policy and the disposal procedure which will be followed by the Government. I would here add that we should act in close collaboration with the United States, because a matter like this vitally affects the position of Dominions like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, whose economy is largely based on wool. It must be remembered that in the United States the balance of power is shared by the Senate and the Executive, and as a large number of States are wool-growing States, there is a very strong and powerful wool lobby. It is essential therefore that great wisdom should be employed in handling the situation, as has just been exemplified in the pressure of the farm block to secure higher prices, resulting in the vetoing of a Bill by the President.

I would like to turn now to the last of the three headings under which I propose to approach this subject—the longer-range policy of the Government with regard to raw materials. Here I suggest that the situation is more difficult to deal with than I had contemplated when I put down my Motion, because there was published yesterday a White Paper setting forth the Government proposals for dealing with currency clearances and the handling of exchanges. That White Paper sets out what I was particularly going to urge upon the Government, the importance of an overriding international monetary policy. The lack of such a policy in the past has been the cause of our varying fortunes and misfortunes. It cannot be denied now that the great deflation policy of the early 'thirties was a serious blunder. That in turn succeeded an earlier blunder of the Cunliffe Committee in the early years following the last war, and again in the return to the gold standard, which hamstrung industry by artificially raising the value of our currency by 15 per cent. Again we had the folly of a policy which in 1931 borrowed £120,000,000 overseas for the purpose of bolstering up a currency which in turn was going to destroy industry. At last the dam burst; industry got free from its strait-jacket and a slow recovery occurred. But there is a fear that mistaken deflationist and other monetary policies might be repeated.

It is a great comfort and reassurance to see these proposals now put forward simultaneously from this country and the United States. These plans will doubtless be explored. Indeed we have an assurance from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that they are to be explored and that Parliament will have an opportunity of discussing them before any commitments are made. We understand that the British proposal is, in the main, the product of a member of this House, Lord Keynes, who, we regret, does not frequently come here; doubtless his preoccupations explain that. I should like to express the confidence which I, in common with a great many others, feel that his individualistic and unorthodox approach to these subjects will produce something really constructive from this latest move by the Government.

I have already exhausted the patience of the House, but before I conclude I would like to remind your Lordships of the misery which was caused and the losses suffered through unemployment as the result of the mistaken policies of the past. I would urge that my noble friend Lord Portal, with the responsibility he has for raw materials not only on behalf of the State as holder but also on behalf of the Dominions and other parts of the Empire as producers, should use his influence to get an effective overriding monetary policy worked out during the war, without waiting until after the war, so that within it and under it the best skill in the individual handling of commercial matters should be developed. Finally, I would summarize the headings under which I have asked my noble friend for information—(1) the immediate and near-future supplies of raw materials; (2) the activities of salvage; and (3) the longer-range policy. I beg to move for Papers, and look forward with interest to my noble friend's reply.


My Lords, the Motion moved by my noble friend Lord Barnby was discussed in your Lordships' House last September, when my noble friend Lord Winster raised the same question. As Lord Barnby said, this subject is changing constantly and it is only right and proper that it should be raised again so that noble Lords may be told the position as we see it to-day. Last September I gave a fairly comprehensive report on the position of raw materials, and to-day I may have to go over some of the same ground to make my story as complete as possible. At the beginning of his speech my noble friend Lord Barnby described what he thought was the organization for dealing with raw materials. It is a difficult matter to explain, and he asked me to try and make it as clear as possible.

In November, 1941, the Prime Minister and my noble friend Lord Beaverbrook went over to America. As the result of their visit the Combined Raw Materials Board was formed in the United States with Mr. William Batt as Chairman. Sir Clive Baillieu was put on as representing, not then the Minister of Production, but Lord Beaverbrook as Minister of Supply. He afterwards became the representative of the Minister of Production, which he is to-day. That Board allocates the raw materials in short supply to the Allies in this war. That is what happens in America. It all goes into a pool and is allocated. When you come to this country you have the Controls dealing with these various commodities. These Controls are under the Minister of Supply. It was with these Controls that I was associated under the Minister of Supply for a year and a half. When the Ministry of Production was formed the Materials Committee, as it is called, which up to then had been under the Production Executive, went under the Minister of Production, and I, as Chairman of that Committee, am directly responsible to the Minister of Production. That is my function to-day. That is the organization, put briefly, as it exists. The Materials Committee has to allocate materials to all the various Government Departments, and your Lordships can imagine that at the present time, when we are in short supply it is more difficult to please Government Departments than it might have been a year and a half ago.

