HC Deb 26 January 1956 vol 548 cc348-9
21. Lady Tweedsmuir

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the shortage of steel confronting the crane industry; and whether he will curtail the large amount of unfabricated steel now exported.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

I am aware that crane makers are having difficulties in obtaining their full needs of steel from home production as are other manufacturing industries. Production of steel is increasing and direct exports of steel are being limited.

Lady Tweedsmuir

I am sure that the industry will be glad to hear that direct exports of steel are being limited. Is my right hon. Friend aware that this industry exports one third of its production and could export more? Could he therefore say definitely whether representations have been made to the board that more should be put on the home market by this industry?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Production is expanding, and there is a voluntary arrangement to restrict exports to the 1955 level. I am sure that my noble Friend will bear in mind that some of these exports are to United Kingdom companies overseas.

Mr. H. Wilson

Is not the Minister aware that, in spite of very high imports of steel into this country at a very considerable dollar cost, not only the crane industry but many other essential industries are chronically short of steel at the present time? Does not he agree that this is mainly due to the expansion in unlicensed and now free-of-licence and unnecessary building? Would not the right hon. Gentleman be able to deal with the problem raised by his noble Friend and maintain our steel exports if he were to introduce control upon entirely unnecessary building?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I am very doubtful whether that would be a useful approach to the subject, and in any event it raises quite other questions.