§ 10. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the increase in steel prices following the end of the standstill, indicating what will be the largest percentage increase to customers in Eastern Scotland; and whether he has confirmed with the Brussels Commission that the British steel industry will henceforth be operating in compliance with the rules of the European Community.
§ Mr. Emery
I understand that the British Steel Corporation will be making an announcement on steel prices later this month. The order made yesterday under the Counter-Inflation Act 1973 exempts from control prices charged by producers of products covered by the ECSC Treaty, and my right hon. Friend is so informing the European Commission.
§ Mr. Bruce-Gardyne
I am grateful for that reply, but it hardly answers the Question. The important question is whether the British Steel Corporation and the private sector are to be allowed, without Government interference, to charge prices which will enable them to obtain the 8 per cent. return on assets which has been set for them as their commercial target, and whether the European Coal and Steel Community, since it has been in communication with the Government, has agreed that the corporation and the private sector are to be allowed to charge the commercial rates which they are required to charge by the rules of the Community.
§ Mr. Emery
There are two parts to that question. First, the pricing factors which will be taken into account by both the BSC and the private sector must obviously reflect their desire to be able to get on top of the inflationary spiral. Second, the steel industry is well aware of the treaty obligations which it has to match up to.
§ Mr. Ewing
Will the hon. Gentleman say specifically whether the corporation's announcement will be made after, or as a result of, consultations with the Government?
§ Mr. Biffen
Has my hon. Friend had any consultations with the corporation on this matter of pricing, and has it intimated to him what it thinks will be its price structure as a result of the decision it will be taking later this month?
§ Mr. Emery
The corporation has had consultations with my hon. Friend the Minister for Industry, as it normally does about all matters which affect its investment plans.