Looking at the war from its commencement, there have been four stages from the point of view of materials. The first stage was when France was in the war and before Europe was overrun. At that stage things were relatively easy compared with what they are to-day. Then came the second stage when France went out of the war and the whole of Europe was overrun. Then our difficulties began because, as my noble friend said, just before Lord Leathers left the House, we are absolutely dependent on shipping to get our raw materials to this country. When France went out of the war, it meant a much longer haul for our ship- ping, and it also shut us out of several countries. The third and fourth stages came almost together. The third stage was when Japan came into the war and overran Malaya, Burma, and the Dutch East Indies, which cut off about the most valuable resources we had. The fourth stage was when America came into the war and wanted a great deal of the resources which were available to us before. Those are the four stages we have had to go through.

I repeat what I said just now, that we are, and must be, dependent on shipping. The question to-day is not so much a shortage of materials; it is a question of shipping difficulties. There are one or two commodities such as hemp (which came from the Philippines) which have disappeared entirely. For hemp we have had to substitute, first of all, sisal and then jute. I only give that as an instance of one of the few commodities which have disappeared altogether. Therefore you may take it that shipping is the great difficulty, and it is only right that we should pay our tribute to the magnificent work the Ministry of War Transport has done in getting raw materials to this country. I am sure your Lordships will all agree with that.

When we are in short supply in this country there are only two remedies. One is economy and the other is substitution. First of all, before I discuss this question of economy it is perhaps needless to remind your Lordships that one of the main raw materials that we produce in this country on which we are dependant is coal. As your Lordships know we, of course, produce a good deal of iron and steel. Lord Barnby referred to the question of the lower-grade ore. That is a difficulty and I agree with the point he made about that. As a consequence of what I have said we have to rely upon shipping facilities for anything else that we want. Coming to the question of economy the biggest help that we have in the matter to-day is from the work done by the Director of Salvage under the Ministry of Supply. It is only right in this House to stress that point because it is one of the utmost importance. When this war started this country was not what I might call a salvage-minded country. This work was begun under my noble friend Lord Beaverbrook, under whom I served at the Ministry of Supply. He urged upon me to get on with the work of salvage and we tried to get it organized. The organization of the Salvage Board was certainly done in his day and a Director of Salvage was appointed.

It was while Lord Beaverbrook was at the Ministry of Supply as our Minister that the Americans, quite rightly, said they could send us no more scrap iron and steel. I think that was in August, 1941. Therefore, the large import of scrap into this country having suddenly been cut off, we had to supply our own. The position of scrap to-day, in comparison with what it was when Lord Winster put down his Motion, is that the collection has increased a great deal. At that date we were collecting 80,000 tons of scrap a week and that figure has now gone up to 110,000 tons. The collection of scrap was put into the hands of my Ministry by Lord Beaver-brook in those days, and when I came to my present Ministry I found great difficulties facing me. My Ministry was collecting 26,000 tons of scrap a week and that figure has now gone up to about 39,000 tons. The local authorities collect 6,000 or 7,000 tons and the rest of the scrap is collected by the merchants. At the same time, since the commencement of the scrap collection, more than a million tons of scrap have been collected from railings, whilst a smaller quantity of "blitzed" steel has been obtained. There is a small minority of people who do not appreciate that this is a very difficult thing to do, but we do it for the Ministry of Supply. I think the way the people in this country have submitted to having their railings taken away is something for which we should pay them a tribute. That is the position of scrap as we see it to-day.

I come next to the question of the collection of waste paper. Since the start of the war nearly 3,000,000 tons of waste paper have been recovered from all sources. This is now being collected at the rate of 14,000 tons a week. This work also was initiated in the days of Lord Beaverbrook. I should like to acknowledge the great help that has been rendered not only by the local authorities and the salvage stewards but by the Waste Paper Recovery Association, Limited, which is an organization that was set up by the great newspapers in this country and is rendering yeoman service. As I have said we are collecting now at a rate of 14,000 tons a week. An interesting thing about this question is that more than 55 per cent. of the paper produced in this country comes from the waste that has been collected. That shows how great is the value of this waste paper collection. When we lost our supplies of esparto grass from North Africa we lost a great source of our supply of commercial paper. Anyone who is a printer knows that esparto grass makes the finest surfaced paper. That supply of esparto grass having been cut off, we have had to make paper from our own straw. The difference between making paper from straw rather than from esparto grass is that straw only yields 33 per cent., as compared with up to 50 per cent. from esparto grass. Further, we are now able to use the waste wood from home-grown timber. It is true that the paper it makes amounts to only about 3 per cent. of the total quantity now being made, but in this matter everything, however small, counts. I have given your Lordships figures showing the enormous help that our salvage collection is in this matter of waste paper.

