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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th December 1973.

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Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Glasgow Cathcart 12:00 am, 11th December 1973

My hon. Friend is wrong. There are only about six areas in Western Europe with the facilities that we have at Hunterston.

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) suggested Ardrossan. But that has been there a long time. It is an industrialised area. It was only when the agricultural land of the Hunterston peninsula was suggested for industrial development that foreign companies became interested.

We have heard a number of references to stench and smoke. It is said that workers coming from the noise and stench of anvils do not want to find the same in this area. But I cannot see the relevance of that argument. Presumably the people of Ardrossan already have their share of stench. If it is proposed to give them additional stench, it can only mean that the argument is that if they have some stench already a little more will do them no harm.

When we as a nation contemplate spending so much money on major projects like Maplin, the Channel Tunnel and Concorde which may cost the taxpayer a fortune, it is fatal not to give every facility and encouragement to a project which will give Scotland an opportunity to produce cheap steel, which, after all, is crucial to our future.

If we were to put a steel mill somewhere else where it might not be so cheap, we should have to bear in mind the rules of the Common Market steel policy and of the ECSC. It is not possible or consistent with the rules to say that, although we do not want a cheaper project at Hunterston, we want a more expensive one elsewhere. That is neither possible nor legal under the terms of the ECSC. It is not possible to give subsidies to steel works so that they will locate themselves in places which are economically undesirable. If we do not have steel works in the cheapest possible sites, the cost of steel will be that much more. When we have a basing point system for steel pricing as we have under the Common Market rules, the price that we have to pay is the cost of production at the site plus transport costs. When we have the full effects of the basing point system, if we do not produce cheap steel we shall have to pay the market price plus transport costs. To say that we should abandon the Hunterston steel project and put it somewhere else more expensive but more socially desirable is not the real answer to our problems. It will only mean dearer steel, and we cannot subsidise steel developments under the Common Market rules.

My fear has always been that with our entry into the Common Market we should have centralisation of industry and decision making in the centre of the Market just as we have had the pull to the centre of Britain and to the south for so many years. In Scotland we could well end up with great developments in tourism, Harris tweed, Scotch whisky and agriculture but with no development of Scotland as an industrial country which can stand on its own feet, as we have to under Common Market rules. The Common Market arrangements will ensure that we can no longer keep our industries going by subsidising our old industries. We shall have to stand on our own feet without subsidies. To that extent it is crucial to develop Hunterston and to ensure that we have new industrial development which can pay its way and hold itself up in competition with anyone.

I hope that the Government will not delay further on the Hunterston project but, instead, will make sure that in this unique site every facility is given to going ahead with the right development. I am not saying that the one proposed is the right one. However, if we delay we shall get the worst of both worlds.

The one factor holding up decisions has been the study by the nuclear inspectors. I understand that a report should be going to the Government very shortly giving their views on nuclear safety. When the Government have that guidance, I hope that within the limits of security the information will be made public so that we may know the reasons for holding up further decisions.

I hope that the House will approve the Bill. It can stand on its own. It is suitable and desirable for the steel industry to ensure that we get the larger ore carriers coming to Scotland and giving us cheaper ore. On the other hand, I hope that it is just a beginning and that there will be no unreasonable delay in going ahead with it.