HC Deb 04 December 1972 vol 847 cc889-91
10. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the current average disparities between the British Steel Corporation's prices and those of steel producers within the European Community; and if he will make a statement on the outcome of his discussions with the European Commission and with the British Steel Corporation regarding the impact of the standstill on British Steel Corporation pricing after 1st January.

Mr. Peter Walker

With permission I will arrange for a table of comparisons provided by the British Steel Corporation to be placed in the OFFICIAL REPORT. On the second part of the Question I hope to be able to make an announcement in the course of the next few days.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

I am grateful for the latter part of my right hon. Friend's reply. He would agree, would he not, that this is a matter of extreme urgency in view of the fact that, as of 1st January, the British Steel Corporation and the private sector are liable to face prosecutions in Europe if they do not raise prices and prosecutions in Britain if they do? Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance here and now that if there were to be any move to basing point pricing during the period of the freeze, customers in Scotland and elsewhere who had steel cost increases would he allowed to pass on those increases?

Mr. Walker

I do not envisage any such difficulty. Talks are taking place with the Commission. I hope that my hon. Friend will be satisfied with the announcement which I shall make within a few days' time.

Mr. Varley

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he will not link this particular aspect of steel with the long-term strategy for production targets in the BSC? Will he also answer this point, which has not been answered from the Dispatch Box? Will he give an absolute assurance that the Counter-Inflation (Temporary Provisions) Act will over-ride the European Communities Act in this respect?

Mr. Walker

Yes, Sir. Certainly the Government have made it clear that during this period steel prices will not rise. Therefore, we are talking to the Commission about this aspect. The Commission is well aware of the importance to Europe of sensible anti-inflation policies.

Following is the information:

The following table compares published home trade prices in the countries of the Six with British Steel Corporation prices at 30th November, 1972.

(B.S.C. prices = 100)
Product United Kingdom West Germany France Italy Belgium Netherlands Luxembourg
Billets 100 124 115 94 118 116
Medium Plates 100 129 124 119 112 102 134
Boiler Plates 100 143 141 124 129 132
Beams Structural 100 122 119 123 123 133
Steel for Reinforcement 100 112 111 106 110 103 122
Hot Rolled Strip 100 117 114 111 117 108 118
Hot Rolled Coil 100 119 112 113 108 103

Converted at rates of exchange ruling during November.

All prices adjusted to a comparable delivered basis.

Actual price levels in the Community can be substantially below list prices due to discounts and other arrangements.

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