§ Mr. CAPE
asked the Minister of Transport whether certain of the British railway companies are now seeking to place orders for steel rails in France and Belgium; and, if so, in view of the fact that, if these orders were placed with British manufacturers it would find work for many hundreds of men now out of employment in this industry, he will consider the possibility of making representations to the companies concerned on the matter?
§ Mr. NEAL
I understand that tenders have been received by various companies for rails from Belgium at prices greatly below those offered by English firms. It is my right hon. Friend's consistent policy not to interfere with the prudent discretion of the companies in such matters, and when asked for his views by the companies he replied in that sense, but I am sure that in placing orders the companies will now, as in the past, take2050W into consideration the importance of securing employment in this country and of assisting the prosperity of the districts which they serve. It is not, however, possible for the railway companies in placing orders for materials to disregard serious differences in the prices quoted, and it is upon the balance of these considerations that their decision must be based. The prices given at the time were: Home production, £23; Belgian f.o.b. British port, £12.