HC Deb 15 November 1956 vol 560 cc1110-1
14. Mr. G. Darling

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware of the difficulties and delays in shipbuilding arising from a shortage of steel; and what action he will take to ensure that no further fall in supplies to shipbuilding and other essential export industries is caused by reductions in overall steel production due to reduced oil shipments.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

Deliveries of steel to the shipbuilding industry in the first nine months of this year were 15 per cent. higher than in the corresponding period of 1955, but I am aware that they and other industries could do with more steel. I am consulting the Iron and Steel Board about the possible effect of reduced oil supplies on steel deliveries.

Mr. Darling

Does not the President of the Board of Trade agree that if the steel supply situation gets worse he has a duty to see that the most important users of steel get adequate supplies, in which case some kind of control of the situation may be required?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I am in consultation with the Steel Board, which has these things very much in mind.

Mr. Bottomley

In view of the Government having brought us near to the brink of war—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—yes—will the President of the Board of Trade give us an assurance that Her Majesty's Dockyards will not go short of steel?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I will leave aside the introductory phrase in that supplementary question. We debated that matter for a long time. I can say about steel supplies that I am in close touch with the Steel Board, which has very much in mind the interests of the shipping industry and will seek to see that steel is made available as possible.

Mr. Willey

In view of the difficulties which the shipbuilding industry is facing, apart from discussions with the steel industry, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that there are discussions with the shipbuilding industry, because it is a question not only of supplies but of sequence of deliveries?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Certainly. Discussions with the shipbuilding industry are going on and we have those matters in mind.