Steel Industry

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th December 1972.

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Photo of Mr Roy Hughes Mr Roy Hughes , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent) 12:00 am, 18th December 1972

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions he has had with the British Steel Corporation about the future of the steel industry in Monmouthshire.

Photo of Mr Barry Jones Mr Barry Jones , Flintshire East

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions he has had with the British Steel Corporation about the future of the steel industry in Flintshire.

Photo of Mr Peter Thomas Mr Peter Thomas , Hendon South

I am in close touch on all aspects of the Welsh steel industry.

Photo of Mr Roy Hughes Mr Roy Hughes , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent)

Does the Secretary of State appreciate that there is now a chaotic situation in the steel industry in Monmouthshire and that a great fight will be made to keep Ebbw Vale as an integrated works? We hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will assist in this fight to the point of resignation. Will he bear in mind one key factor, namely, the nearness of iron ore supplies? Will he press on the British Steel Corporation the need to go ahead with the Uskmouth project to serve the steel industry in Monmouth?

Photo of Mr Peter Thomas Mr Peter Thomas , Hendon South

I am fully aware of the concern which has been expressed in Wales about announcements which have been made by the corporation. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the proposals recently announced for Ebbw Vale largely reflect the corporation's announcement in March 1970 that it saw no long-term future for iron and steelmaking there and are confirmation of it.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the proposals made by the corporation for Ebbw Vale are totally unacceptable to the people of Ebbw Vale and that dis- cussions have been initiated to cover the whole matter between the works council and the corporation? Will he give an undertaking that the Government will give no sanction or approval to any of those proposals until the discussions have been fully completed?

Photo of Mr Peter Thomas Mr Peter Thomas , Hendon South

I agree that great discussions are taking place. There are still many aspects of the corporation's proposals which have to be discussed, particularly the timing and the phasing of the proposed rundown. I have in hand a most urgent and detailed appraisal of the infra-structure needs of the area. There are to be talks later this year between representatives of all the Government Departments concerned in Wales and representatives of the Heads of the Valleys Standing Conference. My officials will be reporting the outcome to me. I look forward to further discussions as soon as possible.

Photo of Mr Barry Jones Mr Barry Jones , Flintshire East

Is the Cabinet split over the future of Shotton? Will the Secretary of State resign if he fails to protect steel-making at Shotton? Did he enjoy Lord Melchett walking over him last week?

Photo of Mr Peter Thomas Mr Peter Thomas , Hendon South

The hon. Gentleman has frequently shown that he is totally unaware of what is going in Government and British Steel Corporation circles in respect of these proposals. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that I am fully aware of all the points that have been made—effectively by some people—about Shotton's future.

Photo of Sir Anthony Meyer Sir Anthony Meyer , Flintshire West

Will my right hon. and learned Friend undertake not to be rushed into making public the Government's decision? Does he accept that it is generally appreciated that the Government have a much better understanding of the social implications involved in all this than the British Steel Corporation and that the longer the Government take to make up their minds, the better?

Photo of Mr Peter Thomas Mr Peter Thomas , Hendon South

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The proposals which have been put forward by the corporation are being most carefully studied by the Government. I realise that anxiety is felt in many parts of Wales. I agree with my hon. Friend that this is a decision which should not be rushed. It is a major economic and social question and hon. Members do Wales a disservice in pressing for decisions too urgently.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

I appreciate that this is a matter that affects Wales deeply and that the Government are right to take all social considerations into account, as we have pressed them to do, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mr. Barry Jones), to whom the Secretary of State referred disparagingly. Is what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said the Government's way of telling us that we are not to have a statement on steel before Christmas?

Photo of Mr Peter Thomas Mr Peter Thomas , Hendon South

I am obviously unable to say when an announcement will be made. I have made it my business to be fully in touch with all developments affecting the future of the Welsh steel industry. In my discussions I am taking fully into account the implications for employment in Wales and the social consequences of any major recession in the steel industry.