HC Deb 12 February 1957 vol 564 cc1066-8
33. Mr. J. Hynd

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will now re-examine the provisions for licensing of steel for export with a view to excluding such steels as are in sufficient supply to render unnecessary such licences.

The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. Derek Walker-Smith)

It is true that some types of steel, which are neither scarce nor of strategic significance, require export licences. It is quicker and more convenient for the steel industry to have them licensed to avoid the risk of delay which might occur through exports being challenged by Customs officers at the time of shipment.

Nonetheless we shall of course keep the licensing provisions under constant review in consultation with my noble Friend the Minister of Power.

Mr. Hynd

Is not the Minister aware of the confusion and consternation which this Order has caused in Sheffield, the exports of which are desired by the Government, but which are being hampered as a result of the Order? Does he not agree that the Government have proceeded with this sweeping Order, aimed at certain qualities of steel but omitting others, in defiance of the opinion of the Iron and Steel Federation? Will he consult the Federation again to see whether some arrangement cannot be made to enable steel which we want to export to go through?

Mr. Walker-Smith

No, Sir; the assumption of the hon. Member is incorrect. The definition of types of steel to be included was worked out by the Government in full consultation and agreement both with the Iron and Steel Board and the British Iron and Steel Federation; so, if there is consternation in Sheffield, it appears to be based on a misapprehension which I am sure the hon. Member will assist in removing.

Sir P. Roberts

Is it not a fact that this method has been adopted mainly out of consideration for civil servants—the Customs officials at the ports? Will not my right hon. and learned Friend look at this matter again to see whether the expediting of the export of steel cannot be done more easily?

Mr. Walker-Smith

No, Sir. This has not been done for the convenience of Customs officials. It is for the convenience of the industry so that shipments are not delayed. Presumably the British Iron and Steel Federation had that consideration in mind when it agreed the procedure.

Mr. Hynd

My point was not whether the types and grades were agreed with the Federation. Does the Federation agree that this blanket method of operation should be the method by which to try to check the exports of the other steels?

Mr. Walker-Smith

I do not know whether the term "blanket method" is appropriate; but the formulation of the Order in this form was done in consultation with the bodies to which I have referred.