Ravenscraig

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:33 pm on 23rd January 1992.

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Photo of Mr George Robertson Mr George Robertson , Hamilton 9:33 pm, 23rd January 1992

I am grateful for the chance to speak briefly at the end of this extremely important debate for my constituents and for people in many other parts of Scotland.

I begin by quoting the Financial Times. The Secretary of State for Scotland chose to give a quotation from it earlier. I shall come to that in a moment. First, I should like to quote a section of an editorial which appeared in that prestigious newspaper on 9 January. It is quoted in the document given to me and to many other hon. Members by my friend and constituent Rev. John Potter, the industrial chaplain to Lanarkshire who has done so much during the period of the rundown of the great steel industry to comfort the people that he serves and to campaign on their behalf. The words that he quoted are worth listening to because the Financial Times played such a marginal part in the Secretary of State's speech.

The editorial stated: The only other thing to be written in the Ravenscraig epitaph is that there was never a community more deserving of EC and UK Government help in rebuilding its local economy. Ravenscraig's work force has been loyal, hardworking and as efficient as the plant permitted. It has every right to expect politicians to move whatever bureaucratic obstacles stand in the way of measures to stimulate the creation of jobs in industries more suited to the periphery of Europe. I hope that the Secretary of State will pay as much attention to that as he did to his selective quotation. So much was made of that quotation that I wish to direct the House's attention to the rest of it, which the Secretary of State did not choose to point out.

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said, in response to a question put by the Financial Times about sectoral intervention, taking steel as an example: it isn't intervention that the steel industry needs. What the steel industry needs is a more vibrant domestic market, specially in the manufacturing sector and a chance therefore to make even further increases in their productivity and be more competitive in difficult international markets. If the Secretary of State agreed with the part that he quoted, does he agree that the Government have supervised a Scottish and a British economy which has created the conditions in which the steel plants of Scotland and of Britain are in such trouble?