Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:36 pm on 23rd January 1992.

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Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale 7:36 pm, 23rd January 1992

Of course I did. I should have liked to see it happen. However, I do not believe in intervening in the steel industry to do it; nor do I believe that the Labour party believes in that. Certainly, its leader does not believe in it. I know that the Leader of the Opposition has a Welsh interest to protect. Perhaps it is asking too much to expect him to rise above the Welsh interest and look to the Scottish, let alone the United Kingdom, interest.

The Labour party must be in a great shambles when we hear that nationalisation is no more than a slogan and that the entire history of the Labour party's commitment to nationalisation not only of the steel industry but across the board is abandoned. The Leader of the Opposition says: it isn't intervention that the steel industry needs … some civil servant or Minister sitting on their shoulder saying to them well, strategically this is what we think you should do. I am grateful to the Labour party for calling the debate tonight, even though it is a half-day debate on a Thursday, so that we could obtain that revelation about its policy on nationalisation.

I want to make a little progress on the positive measures that the Government are taking to meet the difficulties that Lanarkshire faces. It is important that we recognise the position as it has developed. When we came to office in 1979 we found an industry which was over-manned, under-invested, uncompetitive and riven with industrial dispute. Funds were being poured into it by the taxpayer at the rate of £100 million a month at today's prices. That not only failed to solve the steel industry's problems but damaged the interests of the taxpayer, other industry and the economy in general.

Some contraction was inevitable with the industry in such a state. It would not be particularly rewarding to reflect on how or why the Ravenscraig problems developed—whether the cause was the original decision of the Conservative Government to encourage the industry to locate the mill at Ravenscraig, the decision to split the effort between Scotland and Wales, the location 40 miles from the sea, the separation from the cold strip mill or the loss of Linwood. At Linwood industrial disputes eventually destroyed one of the major markets for its product, just as they destroyed many of the shipyards on the upper Clyde. We could reflect on whether nationalisation destroyed the old Scottish companies by moving their control to London and creating such a mess that it was impossible to reprivatise them on a Scottish basis.

The Labour party owes it to the House to tell us even now what it would do. We have heard what it would not do, but it must tell us what it would do if it were to win the election. It may find itself in office with four or five months to go. If it does, it will owe it to the people of Scotland to tell them what it will do. We heard nothing from the hon. Member for Garscadden.