HC Deb 12 January 1988 vol 125 cc215-7W
Mr. Roger King

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a report on the outcome of the Council of Industry Ministers' meeting on 22 December 1987.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

Following the meeting of the Council of Industry Ministers on 8 December, on which I reported to the House in my reply on 9 December, at column 163, I attended a further meeting of the Council in Brussels on 22 December. The Council determined arrangements to apply to the steel market following the end of the previous quota arrangements on 31 December 1987. The House of Commons Select Committee on European Legislation recommended these arrangements for debate, but regrettably it was not possible to arrange for parliamentary debate prior to their agreement of the 22 December Council. I shall, of course, make efforts to arrange a debate as soon as practicable.

The Commission reported on the consultations it had undertaken with member states, at the request of the 8 December Council, concerning the reduction of excess capacity in each of the product categories Ia and Ib (hot rolled strip and cold reduced sheet), II (plate) and III (heavy sections). In respect of categories II and III the Commission judged that sufficient indications of willingness to reduce capacity had been obtained for it to seek guaranteed undertakings to reduce capacity in these categories. The Commission proposed that if such undertakings were secured by 10 June 1988, quotas for those categories should continue until the end of 1990. In respect of category I, however, the Commission considered that insufficient indications of willingness to reduce capacity had been received, and accordingly proposed the continuation of quotas in that category only until 30 June 1988.

As at the previous Council considerable discussion took place, particularly concerning the timetable over which

Mr. Barry Jones

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what is(a) the cash value and (b) the numbers of, aeroplane imports into the United Kingdom from (i) the EEC (ii) the United States of America and, (iii) other world sources, (c) annually since 1980.

Mr. Alan Clark

The information is given in the following table:

quotas for category I products should be removed. Eventually, the following conclusions relating to quotas were agreed unanimously:

The Council gave its assent, in accordance with Article 58 ECSC, to the Commission proposals relating to the extension of the steel regime beyond 1 January 1988, as follows: With regard to categories I (a) and (b), the production quota regime will come to an end on 30 June 1988. With regard to categories II and III, the production quota regime will continue up to 30 June 1988, and should be extended until the end of 1990 if, by 10 June 1988, the Commission has received guaranteed undertakings to reduce production capacity by means of closure by at least 75 per cent. of the surplus the Commission deems to exist. In the case of these conditions not being fulfilled for one of these categories, quotas will end for that category on 30 June 1988. The Commission will allocate to firms quotas for the second quarter of 1988 some 2.0 per cent. higher than would correspond to a market assessment to prepare for the return to the free market. The Council notes that there is agreement in the Council to accept a Commission proposal extending the quotas for category I products beyond 30 June 1988 on condition that guaranteed undertakings on reduction of capacity of at least 7.5 million tonnes by means of closure in category Ia are obtained before 10 June 1988. The Council notes that the Commission is ready to reconsider its present position on category I products provided the conditions of the treaty are fulfilled and the commitments set out above are obtained.

The Commission made no proposals for the continuation of quotas on categories IV and VI (wire rod and merchant bar), so quotas on these categories lapsed on 31 December. Quotas on other categories had been removed previously. The Commission has also raised the production reference levels which determine whether individual producers are subject to quotas. The effect of these changes is that the British Steel Corporation is now the only United Kingdom steel producer subject to production quotas.

The conclusions of the Council provide a clear framework for a steady return to free market conditions. Specific and demanding targets have been set for closure commitments to be obtained by 10 June, and the Council has concluded unanimously that quotas should end on 30 June if such commitments are not forthcoming. I believe these conclusions represent a good outcome for steel producers and consumers in the United Kingdom, and for the preparations for the privatisation of the British Steel Corporation which I announced on 3 December.

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