HC Deb 07 July 1958 vol 591 cc11-3
14. Mr. Gower

asked the Paymaster-General, in view of representations which have been made to the Government on behalf of other sites in the United Kingdom, if he will give an assurance that, whatever further delay must ensue before an announcement can be made about the starting of the new Richard Thomas and Baldwins steel works, no step will be taken to prevent the company from siting this undertaking in South Wales in accordance with their desire.

Mr. Maudling

No, Sir. As no decision has yet been taken about the siting of works in question, I am not in a position to make any statement on the matter.

Mr. Gower

May I ask my right hon. Friend two questions about this very important matter? First, in his reconsideration of the matter, will he take account of the long association of Richard Thomas and Baldwins with South Wales? Secondly, will he bear in mind the fact that the company and the Iron and Steel Board have expressed their opinion that the best site would be in South Wales? Is it not in accordance with Conservative policy, apart from extraordinary circumstances, that a decision of this kind should be taken by experts in an industry and not by politicians subject to political influence and pressure?

Mr. Maudling

All these considerations are certainly being taken into account to get the views expressed by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides on a matter which, one must admit, has not only very great economic implications but also social implications.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Will the Paymaster-General convey to the Prime Minister that it is desirable that this decision should be announced before very long because of the rivalries and rumours, and so on? The future of the communities depends on this decision, and it is far better that they should know where they stand. Can he assure his hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) that Barry and South Wales would have been in a desperate plight if politicians had not exercised some influence in the interwar years?

Mr. Maudling

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Prime Minister is well aware of the need for as early a decision as possible in this matter, but there are conflicting genuine interests and we must be certain of getting the right answers, even if it means delay in order to get them.

Mr. Malcolm MacPherson

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the overriding consideration in deciding this site should be the public interest? Will he also pay attention to the plea made by his hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower)? Is he aware that in Scotland, where the decision one way or the other is of vital importance, great assistance would be given to the public if one knew how long approximately it would take before a decision was reached?

Mr. Maudling

I take the point, but I am afraid that the public interest in these matters is not a thing that can be determined either by economists or politicians alone. It is a blend of the two.