Then there is kitchen waste. The work of collecting this is done by both local authorities and by private people. Kitchen waste is now being recovered by local authorities at the rate of over 31,000 tons a month. I used to be Chairman of the Bacon Development Board and I ought to know how many pigs could be fed on that amount of kitchen waste, but I am afraid I cannot now remember. I can say, however, that it is estimated that sufficient kitchen waste is collected, if you include that collected by private people, to feed at least 210,000 pigs. To make use of this there are thirty-seven concentrator or sterilization plants which are being worked by local authorities and ten which are being worked by private firms. These are really necessary for cleaning this food before it is fed to the pigs. Under the salvage stewards scheme, which was initiated just over a year ago by local authorities, there are 140,000 stewards. The scheme also covers multiple and departmental stores, insurance companies, railways, etc., and 40,000 stewards are engaged on this work. I shall mention the salvage of rubber later when I come to deal with the question of rubber production. The other thing I want your Lordships to realize is that we collect a great deal of salvaged material from bombed buildings. I think we have obtained 48,000 tons of timber from bombed buildings and that is a great help to our timber position. Every bit of timber is wanted to-day. When I give those figures I do not want it to be thought that we are doing too well. All I would say is that we are doing well enough to maintain our position. That does not mean that all our energy is not needed in this salvage work. What I have stated does at any rate show that progress is being made

I will deal now with the basic material for our war effort. My noble friend Lord Barnby spoke about iron and steel. As your Lordships will understand, I cannot give the exact figures in regard to that, but I can say that we are to-day producing more steel in this country than we have ever done. We have had to increase our own production of ore and this has been increased by 33 per cent. Our home-produced ore is of a lower grade than that which we used to obtain and of course much more of it has to be used to manufacture the same amount of steel. We have also to remember that the collection of scrap in this country helps enormously in the saving of shipping space, as one ton of scrap saves approximately two tons of fuel which would have been necessary in conjunction with the 3¼ tons of ore which each ton of scrap replaces. There is also an interesting fact in connexion with our alloy steel; that has been increased by three times since the beginning of the war.

Now we come to the critical question of rubber. The noble Lord, Lord Beaver-brook, will remember that he was Minister of Supply when we lost the imports of Malaya and the Dutch East Indies and the question of rubber suddenly became very critical. Then we said we would try to cut our use of rubber by 50 per cent. In fact we got it down within about four or five months to 40 per cent., and it is now 45 per cent. In the last discussion we had I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Winster, who asked whether we had looked ahead in regard to rubber. Nobody had any idea when the war started that we were going to lose the places we did lose, and up to the time the Japanese took Malaya and the Dutch East Indies we were very much better off for rubber stocks than for other stocks. Our capacity for reclaiming rubber in this country was not sufficient but we have increased that capacity by nearly four times and we can now produce as much reclaimed rubber as we can ever use while this war lasts.

To turn to Lord Barnby's question about the collection of rubber, we have collected 130,000 tons of waste rubber. That has already been secured and we can see the position more clearly. But we have got to go on collecting more and more rubber scrap. Nearly 60 per cent. of our rubber is used for tyres and of that the Services use 75 per cent. I have been asked how we are getting on with mixing reclaimed and ordinary rubber. Our figure is not as high as the Americans—we keep in constant correspondence with the Americans to see how the figures work out—but our figure works out at about 45 per cent. of the grand total and the American total is about 55 per cent. The difference is nearly all accounted for by the amount of reclaimed rubber which is used on the shoes of the American people. I understand that a large proportion of footwear in America has rubber in it, and they make many more pairs than we do, so they are using a great deal for footwear. We ourselves are using 10,000 tons of reclaimed rubber for soles and heels in this country.

Then there is the question on which the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, asked for an assurance—namely, in regard to the position of synthetic rubber. As your Lordships know, we are to get our supplies of synthetic rubber from America and so far as we can see we may hope to get commercial quantities. It is well to realize that we have increased the production of crude rubber in Africa by four times. That has been done by the help, not only of our Colonial Governors in Africa, but also by the help of our Allies, to whom we owe a great debt in this matter. It is a most valuable thing to have increased production in Africa by four times. I wish I could tell your Lordships the exact figures instead of giving only percentages because those figures would be much more interesting.

Next there is the question of timber. We imported before the war a very large amount of timber and in fact there was comparatively little timber being cut down in this country. We have increased our supply of home-grown timber by over eight times. Now we are getting a good proportion of all our timber in this country and for that we have to thank our Dominions and Colonies for sending forestry companies, both military and civil. Newfoundland, Canada and New Zealand have helped us enormously in this way. Then we come up against the question of seasoning. We have hard woods and soft woods and we have had to get Government Departments who wanted hard woods to take soft woods and others who wanted soft woods to take hard woods. We are gradually getting them to fall in with our views. One very important point to which Lord Barnby referred was that of mining timber. Before the war we imported the whole of our mining timber and now it is all being produced in this country. Civilian use of timber is only permitted by licence and my Ministry has helped to cut down the amount of timber available for civilian and domestic consumption to 3 per cent. of the total consumption, so that your Lordships will see that civilians are not being treated very magnanimously. The largest single demand for timber at the present time is for packing cases for the Services and they are using over 23 per cent. of the whole.

