§ Mr. Nicholls
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what was the outcome of the Council of Industry Ministers meeting on 19 March.
§ Mr. Giles Shaw
Ministers discussed proposals from the European steel producers association Eurofer for reducing excess European steel capacity. The Council agreed that substantial excess capacity still exists, and the Commission will now have discussions with Eurofer and the producers designed to achieve further closures, and aimed primarily at lossmaking firms. I made it clear that the United Kingdom has already made a major contribution to the restructuring of the European steel industry, and that the United Kingdom steel industry was now in profit. As no BSC volume was contained in the Eurofer proposals, nothing under discussion at the Council will affect the three-year BSC strategy agreed in August 1985, or will prejudice decisions on BSC strategy after 1988.
Ministers also discussed the steel production quota system. The Commission will make new proposals concerning 1988 in time for discussion at the next meeting of the Industry Council.
The Council also agreed a two-year extension to the SPRINT programme whose main aim is to help improve the competitivness, particularly of small and medium-sized firms, by setting up means to assist the exchange of technology and innovation practice.