§ 41. Mr. Stanley
asked the Secretary of State for Industry what steps he is taking to ensure that exporting companies are given priority in the allocation of available steel supplies.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Industry (Mr. Michael Meacher)
My Department has looked closely at the possibility of giving priority in steel supplies to requirements for export production. However, such general priority would damage other equally important uses such as import-saving production, agriculture, the North Sea oil programme and productive investment, and would therefore not be helpful.
§ Mr. Stanley
Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the acute difficulty that many small and medium-size firms in engineering are experiencing in obtaining steel supplies, and will he bear in mind in particular that some of these companies 28 are amongst our most productive in the export field?
§ Mr. Meacher
I am well aware of the problems but I do not think that they would be assisted by the kind of rationing scheme that the hon. Gentleman wants. There are a very large number of small steel users, many of them engaged in the export trade, and even to register them would be a major administrative exercise. The real argument against it is that steel production this month has come near to a return to full production after the three-day working week, and it expects to meet demand in full by the middle of this year.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance. Would you prefer me to put the point later?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I shall take points of order relating to the right hon. Gentleman's statement afterwards.