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World Commodities Centre

Volume 978: debated on Monday 4 February 1980

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asked the Secretary of Trade whether there have been any further developments concerning the proposed world commodities centre: and if he will make a statement.

The Government have decided that, in view of the need for further reductions in public expenditure, they cannot provide finance for the building of new premises in London for the existing commodity organisations already established here and the associated conference centre. The Government are still prepared to consider any future proposal for establishing the common fund in London.

Is that not a rather shortsighted decision? Is my hon. Friend aware that it places in jeopardy the continued presence of those commodity organisations already in the United Kingdom? Does he not think that a world commodities centre in the United Kingdom would be a good investment and a good way of spending the revenue from North Sea oil?

I know that my hon. Friend has put a great deal of work into the proposal, but the cost to the Government would be considerable and all that we would have would be new offices for the existing organisations and a place to hold conferences. The cost to the taxpayer would be considerable and would involve a running subsidy of at least £1 million a year in addition to the capital cost. That simply could not be afforded.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that other Governments think it worth while, in their national interest, to offer considerable inducements to the establishment of such centres and to enable commodity associations to be centred in their capitals? Does he not recognise that there would be a considerable benefit to our balance of payments from such a centre?

When the Government came to power we inherited a borrowing requirement which was too large and a public expenditure programme which was out of control. There are many desirable projects which we might like to have but which we simply cannot afford.