HC Deb 20 July 1981 vol 9 cc3-4
2. Mr. John H. Osborn

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what discussions he has had with the British Independent Steelmakers Association and British Steel Corporation about the volume and value of stainless, special, and tool steels imported and stocked in the United Kingdom, and the reasons why overseas competitors of the British steel industry are able to do this.

The Secretary of State for Industry (Sir Keith Joseph)

The Department keeps in close touch with both the British Independent Steel Producers Association and the British Steel Corporation about all steel imports. The Department has not discussed imports of special steels specifically with either BISPA or BSC recently, but I know that BISPA keeps in close touch with its opposite numbers on the Continent and with the European Commission about the level of imports.

Mr. Osborn

Does my right hon. Friend recall that he received first-hand information on this subject from the deputation that came to see him last week? Is he aware that the steel workers of Sheffield will not welcome the fact that there are no statistics—due to the Civil Service strike—to back up his case? Will he make representations to his colleagues in the Department when they next meet? Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that Sheffield steel is concerned about unfair competition in relation to energy? Will he ensure that Ministers in the Department of Energy consider that when they next meet?

Sir Keith Joseph

I note and heed all that my hon. Friend has said. I shall keep in touch with BISPA about the changing situation.

Mr. Flannery

Will the Secretary of State accept that the plight of the special steels industry in Sheffield has nothing to do with any Civil Service strike? Will he accept that the import of special steels from the Continent and elsewhere is literally killing Sheffield's special steels industry? What will the Minister do to help the public and private sectors of the special steels industry—I make a plea for both of them—in perhaps the greatest area in the world for special steel production—Sheffield?

Sir Keith Joseph

A whole range of agreements seeks to modulate the amount of special steels imports into this country. As the hon. Gentleman knows, at the moment an inquiry initiated by the Bank of England and the industry is being carried out into the future of the industry. We await the publication of that report.

Dr. John Cunningham

Is the Secretary of State aware that the House will be somewhat surprised to learn that that important industrial issue has not, apparently, been discussed by his Department? I think that that is what he said. Is he aware that that is a major area of high value products on which not only Sheffield and Rotherham but major areas of British engineering are dependent? Were not the existing agreements within the EEC meant to act especially on exports? If the quota system is not working, what hope have we for the current discussions about future agreements within the EEC?

Sir Keith Joseph

The hon. Gentleman could not have heard the full answer that I gave, that we keep in close touch with BISPA and the British Steel Corporation about all aspects of the industry, including special steels. There have not been specific discussions with BISPA recently. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Osborn) told the House, I have recently received a deputation from the industry.