Does the Minister realise that, notwithstanding the statement made about the courageous performance that he put up in Brussels in December, the other steel industries in Europe are far more subsidised than the industry in Britain and there remains a serious danger to British steel industry jobs? What can he say to steelworkers in my constituency working next door in Port Talbot about the safety of their jobs in those circumstances?
I recognise that there is continuing concern about illegal subsidies paid to other European producers. I assure the House that we want the Commission to act as vigorously against those subsidies as it has against the alleged cartel.
Does my right hon. Friend welcome the transformation in the British steel industry, which was losing £1 million a day in 1979 and is now the most efficient steel industry in western Europe?
I am happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating all at British Steel—management and work force—on what they have achieved in productivity gains. We now want them to be able to take advantage of their productivity improvements and their competitiveness against other European steel producers.
In December last year, the Minister promised before his negotiations in Brussels that he would save British Steel capacity and jobs from unfair subsidised competition. Why has he failed to deliver that promise? Why have all his negotiations proved to be such an abject failure? Will he give a guarantee that there will be no further cuts in capacity in British Steel and no further job losses? Or are all his words to come to nothing?
British Steel does not appear to agree with the hon. Gentleman's assessment. It is reported to have said:
Mr. Sainsbury has done well pushing our line over the last few months but it appears he has not found support around the table.
My natural modesty would normally not allow me to mention that, but perhaps, in the circumstances, I shall be forgiven.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that now that the steel industry has been made efficient in Britain as a result of privatisation, the best way in which the continental industries can reach the same level of efficiency is to be privatised and not subsidised?