asked the Secretary of State for Industry when last he met representatives of the British Independent Steel Producers Association.
On 6 October.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, as far as I know, the Government give aid for restructuring the steel industry exclusively to the nationalised sector? When will the Government provide some of that money to private sector steel firms in their negotiations and deals with the British Steel Corporation to set up private sector, free-standing companies in overlap areas?
The association asked me to consider financial help to enable the private sector steel industry to restructure itself and to eliminate overcapacity. When I met the officers of the British Independent Steel Producers Association I undertook, without commitment, to look at the situation and to see whether there was any way in which we might usefully meet the private sector's request. The British Steel Corporation put a considerable sum of money into the Phoenix I scheme—the Allied Steel and Wire scheme—and that may have contributed to the success of getting the scheme off the ground.
Will my right hon. Friend report to the House on how subsequent Phoenix schemes are going?
As my hon. Friend knows, talks have been going on for some time in the engineering steels—the so-called Phoenix II scheme. They are commercial negotiations and are, therefore, inevitably confidential to those involved. I hope that my hon. Friend will understand if I do not comment further in public.