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Volume 281: debated on Wednesday 17 July 1996

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To ask the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to boost demand for products made by the United Kingdom steel industry. [36083]

My Department is working with the steel industry to ensure that it is well placed to deliver the best quality and range of steel products required to meet demand from users at home and abroad.

Since this is the last time that the right hon. Gentleman will answer for steel before he jumps off the Titanic into the lucrative boardroom nirvana reserved for ex-Ministers, may I place on record the fact that he has courteously received Opposition steel delegations to discuss the steel industry? So, will he finally join me in congratulating Allied Wire and Steel and British Steel on setting up a European works council under the social chapter?

Since it is a time for pleasantries, I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the publication of his book today. I notice that it marks yet another step in his movement towards a Front-Bench position, which he so desires. I should warn him, however, having read the press release about his book, that he may be harming rather than helping his chances because it contains more policy commitments than all the Labour policy documents put together.

Will my right hon. Friend concede that, although the steel and manufacturing industries are important to this country, they are but sectional interests? This afternoon's questions show that the Labour party is constantly looking for special support from the taxpayer, and special concessions to various sections of the economy that it favours. If that is going to be the way, there will be a financial crisis if we ever have the misfortune of Labour forming a Government.

take my hon. Friend's point, but part of Government's role is to assist our industry to compete effectively at home and abroad.