HC Deb 15 May 1996 vol 277 cc944-5
15. Mr. Barry Jones

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the steel industry. [28371]

Mr. Lang

The United Kingdom's steel industry is highly competitive, ranking among the world's best. Productivity has increased five-fold since the 1970s and exports of steel products are worth more than £4 billion.

Mr. Jones

Will the Minister accept an invitation to visit one of the world's finest steel finishing plants—Shotton steelworks in my constituency? Does he agree that the Governments of Spain, Italy and Belgium are bending the rules of the steel aid code to the detriment of steelworks such as Shotton, the Welsh finishing plants and the stripmills? Does he agree that the steelworkers of Britain have made huge sacrifices in the way of tens of thousands of redundancies over the past 10 years? Will he use his veto on the steel aid code, if necessary, to stop cheating on the continent?

Mr. Lang

I welcome the Labour party's change in tone regarding Governments who use subsidies to support their steel industries. We shall certainly support the renewal of the steel state aid code on the basis that it is at least as tough as the present code.

As to the hon. Gentleman's kind invitation to visit his constituency, I shall consult my diary. I believe that Shotton celebrates its centenary this year. Its finest years in the past century occurred during its time in the private sector. As a result of the investment of £20 million in 1990, last year, the mill passed its steel production target of £1 million per annum. It is now one of the world's premier sites for the production of coated steel. That is a tribute to the privatisation of British Steel.

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