HC Deb 13 December 1966 vol 738 cc236-8
30. Mr. Hooley

asked the Minister of Power what is the estimated total capacity of the steel industry in 1967; and what percentage of this capacity is likely to be fully employed.

Dr. Bray

Thirty-one million tons. The Iron and Steel Board estimate that not much more than 70 per cent. of capacity will be employed, on average, in 1967.

Mr. Hooley

Would my hon. Friend agree that it is essential for the economic health of this country that the steel industry should work at a much higher capacity than it is likely to do in 1967, and will he make this point clear to the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Dr. Bray

As my hon. Friend knows, it is highly desirable that all our industries should work as near to full capacity as possible. However, the deficient home demand for steel is now being aggravated by a recession in stock holding and also by a high level of imports. My right hon. Friend is looking into both of these matters.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

How much of this 30 per cent, unused capacity in the steel industry is due to the credit squeeze and the actions of the Government during the summer?

Dr. Bray

I clearly could not give an answer to that question without notice. A substantial proportion of this 30 per cent. is in respect of ageing and, perhaps, obsolete capacity, which might well not be considered within the total of 100 per cent.

Mr. Barber

How does the 30 per cent. unused capacity compare with what was suggested in the National Plan?

Dr. Bray

The National Plan related to 1970 and contained no information about 1967.

Mr. David Griffiths

Would my hon. Friend make it clear that the credit squeeze is not unduly responsible for this state of affairs? Is he further aware that the right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) knows full well that the steel industry was working at only 65 per cent. to 70 per cent.—at the most at 75 per cent. at any time—of capacity in Sheffield and Rotherham?

Dr. Bray

As my hon. Friend points out, the history of the steel industry has been one of cycles of production which the present Government are doing a great deal to remove upstairs in Committee.