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Raw Materials (Prices)

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 3 May 1949

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37.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in view of the urgency to secure more dollar earnings, when he expects that British manufacturers will be able to secure raw materials at prices not higher than those paid by their competitors in the United States of America.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman will be aware of the difficulty of making a comparison in such general terms. I assume that the Question is related primarily to raw materials purchased centrally by the Government. The object here has been, except, where it is the Government's policy to subsidise, to make over a period neither profit nor loss. Thus, while prices were rising, certain raw materials were from time to time on sale at prices below the general world level. Now that some prices are falling, the converse may be true. Where export markets are involved, however, it may be necessary to adjust selling prices without too close regard to original cost. The Government are alive to this, and certain price adjustments have already been made.

Can the hon. Gentleman state, particularly in regard to linseed and base metals, what action His Majesty's Government are taking, or propose to take, to ensure that British manufacturers can secure those materials at the same price as their American competitors?

As I say, our policy is, on the one hand, to even out profits and losses over a period, but, on the other hand, where exports are concerned, to see that our manufacturers are not placed at a disadvantage.

Could the hon. Gentleman say, in regard to these particular materials, to what extent we are bound by long-term contracts to take them at more than the world market price?

There are no long-term contracts at fixed prices in the raw materials' field, but in some of the cases mentioned we do not always bind ourselves to sell a commodity at the price at which we bought it.

As the Government in this instance are charging 25 per cent. more than the world prices can the hon. Gentleman state when those prices will fall to the level of world prices?

No, I can give no precise answer, but as world prices of some of these commodities vary from day to day, obviously we could not keep exactly in line in all cases.