HC Deb 21 January 1941 vol 368 cc54-8W
Sir E. Graham-Little

asked the Minister of Economic Warfare whether he has investigated the possibility of there being any direct or indirect financial relationship between the Hoffmann-La Roche Company, of Basle, parent company of Roche Products, Limited, and the German concerns, Bayer Products or I.G.; and whether he has satisfied himself that none of the payments made to Roche Products, Limited, for synthetic vitamin B 1 will pass into the possession of Germany through Switzerland?

Mr. Dalton

This matter has been carefully investigated; but I have found no evidence that any of the payments made to Roche Products, Limited, will pass to Germany through Switzerland.

Sir E. Graham-Little

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that negotiations were started in January, 1938, between the Millers' Mutual Association of the British milling industry and the firm of Hoffmann-La Roche, of Basle, for the supply of synthetic vitamin B 1 to be added to the white flour manufactured by the millers in this country so as to restore one of the valuable constituents of this flour; that an agreement effected in April, 1939, between a body representing the British milling industry and Roche Products, Limited, acting as a subsidiary company of Hoffmann-La Roche, gave to Roche Products, Limited, the exclusive right to manufacture for a term of 15 years vitamin B 1 for the British milling industry; that the company then put up a factory for the manufacture of this product; whether his Department, upon taking control in September, 1939, of the mills under the Emergency Powers Defence Act, took over this agreement; and to what extent the existence of this agreement determined the Government in introducing the scheme for adding vitamin B 1 to the reinforced loaf described by the Minister on 18th July?

Mr. Johnstone

The answers to the first three parts of the Question are in the affirmative. The agreement to which my hon. Friend refers has not been and will not be taken over by the Government, but the manufacture, sale and disposal of synthetic vitamin B 1 will shortly be made subject to control under a Statutory Order. As regards the last part of the Question, the knowledge that Roche Products, Limited, would be in a position to produce synthetic vitamin B 1 upon a large scale for the purpose of that agreement was taken into account when the decision announced in this House on 18th July last was reached.

Sir E. Graham-Little

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, at what date the firm of Hoffman-la Roche, of Basle, became merged in Roche Products, Limited, of Welwyn Garden City; who are the directors of that firm; at what date proposals were made, or negotiations begun, with Roche Products, Limited, for the manufacture and supply of synthetic vitamin B 1 to be added to the war loaf; whether any other firm was invited to tender for this contract; upon what terms it is proposed to bring this firm under the control of the Ministry; and will he lay upon the Table all correspondence passed between the Ministry of Food and Roche Products, Limited?

Major Lloyd George,

pursuant to his reply [OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th November; col. 2015, Vol. 365], supplied the following statement:

I am informed that the relationship of Roche Products Limited of Welwyn Garden City with the firm of F. Hoffmann-La Roche & Company of Basle is based on agreements covering interchange of commercial, technical and scientific information, particularly research and patents. The following are the Directors of Roche Products Limited:—

Name. Resident in. Nationality.
Henry John William France Hertfordshire British.
Hugo Lorenz London British.
Arthur Stanley Allen Bristol British.
Percy Weiller Straus London British.
Emil Christoph Barell. U.S.A. Swiss.
The last-named is a member of the Board of Directors of F. Hoffmann-La Roche & Company of Basle. A private contract for the supply to the flour milling industry of aneurin (synthetic vitamin B 1) to be manufactured in this country was entered into by Roche Products Limited in April, 1939, and was, of course, unconnected with the present war. The manufacture in this country involves the use of foreign owned patent rights, and the contract was not put out to tender. Discussions between Roche Products Limited and officers of the Ministry of Food in connection with the announced policy of the Government were first opened on 23rd July, 1940. The Ministry is discussing with two other firms the possibility of them undertaking the manufacture of aneurin for fortifying white flour. The scheme of control under the Defence Regulations contemplates licensing the manufacture, sale and use of aneurin by any person for the purpose of mixing it with food. The Ministry intends to determine the price at which aneurin may be sold. My Noble Friend does not consider that any useful purpose would be served by adopting the course suggested in the last part of my Hon. Friend's Question.

Sir E. Graham-Little

asked the Lord Privy Seal, in what form questions upon the advisability of adding synthetic vitamin B 1 to the war loaf, were put to the Bragg Committee, whose formation was announced on 4th June 1940; whether the committee, before making its recommendations, was informed of the agreement with Roche Products, Limited; will he now either publish the Bragg Report or lay it upon the Table, or give reasons for not doing so; how many meetings this committee has held; when was the last; and whether it is still in existence or has been superseded by other advisory committees whose formation has been announced since the Minister's speech on 18th July?

Mr Attlee

In answer to the first part of the Question, the report of the Scientific Food Committee on Bread was submitted on their own intiiative. With regard to the second part, I understand that the Committee were aware of the only agreement with Roche Products Limited then existing, namely, an agreement between

Name of Committee. Members. Pre-War Interest.
War Damage to Property. Rt. Hon. Viscount Weir, G.C.B., Ll.D., D.L. (Chairman). Chairman, G. & J. Weir, Ltd.; Director, Imperial Chemical Industries, Ltd., etc.
Sir Ernest M. Harvey, Bt., K.B.E. Past Deputy Governor of the Bank of England; Director P. & O. Steam Navigation Company.
Sir Walter Benton Jones, Bt., Ll.D. Chairman, United Steel Companies, Ltd.; Director, Westminster Bank, etc.
Sir William Clare Lees, Bt., O.B.E., J.P. Managing Director, Bleachers' Association; Vice-President, Council of Federation of British Industries; Director, Martins Bank (Manchester Board), etc.
Sir Alan Rae Smith, O.B.E. Partner in Deloitte, Plender, Griffiths.
Compensation Board for War Damage. Mr. Justice Simonds, K.C. (Chairman). Judge of the High Court (Chancery Division).
Mr. A. C. Gladstone. Director, Bank of England.
Mr. Oswald Healing. Ex-President, Surveyors' Institute.
Mr. J. F. Linney. President, Auctioneers' and Estate Agents' Institute.
Mr. Sylvester Sullivan, F.R.I.B.A. Fellow, Royal Institute of British Architects.
Capital Issues Committee. Rt. Hon. Lord Kennet, P.C., G.B.E., D.S.O. (Chairman). Chairman, Imperial Bank of Iran; Director, Southern Railway Company.
Mr. B. G. Catterns. Deputy Governor of the Bank of England.
Mr. Thomas Frazer, F.F.A. Deputy General Manager and Secretary, North British and Mercantile Insurance Co.
Mr. A. A. Jamieson. Chairman, Vickers, Ltd.; Director, Robert Fleming & Co., Ltd.; Member, League Loans Committee, etc.
Lt.-Col. J. B. Neilson, C.M.G., D.S.O., C.A. Vice-Chairman, Baldwins, Ltd.; Chairman, Metropolitan-Cammell Carriage & Wagon Co., Ltd., etc.
Mr. R. Wilkinson.

that company and another company. As regards the rest of the Question, I see no reason, in the circumstances, to make a departure from the normal rule whereby reports of this nature are not published. The committee is still in existence and holds regular meetings, and I would deprecate giving the very detailed information asked for.