HC Deb 09 July 1968 vol 768 cc186-8
14. Mr. Ridley

asked the Minister of Power whether 'the amount, and the terms, of the British Steel Corporation's commencing capital debt have yet been agreed.

Mr. Mason

No, Sir. The precise amount of the debt will not be known until the value of the unquoted securities, which are still to be valued, has been settled. The total may be in the region of£820 million. I hope to say something about the terms of the debt during the debate on the Resolution to increase the Corporation's borrowing limit next Friday.

Mr. Ridley

Why has this commencing capital debt not been agreed? It is now over a year since the Corporation was set up. Is the Minister aware that it is impossible to conduct business properly unless matters of this sort are known at the beginning? Will he take action where his predecessors have failed to get some progress?

Mr. Mason

Yes. But the hon. Gentleman must appreciate that settlement of the terms for the debt obviously raises complicated matters. It will take some time, and discussions are continuing with the Corporation.

24. Sir Knox Cunningham

asked the Minister of Power what, taking account of the obligation to pay interest upon its commercial capital debt, was the appropriate profit or loss of the British Steel Corporation for its first half year.

Mr. Mason

I have not yet determined the terms of the debt and I cannot, therefore, give such a figure.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Is it not likely that when the right hon. Gentleman has determined the debt the figure will show a substantial loss? If so, what steps is he taking to improve the position? In any event, will the taxpayer have to pay for the loss?

Mr. Mason

If the hon. Gentleman wants to be political about this, then he may care to know that in 1966–67 the nationalised steel companies made a loss of about£10 million, but 10 months of that was before vesting day.

38. Mr. Berry

asked the Minister of Power how many letters he has received objecting to the salary of the Chairman of the British Steel Corporation.

Mr. Mason

None, Sir.

Mr. Berry

Would the Minister agree that his reply confirms that the public expect the right salary to be paid to the right man in the right job? Would he not further agree that this applies equally to the public and to the private sector? Will he bear in mind that those who are paid so-called "large" salaries pay a large part of them back to the Treasury in taxation?

Mr. Mason

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is aware of how much Lord Melchett gets. It is, at the moment,£16,000, and it is a sum he agreed on.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Would the right hon. Gentleman like to set an example, and ask the nationalised industries in their annual reports to give the salaries of directors net after tax, as well as gross?

Mr. Mason

I will consider it, but I really do not think that it is necessary.

42. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Minister of Power what has been the result of his discussions with the British Steel Corporation about its price structure.

Mr. Mason

I am in touch with the Corporation about the major price review which they are now undertaking, but it will not be completed before the end of the year.

Mr. Taylor

Is the Minister aware that shipbuilders, engineers and others in Scotland are greatly concerned that the Steel Corporation, like the gas industry and the Coal Board, will end by charging more for its product in Scotland? Will he give a guarantee that under nationalisation Scottish shipbuilders and engineers will not be expected to pay more for steel than those in England and Wales?

Mr. Mason

I cannot give an assurance of that kind—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—nor do I propose to do so until the review is complete.

Mr. James Hamilton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many steel firms in Scotland are closing because they cannot compete with competitors in the South? Will he give an assurance that there will be a unified policy about prices of steel?

Mr. Mason

These are matters which I shall have to take note of after the review has been completed.

Sir G. Nabarro

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Selective Employment Tax premium and similar advantages given in Scotland are largely nullified by the excessive price which Scottish firms have to pay for coal, gas, electricity and other services under this iniquitous differential pricing scheme?

Mr. Mason

If the hon. Gentleman wants to pursue those questions, they should not be directed to me.

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