HC Deb 09 June 1980 vol 986 cc16-7
14. Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what is his estimate of the total volume of steel which will be required by the United Kingdom during 1980 and in 1981.

Mr. Michael Marshall

This assessment of the market is a matter for the steel industry and not for my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Hardy

If Mr. MacGregor concludes that the very low level of steel production currently envisaged is inadequate to meet the national requirement for steel, may we take it that he and we will be assured that without hesitation there will be approval and encouragement for increased activity?

Mr. Marshall

Obviously, when the chairman-designate comes forward with his proposals we shall want to look at them very carefully. One wants to see the thrust moving in the way suggested by the hon. Gentleman. However, he must appreciate that until we have had the chance to assess the impact of the strike and the degree of lost markets it is difficult to take a firm view.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Does my hon. Friend accept that 15 million metric tonnes of liquid steel is not necessarily the ideal level, but that there may be distinct advantages in giving the British Steel Corporation a longer period than is envisaged at present, in order to reach the optimum level, which might be higher or lower?

Mr. Marshall

My hon. Friend has followed these matters closely, and he makes a valid point about the uncertainties in the level of steel making. However, he will recognise that at a time of particular difficulty in the steel industries throughout the world, the problems currently facing the BSC are problems about which we shall need to take a firm view as and when the new chairman has had an opportunity to study these matters with care.

Mr. Urwin

Has the Minister attempted to make an estimate of the decline in the quantity of coal that will be required by the steel industry? In that context, how many miners' jobs will disappear in the foreseeable future?

Mr. Marshall

The right hon. Gentleman tempts me to go down avenues which you would not approve, Mr. Speaker. I shall give him my private opinion on matters concerning another Department when I meet him outside this Chamber.