Ravenscraig

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:40 pm on 23rd January 1992.

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Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside 8:40 pm, 23rd January 1992

You, Madam Deputy Speaker, would not expect me to respond to that appalling statement. The hon. Gentleman accuses me of one thing and then accuses my colleagues of another. The plain truth is that he was rumbled, and he did not like it.

This is both a good day and a sad day for Scotland—the day of Yarrow and Ravenscraig. Earlier, we had the good news that the order for three frigates for the Royal Navy has gone to Yarrow. That order allowed the privatised yard—something that the hon. Member for Gordon seems to have forgotten—to retain its design team and so continue in competition in the world market.

That was made possible because, under a Conservative Government, there is a substantial home market for military hardware, and steel is important in military hardware. Such a home market would not have existed under a socialist Labour Government at Westminster or a socialist nationalist Government in Edinburgh. The lesson is that private sector competition and a substantial home market allow even specialist industries such as warship building to compete in world markets. I hope that we shall not forget that lesson when we discuss other matters.

I congratulate the work force and shop stewards of Ravenscraig. For the past eight years, they have been nothing less than magnificent. They have removed restrictive practices and broken all production records. Today, they are paying the terrible price for world over-capacity in steel-making and the lack of demand. They are also paying the price, I believe, for the mistakes made by politicians—in the location of the plant so far from the deep-water port of Hunterston—and it is right and proper that Hunterston should come into our considerations. They are also paying the price for the failure of the European Community to deal quickly and effectively with such matters as the Spanish steel subsidy and also for the world recession. All those factors have brought about the present situation.

The workers of Ravenscraig deserve better. If the proposals of the hon. Member for Motherwell, South are not realised—I sincerely hope that they can be—the workers are right to demand good redundancy terms and special assistance to the area, to create an environment in which new enterprises and jobs can be created.

I believe that it is right—it is a principle from which I will not deviate—that management decisions must be made by the management of companies. I also believe in the private sector. Consequently, I support the right of British Steel to make the decision that it has made, painful though it may be. British Steel should, however, explain—I believe it has a moral duty to do so—why it has made that decision.

Following its promise to keep the plant open until 1994, that moral responsibility is enormous. British Steel ought to explain in detail the grounds on which the decision has been made. That is the very least that it can do for its work force, given the way in which that work force has responded over the years to the demands placed upon it. Similarly, those who are looking to the Government to intervene have a duty to spell out exactly what they would do with their intervention within what is possible under EC restraints and rules and within the constraints of the marketplace as it stands today. They must spell out clearly how much it would cost and explain who will pay in a manner that can be understood.

The two articles in today's Glasgow Herald address the realities of the situation and do a fair demolition job on the nationalist party's simplistic, non-viable, opportunist proposals. The socialist nationalists have learnt nothing from the failure of collectivism and state industry in eastern Europe. Their behaviour in the Usher hall last Saturday was a vivid demonstration of what narrow nationalism is really like.

Socialist nationalism is the worst form of nationalism. I am reminded that, between the French revolution and the first world war, narrow nationalism was the cause of most of Europe's wars. I am also reminded that, between 1930 and 1945, socialist nationalism almost destroyed Europe.

Ravenscraig and Scotland do not want narrow socialist nationalism—nor do we want any further examples of the Fuhrer-like superior attitudes, tendencies and characteristics of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond). Those, coupled with Goebbels-type misinformation about saving the steel works, will be rejected by the workers at Ravenscraig and by the Scots at the general election. They have been exposed by the Glasgow Herald today and will be rumbled by the people of Scotland at the election.

This is a sad day for the people of Motherwell, but I hope that it can also be the beginning of a new dawn for them; they certainly deserve it.