HC Deb 10 December 1968 vol 775 cc193-5
11. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Minister of Power what proposals have now been put to him by the British Steel Corporation for a revision of their prices; and if he will make a statement.

54. Earl of Dalkeith

asked the Minister of Power whether he will make a statement concerning his discussions with the British Steel Corporation on the revision of prices.

Mr. Mason

I have just received the conclusions of the Corporation's major price review, which include proposals for a major price increase. My right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State and I are referring them to the National Board for Prices and Incomes.

Mr. Taylor

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what effect this will have on industry's costs generally, and will he give an assurance that he will not approve any major price review which will result in the steel industry, like other nationalised industries, charging considerably more for its products in Scotland, bearing in mind the catastrophic effect which this would have on shipbuilding and heavy engineering in Scotland?

Mr. Mason

In the case of an industry whose end product contained about 25 per cent. of steel, the increase would be about 2 per cent.

Earl of Dalkeith

Would the Minister give an undertaking that he will personally ensure that the industrial situation in Scotland is not made worse by these price increases and that there will be no repetition of the tragic closure of the steel plant in my constituency which has shaken everyone's faith in the Govern ment?

Mr. Mason

I am sorry to hear the hon. Gentleman's criticisms. Obviously he does not keep abreast of affairs. In the past two years, the British Steel Corporation has announced five new plants in Scotland alone.

Sir K. Joseph

Are we to understand from the Minister that the proposed price increase averages about 8 per cent.? Is he aware that private business must consider costs as well as prices? When will the House be hearing proposals for rationalisation, which has been given as the main reason for nationalising the steel industry?

Mr. Mason

The average increase is just over 7 per cent.—7. 3 per cent., if I remember aright. I expect to receive the further development proposals of the British Steel Corporation at the beginning of next year.

Mr. James Hamilton

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there is a very serious recession in steel construction work in Scotland? Bearing in mind the differentials which prevail in other nationalised industries, will he ensure that the price in Scotland is the same as in the South?

Mr. Mason

I cannot give that assurance, and I would not want to tie the National Board for Prices and Incomes when it makes an inquiry into this matter.

Mr. Taylor

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.