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Steel Industry

Volume 979: debated on Monday 25 February 1980

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21.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry how many jobs in the steel industry are likely to be jeopardised by import penetration and lost jobs resulting from the steel strike.

The corporation considers that a significant part of its United Kingdom market has been jeopardised by the strike. It intends to make every effort to regain its market share, but the less the BSC is able effectively to compete with imports and the longer the strike lasts the more difficult the task will become. Loss of business will inevitably be reflected in further loss of jobs in due course but it is impossible to assess the numbers at risk.

24.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a statement on his future plans for the steel industry, with particular reference to the chairmanship of the British Steel Corporation.

I understand the BSC is considering the possibilities for further decentralisation of the corporation, but I have not yet received any proposals from the chairman. The appointment of Sir Charles Villiers ends in September this year and he has confirmed that he wishes to leave then. I shall make an announcement about a successor in due course.

32.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he expects next to meet trade union representatives of the steel workers.

My right hon. Friend has no immediate plans to meet the trade union representatives of the steel workers, but he is meeting the Wales TUC mainly on steel closures, later this afternoon.

33.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what is his estimate of the prospects for the British steel industry if higher wages are not financed by increased output per man.

Unless the BSC can compete more effectively with its competitors it will lose export markets and its share of the domestic market will also decline. The consequence of this loss of business will inevitably be further job losses in the BSC.

36.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he is satisfied with the level of productivity in the public sector of the British steel industry.

No. While there are difficulties about precise comparisons studies both by the NEDC sector working party on which both the producers and the trades unions are represented and by the European Commission show clearly that the British Steel Corporation's competitors overseas have had a much higher level of productivity and have been increasing their lead in recent years.

37.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry which sections of the British steel industry he proposes to seek to return to private ownership.

My right hon. Friend has no powers to instruct the British Steel Corporation to sell assets in the United Kingdom used in iron and steel making. The sale of individual plants is a matter for the corporation.

39.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he intends to meet the chairman of the British Steel Corporation.

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave earlier this afternoon to my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken).

40.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what is the output per man in the British Steel Corporation compared with that in German and French steelworks and the British private steel sector.

In the financial year 1978–79 the output of crude steel per man employed in the British Steel Corporation was 121 tonnes per man. This compares with 205 tonnes per man in the West German steel industry, 173 tonnes per man in the French steel industry and about 124 tonnes per man in the private sector of the British steel industry. The latter figures relate to manual workers only.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he will list the heads of expenditure for which the British Steel Corporation's cash-limit of £450 million for the coming year is allocated.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave on 3 July—[Vol. 969, c. 537–38]—to my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson.)

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if, in view of the length of the industrial dispute in the steel industry and the losses incurred as a result, he will reduce the Government's subsidy to the industry.

As this House is aware, it is not intended that the external financing limit of £450 million allocated for 1980–81 be used to finance operating losses, however incurred. The corporation will have to finance losses from its own resources.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he is satisfied that the future capacity of the British Steel Corporation, estimated to be 15 million tonnes, will satisfy the likely demand from United Kingdom industry for the foreseeable future without the need arising for large imports.

The Corporation's plans to reduce capacity to 15 million tonnes per annum take into account the level of demand and the fact that imports of steel have accounted for about 20 per cent of the United Kingdom market for some years. They also provide for about 3 million tonnes of reserve capacity that could be brought into operation quite quickly if there were a sustained upturn in demand.