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Steel Plate (Production)

Volume 523: debated on Monday 1 February 1954

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asked the Minister of Supply whether he is satisfied that existing capacity for the production of steel plate is adequate for the country's needs.

:Plate production in the United Kingdom increased by over 200,000 tons in 1953 and I expect some further increase this year. In the course of its study of the industry's development plans the Iron and Steel Board is considering what expansion of steel plate-making capacity is necessary to meet foreseeable demands.

Is it not a fact that in a situation in which we are still dependent on imports for some part of our supply of steel plates, the industry is showing reluctance to lay down another plate mill? Is this the way in which to make our balance of payments position more secure?

:You cannot erect this heavy steel plate plant overnight, as the hon. Member knows. There are a number of projects going forward which will take time to mature. With regard to being dependent on imports, he is probably aware that at the present time we are exporting more steel plates than we are importing.

:Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we are now importing, at considerable expense, particular types of steel plate, particularly boiler plate? Is it not time that we found some way of expanding the production capacity of the firms concerned?

:If the hon. Gentleman had listened to the answer I gave, he would have heard that it was expanded last year. It is to expand further this year and the Iron and Steel Board is considering what further expansion is necessary. Meanwhile, I welcome the imports because they help to bridge the gap.