asked the President of the Board of Trade why the price of calcium carbide produced by a Government-owned plant in South Wales and imported by the Government has been increased by £2 15s. per 1,000 kilos.
The price of carbide was increased on 1st April last to bring it into line with current costs of production.
Is not this the second increase in the price of Government-produced and Government-imported carbide? Has there not been an increase in the price of that carbide of £4 10s. per 1,000 kilos? Has there not, since June, 1948, been no increase in the cost of carbide produced by private enterprise. Does not this increase in Government-produced and Government-imported carbide lead to increases in the cost of manufacture, and is it not another instance of Government enterprise leading to increased costs to the consumers?
Is it not the case that factories producing carbide under private enterprise have not had to increase their costs?
I could not answer that question without notice.
Will the hon. Gentleman look into this matter again to see if the Government have put up the price as against privately owned factories? There must be some reason for it, and may we have that reason? If the Minister does not know it, will he find out?
It is commonly appreciated, in cases of this kind, that it is the business of the Government to cover their costs of production, and that is the answer to the question.
Why has the cost of production in Government factories gone up like this, when factories under private enterprise can produce at a lower cost? What is the answer?
If privately owned factories are in fact producing cheaper than the Government, are not buyers at liberty to buy at the cheaper cost, and would not that solve it?