HC Deb 14 February 1956 vol 548 cc2153-4
21. Mr. Chapman

asked the President of the Board of Trade what estimate he has made of the level of sheet steel imports in 1956.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

I have not been able to make an estimate. A material increase in sheet steel production is expected in 1956, but I cannot tell how far manufacturers will find it necessary to buy from abroad to supplement domestic supplies.

Mr. Chapman

Does this mean that if the motor car industry finds an opportunity to sell an enormous proportion of its output on the home market, instead of exporting it, we shall continue, as in 1955, importing sheet steel for home market cars at the rate we did then?

Mr. Thorneycroft

It is true to say that the proportion of sales on the home market will have an effect upon the import of sheet steel. That is a fair comment.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

In view of our balance-of-trade situation, cannot the President of the Board of Trade inform the motor car industry that the level of imports of sheet steel will substantially depend on its success in exporting cars? Is he aware that pressure of that sort, proposals of that sort, had a most stimulating effect on the motor car industry in the period after the war?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I do not wish to be dogmatic about this, but I would be loath to introduce a system of steel allocation, even one of those ingenious systems which allocates raw materials to exports, and matters of that kind. They have not had universal success in the past, and I wish to avoid them in the future.

Mr. Nicholson

Would my right hon. Friend agree that by far the most effective stimulus to exports is a contraction of the home order book?