HC Deb 21 December 1937 vol 330 cc1760-1
24 and 25. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) whether he is aware of the shortage of steel and of the effect on delivery dates of the shortage in the shipbuilding and engineering industry; and what action is now being taken to deal with this situation?

(2) whether he is aware that employés have been suspended in the shipbuilding industry due to lack of deliveries of steel; that firms complain they have only received 60 to 70 per cent. of the steel required for their contracts, and orders have had to be refused through the uncertainty of the supply of steel; and what further action is being taken or is contemplated to deal with this problem?

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Oliver Stanley)

Increased supplies of steel are now available, and I am not aware of any general complaint of a shortage of steel for the shipbuilding and engineering industries at the present time. A few individual cases of difficulty have recently been brought to my notice and arrangements have been, or are being, made to assist the firms concerned through the special machinery set up by the British Iron and Steel Federation for the purpose.

Mr. Smith

Is it not a fact that delivery dates are now one of the most important factors in obtaining foreign orders, and in view of that, will the Minister take action for the purpose of increasing the output of steel so that this country may obtain the orders of foreign countries?

Mr. Stanley

That is a most important point, but I would remind the hon. Member that the production of steel in this country has reached a record level.

Miss Wilkinson

If there is no shortage of steel, why it is so very difficult, and in fact almost impossible, for people desiring to establish new industries to get permits, and are there not certain cases now before the right hon. Gentleman's Department?

Mr. Stanley

I gather that the question has reference to shipbuilding and engineering firms. If the hon. Lady has any other instance in mind, perhaps she will bring it to my notice?

Miss Wilkinson

Is it not a fact that the right hon. Gentleman said definitely that there is no shortage of steel? If there is not a shortage of steel for building, does he mean there is no shortage of steel for any other purpose? That is infantile.