HL Deb 23 January 1951 vol 169 cc1064-5

2.35 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask whether His Majesty's Government will issue a report of the circumstances in which the Industrial Speciality Company transhipped to Russia fifty tons of molybdenum obtained from the United States; and whether measures have now been taken to prevent such practices in future.]


My Lords, the answer to the first part of the noble Lord's question is in the negative. The only facts concerning this particular shipment about which the United Kingdom authorities can be certain, are that forty-seven tons of molybdenite concentrate consigned by a United States firm to the firm in question arrived at the Royal Albert Dock on May 29, were off-loaded into barges and subsequently transferred to a Russian ship which left the Surrey Commercial Docks for Russia on July 1. Although my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade has had inquiries made and there has been consultation with the United States Embassy, the facts as to the transactions between the various parties are still obscure. There was, however, no breach of any United Kingdom regulation, and His Majesty's Government have no powers which would enable them to institute a compulsory investigation. The present position is that, with very few exceptions, goods may be transhipped in the United Kingdom (as in a number of other countries) without the necessity for import or export licence—an arrangement which has contributed to the maintenance of a very valuable entrepôt trade.

His Majesty's Government fully recognise, however, how important it is to pre-vent evasion of strategic controls, and progress has been made since the noble Lord asked his question on September 12. Arrangements have now been made with other Governments whereby inquiries can be made and information exchanged as to the disposal and use in the receiving country of goods for which an application for an export licence to that country has been received. These arrangements should materially reduce the possibility of the transhipment of strategic materials.

I would also add that the question of introducing transhipment controls, to which I referred on September 12, was remitted by the Governments concerned for examination by their experts, and re-commendations have now been received. His Majesty's Government are giving these recommendations their careful consideration.


My Lords, I am glad to learn from the latter part of the reply of the noble Lord that steps are at least in contemplation for the purpose of looking into what has seemed to many of us a singularly unsavoury transaction.

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