§ 3.15 p.m.
§ The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans are being considered for the future of the public and private sectors of the British steel industry.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Security (Lord Trefgarne)
My Lords, the British Steel Corporation 714 are at present making heavy losses, and urgent action is being taken by the corporation's management to stem these losses. In addition, the Government are considering with BSC management whether the future plans for the corporation should require all five major integrated steelworks to stay open. A Government statement on this will be made before the Christmas Recess. In the private steel sector a number of rationalisation schemes, involving support under the Government's Private Sector Steel Scheme, are currently under consideration.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the basis of Great Britain's industry can in no way recover without the British steel industry? Is he further aware that Great Britain has adhered to the edicts of the EEC Commission and has savagely reduced British steel production, while other members of the Commission have in no way adhered to those requests, and indeed some of them are increasing their steel production, which, of course, is bound to have a deleterious effect on Great Britain's industry? Will the noble Lord say what the Government are going to do about it?
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I absolutely agree with the noble Lord that it is right and proper that the steel industries throughout the European Community should reduce their capacity in the same proportion that we have reduced ours. We have heard a good many fine words about intentions on this in the Community. We shall be watching to see that those fine words are turned into fine action, and we are particularly concerned about the position of Italy.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, is the noble Minister aware that I am not particularly—and I do not think that the British steel industry, both private and public are—very much concerned whether or not now we adhere to any EEC edicts from their Commission, when it makes no endeavour or effort to get other countries to comply with them but seems to concentrate on Great Britain? The fact of the matter, therefore, is that our Government ought to concentrate on seeing that the great needs of our nation, which can be provided on the basis of British steel, are given top priority, and that that great industry ought also to be given top priority to provide a successful future for British industry.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, the noble Lord is mistaken in imagining that there is any difference between ourselves and the European Commission on this matter. The Commissioner who is concerned with these matters, Count Davignon, is of one mind with us that there must be equal misery for all in this matter, and he is determined to achieve that.