HC Deb 24 November 1980 vol 994 cc192-3
7. Sir Anthony Meyer

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what consultations he has had with the chairman of the British Steel Corporation regarding the proposals by the European Coal and Steel Community high authority for quotas for steel production.

The Minister of State, Department of Industry (Mr. Adam Butler)

My right hon. Friend discussed the matter with Mr. MacGregor when they met on 23 September. During the whole of the time when the commission's proposals for production quotas were being considered, the Department was in constant touch with the British Steel Corporation and with the British Independent Steel Producers Association.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Is it not clear that only Community policies that are effectively enforced will provide any kind of protection against cut-throat competition in Europe, which could be fatal to the orderly redeployment of forces within the British steel industry? Is not there a lesson here for other industries that are threatened by excessive competition or outside imports, namely, that only through European policies can we effectively protect our jobs?

Mr. Butler

The answer to the second part of the question, is that each industry should be treated on its merits. However, I agree with my hon. Friend that this was a good example of the Community working together for the greater good of the steel industry among its members.

Mr. Barry Jones

Does the Minister accept that some of us believe that the Government are cutting the throat of the British steel industry? Bearing in mind the recent loss of 7,000 jobs at BSC Shotton, is he in any way able to comment on the widespread rumour that about 400 coke oven jobs are at risk?

Mr. Butler

The hon. Gentleman has gone somewhat wide of the question. The quotas that I supported, and argued for strongly, will be of help to those employed by the BSC.

Mr. Moate

Does not my hon. Friend agree that it is sheer folly for the European Coal and Steel Community to apply these quotas to certain British companies, the vast proportion of whose production goes for export outside Europe? What steps can he take to ensure that this inflexibility of the quotas is not applied to those British companies?

Mr. Butler

It is part of the arrangement that if companies find themselves in special difficulties the Commission will look at them. I am aware of the case that my hon. Friend has in mind, but I assure him that overall, and for the vast majority of companies in the private sector as well as for the BSC, the imposition of quotas will be of benefit.