HC Deb 15 March 1956 vol 550 cc544-5
27. Mr. Edelman

asked the President of the Board of Trade what was the expenditure in dollars on the import of sheet steel for the motor industry during the last twelve months to the nearest convenient date.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

Imports in the twelve months ended 31st January, 1956, from the dollar area of the type of sheet steel mainly used by the motor industry were £17.4 million valued c.i.f. No information is available to show what proportion of these imports was used by the motor industry.

Mr. Edelman

Is it not very serious that we should be spending so many dollars on imported steel and then reselling so much of the finished product on the home market? Will the right hon. Gentleman not endeavour to relate the import of hard-currency steel to the export performance of the consumer?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I think the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) and I are agreed that no allocations scheme for steel ought to be introduced.

Mr. H. Wilson

While the right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that no one has suggested a detailed steel allocations scheme, does he not agree that he should have accepted the proposal made from this side of the House last June that the motor car manufacturers should be sent for and that he should point out to them how much sheet steel they were importing and ask them to make special efforts to increase their exports as a condition of receiving this sheet steel? Secondly, does he not agree that it would have been reasonable during these years of excessive expansion of the motor car industry to have fixed a quota for sales in the home market?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I quite agree that we should always impress upon manufacturers the importance of exports, but the point here is that we are all agreed that no allocations scheme for sheet steel should be introduced. That is the answer to the hon. Member's Question.

Mr. Jay

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he is still talking nonsense? All I said was that I expressed no opinion about this matter, one way or the other.

Mr. Thorneycroft

I think the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues ought to make up their minds about it.