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Gartcosh Steel Mill

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 5:35 pm on 23rd January 1986.

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Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke , Monklands West 5:35 pm, 23rd January 1986

I say in all candour to the Secretary of State that his attempts to be convincing have failed entirely. I can give his words today no more credence than I gave to the words of his predecessor when he gave that assurance to me in the Scottish Grand Committee. The blandishments that he is offering to Lanarkshire, an area already suffering from high unemployment and which has totally unacceptable social conditions are, in the context of this debate, quite offensive. To tell us, in view of the devastation we have seen and are about to see if Gartcosh is closed, that the Government will help by way of the Scottish development agency and in other ways reminds me of the man who went along to Sweeney Todd and was assured by him that he was going to do him a favour by cutting his throat. I am afraid that such logic will not find much acceptance among the people of Lanarkshire.

We are seeing not just the collapse of the steel industry but a Government pledged, and in many cases elected, to help small businesses now presiding over the collapse of more small businesses than ever before. The Secretary of State must have known as he spoke that Plan-It Precision Engineering in my constituency has written to him only this week indicating that it will be losing a number of jobs if the plant goes. That firm is typical of the small businesses in Lanarkshire which are so dependent upon Gartcosh. The House will therefore not be surprised that in Scotland—and this is reflected in all political parties and expressed by people who are politically committed and those who are not—BSC's argument about Gartcosh and the clear-cut Government support for that decision are found to be entirely unacceptable.

The Secretary of State need not pretend that there is no responsibility on Government. On the day of the announcement the chairman of the Conservative party, the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), endorsed it, and was supported by the then Secretary of State who had the effrontery to say that this was good news for Scotland. What has been the response? Papers such as the Sunday Post, which is not exactly the Morning Star of Scottish journalism, told the Government on Sunday exactly what it thought. It published countless names of individuals in Gartcosh suffering from the decision.