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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:20 pm on 23rd January 1992.

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Photo of Mr Jim Sillars Mr Jim Sillars , Glasgow Govan 9:20 pm, 23rd January 1992

Oh yes. Opposition Members have kept saying, "We could press British Steel, but everybody knows that that is a waste of time." The hon. Member for Motherwell, North said, "Let someone take Scottish assets into private ownership and we will join in a joint venture"; but why not take Scottish assets into public ownership and then be open to a joint venture with a private organisation later? Their compelling logic is certain. We all know that what we have had from British Steel has been the malevolent exercise of monopolistic power in the private sector. The standard socialist answer to such power is to take it into public ownership—not to allow that malevolent power to dominate strategic industries and communities.

The hon. Member for Motherwell, North said, "We don't like to make promises that we canna keep." So let me ask him about the promise that was made on 23 February 1988, when his hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) said: for the reasons that I have yet to develop fully, Opposition Members and the trade union movement strongly believe that the steel industry is most appropriately owned in a form of public ownership. We shall decide that form and the order of priorities by which it is to be secured when we return to power"—[Official Report, 23 February 1988; Vol. 128, c. 184.] What about the priorities now in Lanarkshire? The hon. Gentleman's priorities now are to take British Steel's assets in Scotland out of the grip of the board of British Steel, that being the only guarantee of preserving jobs and the Scottish steel industry in Lanarkshire.

The hon. Members for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) and for Motherwell, North have said, "Look at the nonsense of the £1.7 billion compared to the price of the shares on the stock exchange today." Do they not understand that, if I say to somebody, "I should like you to spend £1.7 billion buying our plant", that person is likely to reply, "I would buy your plant only if I wanted access to certain markets, but I can get the whole of British Steel, including the assets of your plant, wholly and totally for only £1.3 billion and, as a matter of fact, if I want control, I do not need to spend £1.3 billion, I need to spend only £700 million"—