asked the Secretary of State for Industry what steps are being taken by the Government to stockpile raw materials essential to manufacturing industry, particularly metal manufacture.
The Government are consulting industrial, mining and financial interests about the prospects for the supply of essential minerals for which United Kingdom industry is dependent on overseas sources. The need for stockpiling is being discussed in these consultations.
At least that is an improvement on previous answers. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some other Western European industrial countries, such as West Germany, are not sitting back and consulting but are taking active steps to stockpile essential industrial raw materials? Is he aware that so long as the instability in South Africa continues to increase that is a prudent line of action?
We are, of course, aware of what happens among our Common Market partners. The hon. Gentleman will, surely, agree that it is best to have thorough consultations on a matter of considerable strategic and economic importance.
Is my hon. Friend expecting a blockade? Are we going to blockade South Africa? Or is that country going to blockade us? There is surely no possible reason why this country should consider stockpiling any material at the taxpayers' expense.
My hon. Friend knows that it is not just South Africa from where some of these commodities come. It must be sensible to consider whether we should stockpile some vital raw materials.