My noble friend Lord Barnby also spoke about flax. Really my noble friend Earl De La Warr ought to tell you about that because he has helped very greatly in the organization of flax production and has done very valuable work. There are now 47,000 acres under flax in England producing about 5,000 tons a year. In Northern Ireland it is hoped to increase the acreage in 1943 to 100,000 acres—that is, nearly four times pre-war—and the production is pro rata. In Southern Ireland there are 18,000 acres producing about 2,000 tons of flax. Except for a little which came in from Northern Ireland the whole production of flax has had to be built up since the war. Lord Barnby spoke about leather. The question there is mostly a question of shipping. Last year we had almost as much as we had before the war, but demands have gone up one-seventh on what they were previous to the war. You cannot get more hemp now, but we are getting jute. Your Lordships will notice that I have been wise enough to keep off one subject on which Lord Barnby is an expert, and that is wool. As he has mentioned, that is in full supply.

Then there is the question of cotton. It has to be realized that on the civilian side the consumption of cotton, especially for hosiery, has been cut down to about 45 per cent. of pre-war figures. Recently the Services have economized enormously n their demand for wool and cotton for battledress and there has been a great saving. When a great expedition is afoot like North Africa, and shipping is wanted for our men and munitions and supplies, we have to live on our stocks, and when we get close down we have to be very careful what we give out to the Services and the Ministries. These are the sort of difficulties we have to grapple with. I emphasized the question of salvage because everybody in this country can help with this. Another great salvage appeal is to be launched in the next few months. It will be made in London and throughout all the counties of this country. I am sure that this is a matter in which everyone Will help, as good results from such an appeal make an enormous difference to the shipping situation.

Lastly, I come to a matter to which Lord Barnby has quite rightly referred, that of our Colonies. To-day raw materials such as sisal, rubber, tin, copper, bauxite, iron ore and graphite are all being developed in our Colonies. Our Colonial Office is playing a great part in this development. The noble Viscount the Leader of the House had much to do with this and his successor is carrying on the good work in exactly the same way. The Colonies must be developed, for if you look to the future you realize the immense prospects which they hold out. People may say, quite rightly perhaps, that our Colonies have not been developed in the past as they should have been. But if we are to get our industries properly on their legs after the war we must get the materials needed by those industries, and there is obviously a great prospect for the development of sources of supply in the Colonies. That is the note on which I wish to finish. This Colonial development is a practical post-war policy. There are certain post-war policies which, in my view, are not practical, but I say that this is essentially practical. We are developing the Colonies now from necessity but once they are developed it is our duty to see that development is maintained. I have spoken at some length and I hope that what I have said will satisfy my noble friend Lord Barnby. At any rate, I have put before your Lordships the best résumé of the position with regard to raw materials that I can give.


My Lords, I am sure the House will be grateful to my noble friend for the information which he has just given us. There has been much in his statement which is informative and which will, I am sure, be valuable to the country as a whole. But, while thanking my noble friend for his patience and his communicativeness, and while fully understanding the need for reticence on the subject of figures in a discussion of this kind, I must confess to a feeling of disappointment at his not having dealt more with the subject of long-range policy with regard to raw materials. It may perhaps be thought by many that it is inopportune to discuss that now, but I hope the House will not disagree with the view that, while we have no grounds for feeling that the end is within measurable sight, there is a growing conviction that the development of arrangements, internationally as well as domestically, for long-range policies is becoming more and more necessary. The Government are deeply involved in financial commitments connected with raw materials. They are still more involved in their responsibilities concerning supplies for civilian industry, and they have to consider questions relating to the transfer of employment after the war. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will not fail to use his influential position to convince other Departments than his own that these things merit attention now.

On the question of steel I would suggest that the matter of cost, influenced so greatly by the increased use of fuel, which itself has been a subject of such anxiety, should be borne prominently in mind. The administration of the steel industry is a delicate mechanism. There is, I understand, a £3 per ton levy on steel which has produced a large pool. The sums involved are big and it is difficult for the layman to o understand the question. But it must always be remembered that rising coal costs have a very strong bearing on our steel, and steel must be the basis of the commercial activities of an industrial nation like ours. I would ask my noble friend if he will bear in mind the possibility of observing less reticence concerning the figures of materials from overseas which are in abundant supply. There cannot be any danger of giving information to the enemy by disclosing such figures. Again thanking my noble friend for his comprehensive reply, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

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