Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
Is my hon. Friend aware that the shortage of refractory orders, due to the present recession in the steel industry, is causing redundancies and the temporary closure of various brickworks, including one in Allandale, in my constituency? Will he make appropriate representations to the British Steel Corporation and also urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer to introduce some reflationary measures as soon as possible to help the employment prospects of workers in the refractory and other industries?
There is a scheme for the acceleration of investment in certain plants, but the refractory industry is a modern industry without bottlenecks. It is not therefore likely to need modernisation or accelerated investment. The Government are continually in contact with industries such as steel, glass and ceramics, to see whether there is any way of accelerating their investment programmes, which would, of course, greatly assist industries like the refractory industry.
This is a subject on which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade is having many discussions with industry. Wherever possible, industry should buy British goods, but there is such a thing as industries maintaining their economic viability, and their pursuit of this objective requires them to buy in the cheapest world market.
My Department has very close links with the refractory industry and has received no requests for assistance from it. I am sure that we would have received requests if assistance were necessary. This is not one of the industries with bottlenecks, and as soon as other industries, such as glass and steel, pick up it will immediately be able to supply their needs.
Is not the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mrs. Bain) right when she says that because of the high level of unemployment in construction, the refractory industry is badly under-employed? Should not my hon. Friend tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer before tomorrow that more assistance must be given to the construction industries?
This is something of which the Chancellor of the Exchequer will obviously be well aware. The refractory industry is a rather specialised section of the brickmaking industry. I know the firm to which my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) referred. It is a high quality firm, with a good export potential. This export potential is one of the reasons why the industry has been cushioned, to some extent, from the immediate home problems of the using industries.