HC Deb 22 May 1978 vol 950 cc1106-7
20. Mr. Dykes

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he next intends to meet Commissioner Davignon in Brussels to discuss problems affecting the steel industry in the EEC member States.

Mr. Kaufman

At present my right hon. Friend has no plans to do so.

Mr. Dykes

Does the Minister of State agree that the problem of over-capacity in European steel can be solved only in the EEC context and that already the suggestions made by Commissioner Davignon have been helpful in taking all the member States' steel industries forward together in a difficult climate? Does he agree that if redundancies are inevitable they must be carried out gradualistically and in a humane way in a European context and not just nationally?

Mr. Kaufman

What the hon. Gentleman says is unexceptionable. We need to work within the Community for a sensible approach to the steel industry. The Davignon approach is helpful in many respects. I am glad about the hon. Gentleman's remarks about the need for generous redundancy payments where closures have taken place.

Mr. Ashley

Is the Minister aware that he will be making a grave error of judgment if he condones the closure of Shotton steel works, because he will be defying steel workers, defying Members, of Parliament, defying the TUC steel committee and—because that steel works can be profitable with an arc furnace—defying logic?

Mr. Kaufman

These are not matters which we have discussed with Commissioner Davignon. We stated our position in the White Paper, and discussions are taking place on that basis.

Mr. Biffen

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that if one has to choose between the Continental aristocracy there is more to be said for the free trade views of Count Lambsdorff than for the protectionist and cartel attitude of Viscount Davignon?

Mr. Kaufman

It ill becomes me to distinguish between one Continental aristocrat and another. They are all the same as aristocrats, but it just so happens that Commissioner Davignon's approach to the steel industry's problems has been helpful and we hope that it will continue to be so.

Mr. Hardy

Is it not the case that, no matter from what source, there has been a great deal of progress in the last year or so? Could not that progress be even further encouraged if my hon. Friend's Department were a little more decisive in approving job evaluation schemes and other productivity deals, certainly in the South Yorkshire area?

Mr. Kaufman

I well understand the problem to which my hon. Friend has drawn attention. We are doing our best to expedite these matters, but he will know that they have to be conducted within the framework of the Government's pay policy.