HC Deb 24 November 1980 vol 994 cc199-200
15. Mr. Neil Thorne

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he expects that the British Steel Corporation's financial situation will be stabilised.

Mr. Adam Butler

As my right hon. Friend made clear in his earlier reply to the hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. Hamilton), he impresed upon the chairman of the BSC the importance that we attach to a rapid return to financial viability by the BSC and a marked reduction in the corporation's call on public finance. We expect to receive the chairman's proposals for meeting these objectives in the BSC's corporate plan, due in mid-December.

Mr. Thorne

Does my hon. Friend accept that my constituents are extremely concerned about the amount of public money that is being poured into the furnaces of the British Steel Corporation? Does he realise how anxious my constituents are that that money should be diverted into reducing the high level of interest rates, so that small businesses can play their part in reducing unemployment?

Mr. Butler

I hope that my hon. Friend will continue to repeat that message loudly and clearly up and down the country. Money put into the BSC or into any other company in equal difficulties is injected at the expense of jobs elsewhere.

Mr. Hardy

Does the Minister agree that both the public and private sectors of the steel industry are facing difficulties largely because our French and German competitors receive more helpful support from their Governments than the steel industry receives from ours? Has the Minister studied the documentary evidence on energy prices that has been compiled by the public and private sectors of the steel industry in South Yorkshire? Does he accept that it demonstrates the disadvantage that the British steel industry faces?

Mr. Butler

We have that report in front of us. However, the subject of energy prices has already been dealt with at some length. The amount of aid given to the public sector of the steel industry is not less, and is probably much more, than the average given to all other countries in the Community.