Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:14 pm on 23rd January 1992.

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Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden 7:14 pm, 23rd January 1992

I should like to conclude, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I am conscious of the fact that, although very few Conservative Members will seek to participate in the debate—and certainly very few from Scotland—many hon. Members have constituency interests and want to participate.

There can be no promises of an overnight transformation. The Government's dereliction of duty has contributed to a major crisis. I refer to their failure to challenge British Steel at a time when such a challenge would have had an impact, and to the ravages of a recession that was made, at least in part, in Downing street.

We argued for a DTI task force, and found no sign of life. We pushed for an export drive, but got no reaction. We looked for a reference to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, but got no co-operation. There has been no attempt to force British Steel to honour its guarantees at a time when the market was more optimistic and there was the possibility of new owners.

The Secretary of State will claim that everything possible is being done that could be done, but that is simply not true. Promises and expressions of concern there are in plenty, but what is missing is the commitment and determination to fight unemployment and industrial decline. We have had soothing words from the Secretary of State. Suggestions that unemployment in Lanarkshire is not as bad as it might be add insult to injury. A male unemployment rate of 16 per cent. is no justification for the kind of complacency that we have seen in recent months. There has been one meeting—after the event—with British Steel in six months.

The charge remains—not that Ministers have failed, but that they have never really tried. Their record of inactivity strips them of all credibility. The Secretary of State can hardly complain if he and his colleagues are not trusted by the people of Lanarkshire and of Scotland. This Government should go, and surely will, whether it he in April or May. There will he no reprieve—and neither should there be.