British Steel Corporation

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th November 1984.

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Photo of Mr Roy Hughes Mr Roy Hughes , Newport East 12:00 am, 19th November 1984

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he has had any recent discussions with the chairman of the British Steel Corporation about the corporation's activities in Wales.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Edwards Mr Nicholas Edwards , Pembroke

I met the chairman of the British Steel Corporation last week. We had a wide-ranging discussion about the corporation's operations.

Photo of Mr Roy Hughes Mr Roy Hughes , Newport East

Should not the Secretary of State be discussing with the chairman of BSC the 5,000 new jobs that were to be created following the slimline operation? Bearing in mind that 8,000 jobs overall have been lost in Newport alone, is it any wonder that the Newport borough council has lost all confidence in the Secretary of State? Why will the right hon. Gentleman not allocate the resources to provide those new jobs, which he promised originally?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Edwards Mr Nicholas Edwards , Pembroke

The fact is that Llanwern has been doing spectacularly well and showing itself to be a competitive steelworks. I am sorry that the current coal dispute is holding up decisions about future investment there. If the hon. Gentleman is worried about new jobs, may I ask whether he supports the action of the Newport, East Labour party which passed a resolution urging Gwent county council that lorries supplying Llanwern should be blacked after the strike? Is such action helpful in providing jobs?

Photo of Sir Raymond Gower Sir Raymond Gower , Vale of Glamorgan

Is not one of the most inspiring things that has happened in the Principality the splendid effort of the management and employees at all levels to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of steel production at Llanwern and Port Talbot? Will my right hon. Friend emphasise that aspect to the British Steel Corporation and his colleagues in the Cabinet at all times when the future of the United Kingdom's steel industry is considered?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Edwards Mr Nicholas Edwards , Pembroke

I assure my hon. Friend that that point does not have to be emphasised to the British Steel Corporation, which is very much aware of it. I discussed those matters last week with the chairman. He shares my pleasure that Llanwern has put up such a magnificent performance despite the grave difficulties of the coal miners' dispute. I think that the fact that Llanwern can remain competitive in such conditions provides the best guarantee for its future.

Photo of Mr Donald Coleman Mr Donald Coleman , Neath

In view of what my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) said about employment losses in the industry, and what the Secretary of State has said about the profitability of the industry, can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that the British Steel Corporation in Wales will not be saddled with the costs of the coal miners' strike?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Edwards Mr Nicholas Edwards , Pembroke

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that one of the major costs of the steel industry is energy, which is one of the central issues in the coal miners' strike. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the Government are making a massive capital investment at Port Talbot at present and that there has been a substantial investment at Shotton, which is now the largest strip steel coating centre in Britain.

Decisions about future investment at Llanwern cannot be taken while uncertainties about the coal strike continue.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Jones Mr Gwilym Jones , Cardiff North

As coal is vital to Llanwern, I imagine that my right hon. Friend will welcome the sight of coal trains running again in south Wales. Does he agree that we must all look forward to a return to coal production in south Wales as the miners continue to vote with their feet?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Edwards Mr Nicholas Edwards , Pembroke

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The numbers returning to the coal industry this week continue to rise. Therefore, we must hope that a full return to work will not be long delayed.