HC Deb 08 February 1971 vol 811 cc22-4
11. Mr. Strang

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he now has for the British Steel Corporation; and if he will make a statement.

66. Sir G. de Freitas

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he expects to be able to announce the Government's policy on the selling off to private interests of parts of the British Steel Corporation and, in particular, that part of the industry which is in Corby, Northamptonshire.

Mr. John Davies

I will make a statement as soon as I am in a position to do so.

Mr. Strang

Is not it high time that the right hon. Gentleman ended the present uncertainty in the steel industry? Can he assure the House that he will not hive off the profitable sections of the B.S.C. and, furthermore, that the Corporation will be allowed to go ahead with the proposed greenfield steel complex?

Mr. Davies

When the hon. Gentleman talks about it being high time, he seems to take little account of the fact that this enormous industry requires careful study to ensure its future prosperity. I do not propose to make precipitate statements before having a good understanding of that towards which the future is best directed.

As for hiving off, equally I can give no assurance. I shall examine the structure of the industry with care and attention.

Sir G. de Freitas

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the great apprehension among the steel workers of Corby in that they are still under the threat of being handed over to speculators? Is not it time that they knew their fate?

Mr. Davies

I am sorry about the doubts that there may be, but I am disinclined to accept that the expression "speculators" is appropriate to this case.

Mr. Gregor Mackenzie

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a number of hon. Members raised this matter in July of last year, when it was indicated that the Minister was carefully preparing plans? There seems to be a difference of emphasis between the Secretary of State and the Minister for Industry, which is causing a great deal of apprehension. Certainly in my area it has given rise to a great deal of concern. Will the right hon. Gentleman complete his plans quickly, so that the future of the Scottish steel industry can be settled, once and for all?

Mr. Davies

There is no difference between my hon. Friend and me on this subject.

Mr. Benn

On three occasions today the Secretary of State has said that he is considering a matter: first, regional policy; second, competition policy; and now, the future of the nationalised in dustries. Should not he now be in a position to tell us about the Government's policy, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite having been in power for seven or eight months?

Mr. Davies

I am disinclined to leap in and make precipitate judgments. I believe strongly that wiser judgments are made after deliberate and careful thought as opposed to many actions taken by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were in office.

Sir G. de Freitas

On a point of order. In view of the totally unsatisfactory nature of those Answers, I beg to give notice that I shall seek an early opportunity to raise the matter on the Adjourment.