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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 George Lawson Mr George Lawson , Motherwell 12:00 am, 11th December 1973

The hon. Member will know that I cannot answer that. None of us here is in a position precisely to examine all these matters. My understanding is that over a long period of time all this has been looked at and that Ardrossan has a rock bottom, so that it would be expensive to make a deep water channel. That has to be set against the argument for the site with which we are now concerned. There, as I understand it, is a reclaimable shelf, and deep water without the expense of excavation, which would have been a feature of the work at Ardrossan. Moreover, as I understand it, Ardrossan is much more exposed to the big seas out of the Atlantic and is without the shelter which is considered so important.

Without wishing to take up much more time I want for a moment to turn to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie), if I could have his attention for a moment. His views and mine are very often close together; we are often close together in our arguments, although sometimes they are a wee bit at variance. When I heard him talking, I wondered whether he would appear next in his kilt. I have not seen him in a kilt, so perhaps I should not say "in his kilt". Before he interrupts me perhaps he will listen to what I have to say. There is nothing wrong with the kilt. I have worn the kilt myself on occasions.

I accept the importance, for Scotland, of this site. I accept the importance of the east coast. I would, however, tell my hon. Friend that an enormous part of the advantages which would accrue to Scotland because of these possibilities of very substantial development in Scotland is derived from the fact that we belong to a much larger unit. The development of a steel industry in that area, or in those areas, and to the size we have been speaking of, would have been nonsense if we had been operating simply on a Scottish basis. It was a Great Britain steel industry with which we were concerned. When we were arguing earlier for the steel complex in that area—we are not arguing for that at present—and thinking in terms of possibly 10 million tons, we were thinking in terms of a United Kingdom industry and not a Scottish industry.

May I whisper in the ear of the two hon. Members who represent the Scottish Nationalist Party in this area? Had it been left entirely to Scotland—had we had a Scottish Government when the decisions were taken about the strip steel mill—there would probably be no strip steel mill in Scotland, because the most powerful steel interest in Scotland was Colville's. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Mr. Small) will bear me out in that. Colville's was dead against the strip steel mill. Colville's had to have its arms twisted. The Cabinet decision was taken against all the advice of Colville's. Sir Andrew McCance was very hostile to our former hon. Friend, Tom Fraser, and to what was said and done then.

I am merely suggesting timidly and modestly that a Scottish Government would almost certainly have taken the advice of the most powerful steelmaking interest in Scotland on the question whether or not to have a strip steel mill, and the advice would have been that there should be no strip steel mill. Therefore, we would have been in a very much worse position than we are in now.