Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:51 pm on 23rd January 1992.

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Photo of Mr Allan Stewart Mr Allan Stewart , East Renfrewshire 9:51 pm, 23rd January 1992

This is an important debate. In one sense, it has been two debates. In the first debate, hon. Members on both sides of the House made constructive and reasoned suggestions about the future of Lanarkshire. Those hon. Members included my hon. Friends the Members for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) and for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall), who rightly pointed to the dangers of intervention. I do not think that he was arguing about whether it was wrong for a Conservative Government to have been instrumental in setting up Ravenscraig in the first place. Speeches of Opposition Members also contained constructive and reasoned suggestions. The comments of the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) about the Ravenscraig site and the enterprise zone were correct. I shall come to the points raised by the hon. Member for Motherwell, South (Dr. Bray) if I have sufficient time. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) referred to the points made by the Rev. John Potter. I was glad to meet the Rev. John Potter this morning. He has made a major contribution and I agree substantially with the points which he made to me and which the hon. Member for Hamilton made to the House.

The second debate has been political. I have seldom seen the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) under such pressure. He is normally the most courteous of Members in giving way, but he would not give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown), who not only represented a steelworks but was on the Committee that considered the British Steel Bill, to which the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) so effectively referred in his speech. That saves me from repeating exactly the same in mine.

The Labour Members who made the political arguments in this debate were bowled middle stump. Either they are socialists, in which case they must agree with the thoughts and philosophy of the hon. Member for Govan, or they are loyal followers of the Leader of the Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman seems to be having all sorts of meetings tonight because each time Labour Members were challenged about the quotation in this morning's Financial Times they said that they had had a meeting with the Leader of the Opposition and had checked the policies. There will be a U-turn tomorrow, so we shall see the right hon. Gentleman's next argument.

Opposition Members cannot tell the House that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State should have intervened in some undefined way given that the Leader of the Opposition said—I remind them of the quotation—that the steel industry did not need some civil servant or minister sitting on their shoulder saying to them well, strategically this is what we think you should do. That is what the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said, and the hon. Member for Garscadden has been bowled middle stump, not by Conservative Members but by the Leader of the Opposition.