HC Deb 16 July 1964 vol 698 cc1399-400
3. Mr. W. Hamilton

asked the Minister of Power to what extent steel imports contributed adversely to the trade balance in the first four months of 1964; and what steps he intends to take to remedy the situation.

Mr. Peyton

The c.i.f. value of steel imports in the first four months of 1964 was £37 million. The f.o.b. value of steel exports in the same period was £62 million. In reply to the second part of the Question I have nothing to add to my right hon. Friend's Answer of 16th June.

Mr. Hamilton

Does not the hon. Gentleman think that the present position is very serious and very unsatisfactory? Is it not the case that imports in the first five months of this year—it was four months in the Question, but since it was put down later figures have come out—have doubled compared with the same period last year and that many motor car manufacturers admit that they are buying overseas steel because of the inferior quality of the sheet steel which they are getting from our own industrialists? Does not the hon. Gentleman think that this is very unsatisfactory?

Mr. Peyton

I think that the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Iron and Steel Board has been looking into the reasons for increased imports and I expect to hear from it very shortly. It has very nearly completed its inquiry.

Mr. Mendelson

While the Iron and Steel Board is looking into it, is it not already evident that at the time when people in the industry were on short-time working—working three instead of five or six shifts—it would have been much more sensible, as was urged on the Government from this side of the House at the time, to stock steel in order to have it ready at the present time?

Mr. Peyton

No, I cannot agree with that.

Mr. Ridley

Is it not true that a lot of these steel imports are coming from Canada, and would not my hon. Friend further agree that the tariff against our exports of steel to Canada is in many cases 17½ per cent. whereas there is free entry into this country for Canadian steel? Will my hon. Friend ask his right hon. Friend to look into this serious disparity in the tariff structure?

Mr. Peyton

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. T. Fraser

Is not the Minister aware that in the spring of this year the Government introduced an Order to reduce import duties on many steel products from the Continent of Europe so that the motor car industry in this country could get the products which it so much required from the Continent because they were not available from the industry in this country?

Mr. Peyton

That is not a matter for my Department.