asked the Minister of State, Board of Trade, as representing the Minister of Materials, how long he proposes to continue public trading in tungsten ore.
My noble Friend has decided to restore private trading in tungsten ores and concentrates on 1st April, 1954. His decision was taken after consultation with the trade. Private imports from all sources except the dollar area will be permitted from this date, but in order to ensure a smooth transition from public to private trading and so that the Ministry's surplus stocks may be disposed of with the minimum of disturbance to the market, arrangements are being made with the co-operation of the trade under which in the early months of private trading consumers will continue to meet a substantial part of their requirements by purchases from Ministry stocks.The Ministry of Materials will shortly be communicating with consumers individually about the detailed application of the arrangements. It is contemplated that the proportion of purchases from the Ministry will be reduced as the normal channels of supply are re-established. The arrangements will be kept under review in consultation as "necessary with the trade.
A very satisfactory answer.
Is the Minister aware that the Government's view is in keeping with All Fools Day? Tungsten ore is in short supply, and handing it over to private enterprise will mean intense competition and the pushing up of the price, which would not otherwise take place.
I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the whole situation has been very carefully considered and that the Government are satisfied that no undue risks are involved.
Can the right hon. Gentleman given an assurance that he will not be blackmailed by the private buyers of this ore in the same way as the Minister of Transport has been blackmailed by the Road Haulage Association in connection with buses and lorries?
I can give the assurance that the Government will see that this matter is dealt with in the interests of the country as a whole.