asked the Minister of Supply what price he is paying for lead abroad; what price he charges the British consumer for this lead; and when he proposes to bring these prices into line.
It would be contrary to established practice to disclose contract prices. The price of lead to consumers in the United Kingdom was reduced on 4th April, 1949, from £123 a ton to £106 a ton delivered.
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that, although there has been a reduction in price, our manufacturers are having to pay £106 a ton for lead while America is paying £82? Is it not a disastrous state of affairs, when markets are falling away, that we should continue with bulk purchase? Why not re-open the London Metal Exchange?
Considerable freight has to be paid between America and the United Kingdom, and the figures which the hon. Member gave are not strictly comparable. It is our object to keep the price reasonably stable over as long a period as possible. There were times when our price was below that of America.
What are comparable prices?
If the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question about freights. I will give him an answer.
Is it not a fact that the Minister himself decides the price, roughly, every quarter, and that at the moment prices are having an adverse effect on certain manufacturers in Birmingham, where people are not able to anticipate what the next price will be?