Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:25 pm on 23rd January 1992.

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Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry) 8:25 pm, 23rd January 1992

Those came a little later and certainly the record of the major privatisations is that competition has not been a prime motivation of the Government.

The Secretary of State has chosen his words carefully in terms of the kind of privatisation that is to be explored. Is he seriously suggesting that the only possible future for the steel industry in Britain is as a single monopoly? I find that a rather extraordinary claim from a party that claims to believe in a free enterprise system. He knows that he failed both the people of Scotland and the people of Britain, because his predecessor, while British Steel was still in public ownership, used his power to prevent the closing of Ravenscraig. As a result, British Steel was able to secure markets which it would have forgone if it had been free to make its own choice. The intervention that the right hon. Gentleman deplores, carried out by his predecessor, was beneficial to British Steel, to its shareholders, to the Scottish economy and to the British economy. So while he may not wish to second guess British Steel management, that management has been one of continuous retreat from market share, with the abandonment of markets to foreign competitors in a variety of areas. I regret to say that that appears to continue to be the strategy, to the detriment of the entire British economy.

Having got to where we are, the question that now arises is what is to be done to try to secure a future for the economy of Lanarkshire and west central Scotland as a result of this run-down and decline. We face a very serious situation. It would be helpful if the Government could give us a genuine, honest and detailed statement of exactly how much new money will be put into Lanarkshire when and if they secure the agreement of the European Community to the various measures being proposed, and if they will ensure that any additional money provided through the European Community will go to the people of Lanarkshire—rather than to the Treasury, as has been the Government's policy so far. I know that the Commissioner responsible has indicated that unless he gets that assurance from the Government he may not be able to secure that agreement from the Community.

With regard to the future of the steel industry in Scotland, I believe that all of us hope that any possible avenue which might lead to securing the future of the steel industry in Scotland should be explored and developed. That means the investment at Dalzell, of course, but also the potential for Hunterston to be the focus of a new steel industry in Scotland at some time in the future. It is still rated as one of the best deep-water sites in Europe and still seen to be a site which could be the focus of new investment. It seems to me that British Steel has shown itself unwilling to provide that investment, but it should not be in a position to prevent it.