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Steel Castings

Volume 35: debated on Monday 17 January 1983

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry to what extent heavy manufacturing industry uses steel castings made in the United Kingdom.

In 1981 heavy manufacturing industry used 116,046 tonnes of steel castings from United Kingdom foundries, equivalent to 95 per cent. of its total requirements.

Will the Minister guarantee that that will be maintained in the next 18 months to two years, because many manufacturing firms in Stockport would like to buy British but find it extremely difficult to do so? Many of those firms are extremely worried that, because of the present Government's attitude to the British Steel Corporation, it will be increasingly difficult to buy British in the future.

Currently, the steel casting industry is working at about 60 per cent. of its capacity. I should also point out that we exported about 30,000 tonnes of goods in this connection, and imported only 5,000 tonnes. The industry is coming together on rationalisation schemes, and that is very much in line with the decisions that it is making.

Will my hon. Friend say how the rationalisation scheme promoted by Lazards is progressing and to what extent it will retain capacity to manufacture heavy castings, which were once a main feature of Sheffield industry?

It would be premature to disclose the present position on the scheme that Lazards is operating. However, I can say that funds of about £800,000 have been allocated out of the total of £7·8 million that we envisage for the scheme. I shall keep my hon. Friend informed of developments that affect Sheffield.

Would not the steel casting and steel rolling industry be more protected if the Government were to reject the minority Goldstein document to the Serpell report, that suggests that the British Steel Corporation should import track products and other products relating to the uses of British Rail? Does the Minister believe that that will have a major bearing on future working in the steel industry in my constituency, as it will in the constituencies of many hon. Members on both sides of the House? Will he reject Goldstein totally out of hand, because he was not bright enough to address himself to the real issues in the steel industry and, secondly, because his fee was fat and too large?

Tempting as it is, it would not be wise to discuss the minority report to the Serpell report. That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.