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Departmental Functions

Volume 524: debated on Monday 1 March 1954

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asked the Minister of State, Board of Trade, as representing the Minister of Materials, whether he will state the nature of the remaining functions of the Ministry, in view of the reversion of more than 95 per cent, of State trading in raw commodities to private traders, since October, 1951.

The wide variety of tasks of the Ministry, which are by no means confined to public trading, cannot be fully described in this reply. The abandonment of much of public trading and distribution controls has already been reflected in considerable reductions in the staff of the Ministry, and this process is continuing. The liquidation, however, of public trading positions involving many millions of pounds, if it is to be conducted with due regard for the interests of the taxpayer, must make substantial demands on the staff of the Ministry for some time. So, too, must the efficient management and custody of our immensely valuable strategic stockpile.

While recognising the the merit of the processes that my right hon. Friend is now carrying through, may I ask him to confirm that it is the ultimate goal of the Government to wind up this Ministry, which is, surely, symbolic of shortages, not of surpluses, which exist in the world today in most of the raw commodities?

My hon. Friend has made a good start to the week already, and I believe that he will have no anxieties in watching how the future unfolds, but I hope he will not mind letting the future come one day at a time.