HC Deb 12 December 1967 vol 756 cc187-8
5. Mr. Willey

asked the Minister of Power whether he will make a further statement on the question of steel prices for the shipbuilding industry.

Mr. Marsh

The British Steel Corporation is still discussing the price of shipbuilding steel with the shipbuilders, and I hope it will be possible to reach an agreement to the advantage of both industries.

Mr. Willey

I am obliged to my right hon. Friend. Will he see that the importance of steel prices to the shipbuilding industry is borne in mind, otherwise this industry will be sorely prejudiced if its main competitors have the advantage of £5 to £6 a ton?

Mr. Marsh

I think that devaluation will help the shipbuilding industry. The Corporation, in its own interests, is very much concerned to do what it can to work with the shipbuilding industry in their mutual interest.

Mr. Emery

As far as the shipbuilding industry in concerned—in fact this applies to all the steel-consuming industries— where there has been a major increase in price since devaluation, sometimes as much as 16.6 per cent, on present prices, do the Government intend to refer this to the Prices and Incomes Board?

Mr. Marsh

So far there has been no increase in the price of shipbuilding steel. If, at some time, the Corporation came forward with an application for an increase in price, it would be judged on its merits as to how big it was.

14. Mr. Ridley

asked the Minister of Power by what percentage he estimates that steel prices will rise as a result of devaluation.

41. Mr. James Hamilton

asked the Minister of Power what application he has received regarding an increase in the price of steel; and, in view of the damage such an increase would do to industry and exports, if he will refuse his approval to the application.

Mr. Marsh

The British Steel Corporation is still considering how far it can absorb the increase in costs due to de- valuation bearing in mind also the advantages it hopes to gain.

Mr. Ridley

But why does not the Minister tell us by how much the price of steel will rise? Will he give an undertaking that he will not allow the British Steel Corporation to drift into deficit when it is clearly part of the policy of devaluation that steel prices should rise if they have to?

Mr. Marsh

As I have already explained, the Corporation has put no proposals to me for a major increase in prices. If it did, that application would be treated in the same way as any other. As to the industry drifting, one has only to consider its record in the last year or two to realise that this is its only hope of stopping drifting.

Mr. Hamilton

My right hon. Friend is reported in the Press as saying that the price will increase by 16 per cent. If it does increase, will it be the same for the whole country? Can he assure us that Scotland will be considered very much in this?

Mr. Marsh

As hon. Gentlemen on both sides know, the question of steel prices is a very complex issue affecting the problems of the market generally. What the Corporation is doing is working out how best to change its pricing policy in the light of devaluation. If that involved any increase of any note, the necessary application would be treated in the same way as any other.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many other industries are complex yet have already worked out their prices, including the motor car industry where exports are a main consideration? Will he note that industry's example and get something done quickly?

Mr. Marsh

Some sections of the motor car industry took one path, and some took a different path. With an industry as big as the Steel Corporation, the important thing is to get the answer right.