Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:14 pm on 23rd January 1992.

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Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries 8:14 pm, 23rd January 1992

I do not profess to be a great expert on the ins and outs of British Steel and its relationship with its work force. I want to talk about the future, and the direction in which we may have to go.

I am extremely disappointed with Sir Robert Scholey and his fellow directors, who had an equal share in the decision. They manifestly failed to produce the financial case. If they have such a case, let them publish it so that we may see the figures on which they based their decision. I also hope that they may in the not-too-distant future give some guarantee about investment in the Dalzell plate mill, so that there can at least be some confidence over the future of that plant.

I hope that the directors also appreciate the knock-on effect of their decision on local industry and concerns further afield. I also hope that there may be some way to save part of the plant, as the hon. Member for Motherwell, South recommended. But if, reluctantly—and, I must say, with some anger—we must accept the British Steel decision, let us concentrate on the future and consider how we can turn an area of desperate trouble into a thriving economic region. In that context, I want to see some useful precedents used in the future.

This is not the first time that an area in this country or in America has run into a major economic disaster. We all remember the Tennessee Valley authority's great restoration plan before the war. The present situation, which has been signalled for a considerable time, has many similarities to the cases of Corby, Consett, Shotton, Barrow-in-Furness and perhaps even Cornish tin and some of the Welsh valleys. So we know what can happen in large-scale economic disasters and that we should set about trying to introduce new jobs and industries as soon as possible.

Whether the problem is on a large scale, such as the Ravenscraig closure, or on a small scale such as I faced in Sanquhar and Kirconnel way back in the 1960s when the coal mines closed, we must do everything possible to build advance factories and bring in new industries. Those do not provide a complete answer, but at least they provide jobs and help to make rapid progress.

I am glad that my right hon. Friend set up the Lanarkshire working group, which is now the Lanarkshire development agency, because it has been a great success. He must use every possible form of assistance available to him, whether it is the local enterprise company, Scottish Enterprise, Locate in Scotland or Industry in Scotland. We must look urgently at what each of those agencies can offer and they must be co-ordinated. I hope that they will be co-ordinated in the enterprise zone. That will be the key, as was shown in Corby. I hope that Sir Leon Brittan and Bruce Millan, if their responsibilities overlap, will do all they can to help us to achieve the enterprise zone as quickly as possible.

I was a little worried when my right hon. Friend mentioned—perhaps off the top of his head—500 acres. I should have thought that we would need a much more substantial area. I suspect that the Ravenscraig site measures more than 1,000 acres.