British Steel Corporation

Oral Answers to Questions — Industry – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st March 1976.

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Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Minister of State (Department of Industry)

My right hon. Friend has recently made three new appointments to the board, and he is considering making further appointments.

Photo of Mr Frank Hooley Mr Frank Hooley , Sheffield, Heeley

That is a welcome answer. Does my hon. Friend not agree that there is now a crisis of confidence between the workers in the steel industry, the British Steel Corporation and management? That situation exists not only at the top but in firms in Sheffield, such as the River Don Works. Does he not agree that until there is a radical change of structure in management, confidence is not likely to be restored?

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Minister of State (Department of Industry)

I was pleased when, on 23rd January, the BSC and the TUC Steel Committee were able to sign an agreement that shows that they are in accord about the future, but I should welcome any initiative for improving industrial relations and better communications between workers and management.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Bain Mrs Margaret Bain , Dunbartonshire East

When can we expect an early announcement from the BSC that the £1,000 million investment for Hunterston will go ahead? That is the only way to ensure that steel-making in Lanarkshire and Ayrshire is maintained and that jobs there, and those which are dependent on the steel industry in Scotland, are maintained.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Minister of State (Department of Industry)

I am glad to see that the hon. Lady accepts that the steel industry in Great Britain can go forward only on the basis of an integrated Great Britain policy.

Photo of Sir Anthony Meyer Sir Anthony Meyer , Flint West

Will the hon. Gentleman suggest to the reconstituted board of the British Steel Corporation that it is time to re-examine its whole strategy? Is it not better to base a strategy on prudent, sensible schemes rather than on excessively ambitious ones?

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Minister of State (Department of Industry)

The Conservative Govment aimed hammer blows at the morale of the Steel Corporation through the Eden/Ridley policy and that constitutional monstrosity, the Joint Steering Group, which held up development programmes for so long. There will be no such meddling under this Government.

Photo of Miss Joan Maynard Miss Joan Maynard , Sheffield, Brightside

Does the Minister agree that if there were more local democratic control there would be better relations between management and men in the steel industry? When are the Government going to carry out their commitment to take into public ownership the profitable sections of the steel industry that have been hived off?

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Minister of State (Department of Industry)

I agree with my hon. Friend that the improvement of industrial democracy within all the nationalised industries, including the British Steel Corporation, is very important. We are blazing the trail in our Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill, but there will have to be development in other industries as well.

Photo of Mr Michael Marshall Mr Michael Marshall , Arundel

Will the Minister take this opportunity of making clear the Government's attitude to Sir Monty Finniston's future? Is it not disgraceful that there should be continuing uncertainty about the chairmanship after the end of the year? Will the Minister give a firm assurance, in view of the particular importance of the chairman and the agreement of 23rd January?

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Minister of State (Department of Industry)

In reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) I made a statement about the chairmanship of BSC. The hon. Gentleman, who is a student of these matters, might have studied that before he asked his supplementary question.

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King , Bridgwater

How does the Minister think he will attract the calibre of management needed in the nationalised industries in view of the sort of treatment the Government are now giving to the Chairman of the British Steel Corporation? When will they resolve the question of his future—or is this to be another matter decided by the Prime Minister behind the Secretary of State's back?

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Minister of State (Department of Industry)

The hon. Gentleman was Parliamentary Private Secretary to a Postmaster-General who capriciously sacked the Chairman of the Post Office. I shall not accept that kind of reflection from him.