HC Deb 17 February 1958 vol 582 cc848-50
39. Mr. Cronin

asked the Paymaster-General if he will give three figures indicating the approximate average of labour costs per hour and coking coal and scrap costs per ton for the steel industry in 1957.

Sir I. Horobin

The approximate average hourly cost of labour in the iron and steel industry in 1957 was 5s. 9d. The approximate average costs of coking coal and scrap, including imported scrap, delivered to steel works in the same year were £5 a ton, and £13 a ton.

Mr. Cronin

Will the hon. Gentleman agree that these figures are lower in general than those of any other major steel-producing country and that therefore the present efficiency of the steel industry is largely due to factors quite outside the control of the boards of directors?

Sir I. Horobin

I am afraid I can accept neither the premise nor the conclusion of the hon. Member's question. I ought to warn him, when he comes to consider my answer more carefully in the seclusion of his study, that there is every kind of statistical trap in figures of this kind.

42. Mr. Palmer

asked the Paymaster-General if he will state the respective proportions of iron and steel productive capacity controlled by the Realisation Agency and supervised by the Iron and Steel Board.

Sir I. Horobin

About five-sixths of iron and steel capacity have been returned to private ownership, about one-sixth at present remaining in the control of the Iron and Steel Holding and Realisation Agency. The Iron and Steel Board supervises the whole of the industry as defined in the Third Schedule to the Iron and Steel Act, 1953.

Mr. Palmer

Would the hon. Gentleman care to say whether the denationalisation of the iron and steel industry is likely to be completed by the date of the coming General Election?

Sir I. Horobin

That depends on the many things which may determine the date of the General Election. Perhaps in about a year's time the hon. Gentleman may like to put down another Question.

Mr. Chetwynd

But as the days of this Government are so obviously numbered, would it not be much more sensible to start the process now?

Sir I. Horobin

That depends on the number.

Mr. Strauss

May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether, as the companies under private ownership are all complaining about the difficulties of raising fresh capital in present conditions—a difficulty which does not apply to the one-sixth remaining under public ownership—would it not be unwise to put that one-sixth under the same handicap as the five-sixths which are now privately owned?

Sir I. Horobin

That is a rather different question, but if the right hon. Gentleman is under any illusion that there are no difficulties in obtaining savings, even for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the hon. Gentleman had better put the Question down to him.