Ravenscraig

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:14 pm on 23rd January 1992.

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Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South 9:14 pm, 23rd January 1992

I congratulate the hon. Member for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid) on his devastating analysis of the interventionist policies of the Scottish National party. Just as those policies are madcap, so are the interventionist policies of the hon. Gentleman's own party. I look forward to his being equally critical of some of the policies put forward by the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) from time to time.

This has been a good day for Scotland. Earlier today, the Secretary of State for Defence was able to announce that Yarrow is getting the order for three frigates. That will guarantee employment at the Yarrow yard for a substantial time. There was some snide comment that it was a political decision—and it was, of course, because the size of the defence budget is a political decision.

If the defence budget were cut by one third, as the Labour party advocates, there would be no orders for frigates at Yarrow today. If the defence budget were cut by 50 per cent., as the Liberal Democrats suggest, there would perhaps be no Scottish regiments left, and there would certainly be no orders for Yarrow. It is hypocritical of the Liberal party to go round Kincardineshire saying that it is against the removal of the regiments and that it supports orders for Scotland when it wants to halve the deference budget.

We have had an interesting debate. We heard the shadow Secretary of State announce that nationalisation was a slogan put forward by those with no expectation of power. I shall remember that when the Labour party says that it intends to nationalise the water industry. The people of Scotland are being told by the SNP that British Steel assets in Scotland should be nationalised to preserve jobs. Did nationalisation ever preserve jobs on the railways? Has it preserved jobs in British Coal? Did it preserve jobs in the shipbuilding industry? Of course it did not. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about Rolls-Royce?"] Hon. Members who intervene from a sedentary position should realise that the prosperity of companies like Rolls-Royce will be better guaranteed in the private sector than ever it would be in the public sector.

The lesson of Ravenscraig is that it provides a cautionary tale for those politicians who think that they can buck the market indefinitely. The lesson of Ravenscraig, Bathgate and Linwood for the Scottish people is: Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes. It casts doubt on those politicians who say that they can bring 5,000, 10,000 or 15,000 jobs to Scotland overnight.

The speech of the shadow Secretary of State was, as usual, very loquacious. He was happy to pour words on troubled waters, but he could not produce a policy that would create or save one job at Ravenscraig.

The most dishonest policy in respect of Ravenscraig comes from the Scottish National party. If it were campaigning for an independent Scotland within Europe, how would it expect that country to solve the problem of Ravenscraig? The European Community would not stop the SNP nationalising Ravenscraig, but it would tell the SNP that it could not carry on subsidising Ravenscraig once it had nationalised it. It is in order for a private company to run a plant at a loss, but for the state permanently to subsidise an industry would be against the rules of the European Community. The Scottish National party knows that an independent Scotland within the European Community could not run Ravenscraig at an indefinite loss. It is trying to con the people of Scotland, and particularly of Ravenscraig, by pretending that it could save the plant by nationalising it. It is putting forward a misleading campaign. It knows that it is a misleading campaign.

Similarly the Labour party is putting forward a misleading campaign. That is why the Opposition chose to have only a half-day debate on Ravenscraig. They have frozen out some of their colleagues by having only a half-day debate. They also chose to hold it in the second half of a Thursday when they know that most members of the press who would realise that they are using merely empty words have gone home.

The long-term prosperity of Lanarkshire and Scotland will not be guaranteed by shoring up loss-making industries and indulging in quill pen economics. Prosperity will come only by encouraging profitable, dynamic industries to come to Scotland. Lanarkshire has many attractions for industry. It has a well-recognised, well-respected labour force and good communications. It will be unbeatable as an enterprise zone. I hope that Commissioner Milian, who has done so much to restrict money coming to areas of high unemployment in the United Kingdom, will do nothing to stop an enterprise zone being created in Lanarkshire.