HC Deb 03 November 1955 vol 545 cc1197-8
31. Mr. J. Johnson

asked the President of the Board of Trade the value, in dollars, of the imports of sheet steel of all types in 1954 and in 1955, to the latest convenient date; and what proportion was used by the motor car industry in each of these periods.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

The value in dollars of imports from the dollar area was 14.2 million dollars in 1954 and 49.4 million dollars in the first nine months of 1955.

No information is available to show what proportion of these imports was used by the motor car industry.

Mr. Johnson

Will the President jealously guard the use of imports such as these, which are paid for by precious dollars? Will he further introduce some system of allocation whereby those firms which are fighting for the export market will get a supply, in proportion, as opposed to those firms which are taking the easier course of selling in the lush home market?

Mr. Thomeycroft

Without going into the wider issue, I would say that the Government resist the idea of introducing import licensing with, as the hon. Member suggests, the inevitable concomitant of internal rationing.

Mr. H. Wilson

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to tell the House that this very big increase in dollar imports can take place not only without the Government having any control of the situation but even without them having any knowledge of how this sheet steel is used in this country? Will the right hon. Gentleman not accept the suggestion put to the Government from this bench on Friday that the motor car manufacturers should be invited, in view of their very heavy usage of dollar steel, to make a special additional drive in the export market?

Mr. Thorneycroft

The motor car industry is making a very great drive in the export market, with very great success at present. I do not think I could take up again all the detailed arguments which the right hon. Gentleman very sincerely put in favour of import restrictions, which we think from every point of view would be harmful to the interests of the country.

Mr. Bottomley

Could this steel have been obtained in markets other than dollar markets?

Mr. Thorneycroft

It was obtained in the market where it could be most economically obtained.