Ravenscraig

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:49 pm on 23rd January 1992.

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Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Shadow Minister (Disability) 8:49 pm, 23rd January 1992

The Minister's intervention takes absolutely nothing from my general point. The Secretary of State ought to recognise that either he has power or he does not have power. There is a very clear precedent. His predecessor as Secretary of State—the right hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind)—came to the House and made a statement when the hot mills were closed. Whereas the current Secretary of State has not found it possible to criticise British Steel, the right hon. and learned Member for Pentlands made it absolutely plain that he was opposed to British Steel's position.

The present Secretary of State's weak and mealy-mouthed response on this issue is entirely unacceptable. [Interruption.] It looks as though the Under-Secretary would like me to give way again. If I had time to do so, I would. If the hon. Gentleman is to be fair, he will allow me, as the Member representing the much-mentioned Gartcosh, another two and a half minutes to say a word or two about something we happen to know about. During the Gartcosh episode, we warned, both in the Select Committee and in the Chamber—indeed, we warned again and again and again—that, if the cold mill was closed, it would be a matter of time until Ravenscraig too would go, and that is what has happened.

There has been a search for scapegoats. We are told that there are several problems, one of which is that there is not a finishing plant. But that is the result of a Government decision, supported by the House. Obviously, privatisation weakened our position. In the case of Scottish Power, where there was not even a Scottish dimension, privatisation was not the same, but that too was the result of a Government decision endorsed by the Conservative majority, and we in Lanarkshire are now paying the price.

Then we were told by British Steel and the Government that this had something to do with profits. We were told that British Steel's profit would go down from £307 million to £19 million. Whose fault is that? Is there not a recession? Do the Government not have something to do with it? Did we not warn that if we did not have the necessary investment in manufacturing industry and training, and the necessary investment in Lanarkshire, this was inevitable?

Despite the unacceptable brevity of this debate, the people in my constituency are left with a number of problems.[Interruption.] The Under-Secretary's sedentary interruptions are not helping one iota. Let him go to Gartcosh and see things for himself.

I hope that it does not signal what we shall see at Ravenscraig, given that British Steel tells us that it will cost £200 million to clear the site. At Gartcosh, we have a derelict site, with not a job in sight. Despite the promises of 1985–86, the paper recycling plant has not got off the ground. This is the result of the Government's economic policy, in addition to what they did to Gartcosh.

I want to end with a plea. Even today there is a case for a fight for what remains of the steel industry in Lanarkshire. Even today we have to consider the Ravenscraig closure's implications for 149 firms in Monklands itself, as well as for the Mossend freightliner depot, about which the Government today, yet again, told us so proudly.

This decision is a major blow to the infrastructure of Lanarkshire and the matter will not end with this debate. The Scottish people reserve the right to make their comments, and I believe that they will do so. This decision was made inevitable by weak, supine men—men who do not match the steel of the steelworkers of Lanarkshire—but let it be clear that, when the election is held in a few weeks' time, just as the Conservatives have manifestly deserted Scotland, the people of Scotland will desert them