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Special Steel Imports (Price)

Volume 928: debated on Monday 21 March 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he has received evidence that certain imported special steel products are currently offered for sale in the United Kingdom at prices which are well below those applying in the producer countries.

Yes, Sir. In each case brought to its attention my Department is taking appropriate action.

Is my hon. Friend aware that when action is taken and is known about in South Yorkshire it will be widely welcomed? Will he confirm that in at least two cases imported special steels are available for sale in Britain at prices 50 per cent. below the price charged in the countries of origin? Will he show urgency in taking action on this issue?

I have listened carefully to what my hon. Friend has said about a figure of 50 per cent. Our investigations, which are nearly completed, in several areas dealing with imports from different countries show that the figure may be substantially lower. I recognise, however, that there is a significant problem. Dealing first with Japan, which is perhaps the price leader, we have had an understanding on high-speed tool and stainless steels from last September for the first half of this year. In a few days' time we hope that negotiations will begin again in Tokyo for the second half of this year. Similarly, in the cases of Sweden and Austria we are ensuring that there are no breaches in the ECSC rules. In the case of Spain, where we already have a provisional charge on stainless steel imports, we have a full investigation in progress which started last month. We hope to announce the results very soon.

Can the Minister tell the House what he thinks about the latest EEC discussions on general steel imports and whether he agrees that there may be a necessity for minimum prices on a number of steel products and import licences for all imported steels coming into the EEC? Is he taking part in the discussions?

Of course, we are participating in discussions over the evolution of the EEC's steel policy at this particularly difficult time. I do not think it would be appropriate for me at this point to say exactly what we have proposed or what conclusions we hope will be reached. The considerations that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned are relevant.