asked the Minister of State, Board of Trade, as representing the Minister of Materials, what materials he now holds for disposal; and how long it will take to dispose of them.
Apart from materials in which public trading at present continues, the Ministry of Materials holds residual trading stocks of aluminium, copper, lead, zinc, magnesium, sulphur and pyrites, timber, hemp and mica. While the bulk of these is expected to be disposed of by sale or transfer to the strategic reserves in 1954–55, in the interests of the taxpayer it is necessary to avoid too hasty sales and consequent losses. Moreover, the termination of public trading has left or will leave the Government, for some years ahead, with certain purchase and disposal commitments for a number of commodities.
While it may be embarrassing to release too much information about these stocks, can the Minister perhaps give us a little more information? Can he say, for instance, what is the total tonnage of all the stocks held, or what was their purchase price?
I very much doubt whether it would be in the public interest —if we are to obtain the best results from the liquidation of these stocks—for me to give the hon. and gallant Gentleman the specific information which he suggests.
Can the Minister say why there are no stocks of tungsten ore?
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, public trading in tungsten ore is continuing for the present, but I may have an observation to make in a moment which will be related to what he has in mind.