Ravenscraig

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

As I understand the hon. Gentleman's account, the strip mill is still there. He included it in the £1.7 billion. He has the same economic adviser and calculator as Alf Young of the Glasgow Herald.

I want to argue that the best way to save the Scottish steel industry is to take all British Steel's assets in Scotland into public ownership. The thing to do is to captialise on the reprieve for Dalzell because Dalzell is the key to the retention of the base of the Scottish steel industry, on which base we could rebuild the industry.

If folk say to me, "Where did you invent that 1 million tonnes stuff?", I will tell them that it is from a report produced for Labour Strathclyde region by the department of political economy at Glasgow university in February 1990. It said: The Dalzell plant currently takes about 25 per cent. of Ravenscraig's production. Later, on page 23, it makes a good point. This is endorsed by Labour Strathclyde region. The report says: Ravenscraig's product range is ideal for supplying a large plate mill. We are talking about a 1-million-tonne mill.

It has developed special techniques for ingot production for thick plate applications and has a casting capacity of 1.9 million tonnes per annum which can be flexibly switched between slab and strip production to suit market sentiment. It went on to argue that the configuration between Ravenscriag and Dalzell was suited to the market that is now developing. It described the market as a fragmented, demand-led market, where people might demand a smaller tonnage of steel but wanted highly specialised steel and special products. The report argued eloquently that that configuration would meet market circumstances in the years that lay ahead. So that is the argument on which we have founded our case—an argument produced by Glasgow university and endorsed by Strathclyde regional council.

At the root of the matter lies this issue. There will be a 100-million-tonne plate mill with a pipe mill attached thereto, with a steel supplier up front. The question is whether it goes to Teesside or Lanarkshire, because the potential of the Scottish steel industry as we conceive it is exactly the same as British Steel conceives it. It would do what we ask today if the cash position was better than it is. That is the key factor. The only way to guarantee that the mill goes to Lanarkshire is to take the assets into public ownership. If the Labour party was worth its socialist salt, it would agree with me 100 per cent. of the way.

It is remarkable to hear Labour Member after Labour Member complain about the misapplication of private power but not follow the ideological guidance system and say that that private power must be curbed by the application of public power to take those assets into public control. They remind me of the ditty: "The people's flag is now mauve in hue. No longer red, it is turning a contemptible blue".