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

It was a selective quotation, underscored, missing out the key component that the people of Lanarkshire and Scotland understand—that it is not intervention at this stage which matters, but the fact that the economy is in such deep trouble that we are at the bottom of all the European leagues. That is why Ravenscraig has been picked out at this point.

In this debate, as my hon. Friends and those who represent the rest of industrial Lanarkshire have rightly pointed out, it would be easy to be critical of a Government who have done so little and yet protest so much when the final decision has been taken. One cannot complain if a butterfly cannot get into the air when its wings have been taken off. The Government stood back when the steel industry got into that plight.

British Steel is a public limited company which does not even have the guts to come to Scotland and explain the reasons why a controversial decision was necessary. Sir Bob Scholey may well believe in his heart of hearts that it is the right decision, but if that is so, as the steward of the private steel industry in this country, why did he not have the courage and decency to face those people who rose to every exhortation to deal with the challenge put before them?

I shall briefly outline some of the arguments put by Rev. John Potter to hon. Members. He did not do so in a spirit of looking back or of recrimination. Practical issues concern him and should concern all Members of the House. He mentioned the number of small companies which will be dramatically affected as a result of the premature closure of Ravenscraig and which cannot expect to get headlines in the way that major companies have. Both he and I ask the Minister whether it is possible to survey the impact on such small companies and study what can be done for them. What about employees of the contractors' firms, who will not be able to share in the benefits of the redundancy terms offered by British Steel? What will be done in the way of retraining and re-employment for the people affected?

Rev. John Potter asks about the possibility of a "brainstorming" meeting at which ideas, many of which were raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Motherwell, South (Dr. Bray), for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid) and for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke), could be put forward to help the future regeneration of an area which has been so hard hit. He asks about the enterprise zone. I shall not go over the ground covered by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) about the unacceptable and unforgivable delay in moving between the recommendation of the Lanarkshire working party and the application for enterprise zone status. What about the delay and uncertainty that will be created in the meantime before the small enterprise zones get off the ground? Those few questions are relevant, reasonable and deserve serious and sober answers from a Government who have an obligation and a responsibility.

The decision to close Ravenscraig has been a blow to the industrial heartlands of Scotland and to the thousands of people and their families whose livelihoods depend upon those works. The workers of Ravenscraig have done so much, not just in terms of campaigning, but in delivering productivity and production records. The communities that will be affected are linked together in their sadness—but although they are sad, they are far from beaten.