HC Deb 14 February 1956 vol 548 cc2145-6
10. Mr. A. Roberts

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the need for an increased output of coal to sustain our economy, he will take steps to provide an adequate supply of steel to manufacturers of mining equipment and machinery.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

Although steel production is rising rapidly, many industries are experiencing some shortage of steel. In order to ease the position, import duties on steel sheet are suspended until March, 1957, and on most other forms of steel until September, 1956. I do not accept the suggestion that steel should be allocated on a preferential basis to particular industries or manufacturers.

Mr. Roberts

But does not the Minister agree that since the economy of this country is bound up with coal for at least the next twenty-five years, something should be done to see that there is a sufficient allocation of steel to the makers of mining equipment and other machinery for the mining industry?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I certainly fully appreciate the importance of steel to that industry, as to many others, at the present time. One of the important things is to proceed with the capital construction necessary for new steel production.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Did I gather from the right hon. Gentleman that he did not himself believe that some measure of priority ought to be given to the coal mining industry? Is he satisfied that the allocation of steel to that industry at the present time is adequate to develop the new plant as quickly as the country needs it?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I said that I did not think that a comprehensive steel rationing and allocation scheme ought to be brought in at present.

Sir L. Ropner

Could my right hon. Friend say what is the loss of output due to a shortage of modern equipment compared with the loss of output owing to voluntary absenteeism?

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