HC Deb 07 May 1962 vol 659 cc22-3
8. Mr. Ridley

asked the Minister of Power what proposals he has for reforming the Iron and Steel Board, with a view to the United Kingdom signing the European Coal and Steel Community Treaty.

Mr. Wood

I have no proposals at present.

Mr. Ridley

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that the policy of price control is bringing the steel industry to a very low level? Would it not be better if he moved towards the more flexible system which the European Coal and Steel Community is using, as a preparation to joining?

Mr. Wood

If we joined the European Coal and Steel Community the question would arise whether the Iron and Steel Board should continue to exercise powers under the 1953 Act and, in particular, its power to fix maximum prices. The other power which would be greatly in question would be the right to veto investment projects, and these matters would have to be considered when the time came.

Mr. Shinwell

Has the right hon. Gentleman observed that the European Coal and Steel Community has now informed the Belgian Government that they will not be permitted to adopt what is described as a semi-nationalisation scheme but must conform with what it regards as free competition throughout the whole area? Does that mean that if we enter the European Community we shall be barred from operating, under any Government, our own organisation?

Mr. Wood

That and other questions will have to be considered very carefully if we join the Community.