asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to ensure that factories engaged on vital work in connection with the defence programme are not hampered owing to the lack of adequate raw materials.
While no case has been brought to my notice where defence orders have been hampered by a shortage of raw materials for which the Board of Trade is responsible, I am aware that difficulties are already arising in the supply of certain raw materials. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicated during the debate on the Address on 2nd November, we have taken up these difficulties as a matter of urgency with the countries concerned. If shortages develop, special allocation arrangements will be introduced as necessary in order to see that priority users have the first call on available supplies. I hope that a fuller statement will be made shortly.
In view of the very great importance of this question, which might hold up the whole rearmament programme, has the Minister consulted the various trade associations, who are only too willing to assist in seeing that raw material flows into the country through the channels that are desirable?
Yes, Sir; I agree that there is no item of greater importance at present in our production situation, and my Department and other Departments are maintaining close contacts with the trade associations, both in regard to supplies and meeting the needs of essential users.
Is the Minister aware of the rapidly increasing anxiety on this subject in the engineering industries of Birmingham and the Midlands? The brass foundries, for example, fear that they may only be able to reach 50 per cent. of their capacity owing to shortage of metal?
Yes, Sir. I am aware of that, and it was that to which I was referring in my answer.
While the shortage of materials exists in the textile industry, will the Minister pay particular attention to the export of cotton waste from this country?
Yes, Sir. I am at the moment going into the question of cotton waste, cotton yarn and rayon materials.