HC Deb 14 November 1969 vol 791 cc166-7W
Mr. Eddie Griffiths

asked the Minister of Technology if he will make a statement about the causes and industrial effects of the present nickel shortage and the action he is taking to deal with it.

Mr. Benn

The world-wide shortage of nickel, now affecting all industrialised countries is due to circumstances outside our control. Supplies from the world's leading producers of nickel in Canada have been drastically curtailed because of industrial disputes which started in July.

These Canadian producers normally provide well over 90 per cent. of the United Kingdom's nickel supplies. The reduction in supplies from them is affecting a wide range of British industries. The largest part of our consumption is for alloy steels. These steels, and nonferrous alloys of nickel, are used in the vehicle, aircraft, electrical, electronics and other engineering industries. Nickel is also widely used for electroplating, and has important uses in the gas and chemical industries.

Some non-Canadian nickel, which is mainly of Russian origin and commands a much higher price than Canadian nickel, can be purchased on the "free market" but supplies are very limited. The only real solution to the current shortage is therefore the early resumption of nickel supplies from Canada. Negotiations between management and labour are taking place there and there are now signs that agreement may be nearer but it is not possible to say when a settlement will be reached. Even after a settlement it will take time for supplies to return to the pre-strike level.

In this situation our main endeavour must be to ensure that the best use is made of the limited available supplies. On 26th July we introduced controls on the export from Britain of nickel and certain nickel bearing materials in order to conserve supplies for British industry. Similar controls were introduced by the United States Government. I understand that such controls are now under consideration by the E.E.C. countries.

We are in close touch with the major using sectors of industry about the need for conservation, and the C.B.I. is collaborating closely with us. We have emphasised the need for good housekeeping by industry, the utmost use of scrap and

Aircraft maximum total weight 1965 1966 1967 1968 Jan. to Sept. 1969 Totals
Up to 6,000 lb 241 290 409 434 299 1673
From 6,001 to 12,500 lb 19 35 28 38 50 170
Totals 260 325 437 472 349 1843